Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald once famously stated, “The only thing better than singing is more singing”. This is a sentiment that Annette Gregory aims to promote in her tribute to the singer. To mark Fitzgerald’s centenary year, Gregory performs a set of her favourite ‘Lady Ella’ covers in honour of the woman herself. Following her idol’s example, Gregory admits “You’ll find I don’t say much. I like to sing.” It’s a promise she certainly delivers on. Choosing her songs ad hoc, Gregory’s smooth voice is certainly reminiscent of Ella’s. A softer vocal means she is more prone to indiscretions, but the point of comparison is redundant and Gregory’s tone is otherwise warmly delicate.
Gregory admits “You’ll find I don’t say much. I like to sing.” It’s a promise she certainly delivers on.
The little she does say is proves worthwhile. Tidbits of Ella’s biography feed into information about Gregory’s own life, providing the audience with both context for the original performances and further background on the current show. Although her presence on-stage seems almost nervous when monologuing, any semblance of nerves melts away as she sings. Suddenly she gains a performative presence, with gesturing expressions that fluctuate between sultry and searching. Focusing on the story of each song, she gives herself to the music.
Gregory gives the music space too, physically moving aside to watch her accompaniment: John McDonald and Martin Lammyman on keyboard and double bass respectively. Lammyman’s talented touch builds a solid foundation for the songs whereas the odd clumsy note on keys risks the intermittent instrumentals sounding somewhat laborious in parts. The trio are at their best during the syncopated rhythms of ‘Miss Otis Regrets’and the safety of classics like ‘Lady Is A Tramp’. Their sounds blend to complement one another as the ballads transition seamlessly through gentle crescendos and a steady momentum.
The sound of rain - pattering, then pouring, overhead - accompanies ‘Blue Skies’, exacerbating the already serene atmosphere. Couples cuddle up against each other, lost in the romance of jazz. Others are lulled by an old favourite, reminiscing on their first exposure to its soulful melody. The crowd is hypnotised by Ella’s spirit, old and young alike. Gregory succeeds in inspiring a feeling of genuine admiration for her hero.