Scotsman Richard Michael leads his talented family on piano with his daughters Hilary Michael on violin and saxophone, Joanna Duncan on violin and xylophone, and nephew Paul Michael on bass. The performance incorporates an eclectic variety of genres and interests; jazz, blues, Scottish folk and baroque, making for an imaginative, entertaining blend.
A show that is an inspiring, charming and great fun way to spend an evening.
The show includes pieces from contemporary South African jazz composer Abdullah Ibrahim. As well as a fun arrangement of Come Fly with Me, an unlikely Gershwin-Scottish folk medley and a joyous jazz-folk inspired Mhairi's Other Wedding. Richard's folk traditionalist father once said that his son “couldn't bear to leave anything alone,” and this is evident tonight, as some swinging be-bop is put into the traditional “dreary” hymn the Old Hundredth. Only Hilary playing a Bach solo on violin is left reverently alone and this allows another tone into the show. A selection from Purcell's Timon of Athens works brilliantly with the piano and bass, with the connection between classical and jazz adding gravity and tension to the retained solemnity.
Musically they're very skilled, working with their own well-crafted arrangements and those of others. They go well together with a great sense of camaraderie both musically and verbally. Their instruments answer each other's phrases with ease and precision, while Richard Michael dispenses dubious dad-jokes and parental anecdotes to his daughters' cringing dismay. He and Hilary run jazz workshops, and the desire to educate is clear as arrangements and influences are elucidated – but never to the point of soul-destroying dissection. His claim that anyone can play jazz, however, doesn't detract from the casually expert talent presented on-stage.
Richard Michael is full of cheesy grins and rollicking “yeeeahs” during his solos, as his fingers flick across the piano in a swirling blur. You get the palpable sense of his passion for jazz, his love and vitality performing and his desire to entertain and inform. You don't quite get the same sense of enjoyment and fun from the other members on stage, and it seems a little more like work for them. The sheet music also presents a barrier between the stage and spectator.
The show is hindered by its venue: seated in St Mark's incense-infused pews there's an atmosphere of solemn and sober reverence at odds with the sense of fun and creativity conjured on-stage. If your attention and focus is a bit worn down by the Fringe by now, you might be a little frustrated by the lack of a bar and the length of the show (ending up at an hour and 45 minutes including an interval). The performers, however, can hardly be blamed for that, and they triumph to provide a show that is an inspiring, charming and great fun way to spend an evening.