Richard Michael and Family draw from a great songbook indeed, but they can’t be accused of too much deference to their source material. Running through classics from Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and more, this four-piece throws in the odd change-up: what if Bach had arranged ‘Fly Me To The Moon’? Does ‘Come Fly With Me’ sound better in seven? These little touches keep potentially over-familiar tunes from grating and make for an amiable, if never stunning, evening of acoustic jazz.
Despite the programme’s protestation, ‘you will see us give each other verbal and non-verbal cues. This is not due to a lack of rehearsal!’, there is a certain ramshackle, unpolished feel to Richard Michael and Family’s performance. Pianist Richard’s yelps of pleasure and instructions to his bandmates seem to take them by surprise as much as they do the audience, the result being that, while they may stand on stage next to each other and play simultaneously, this family band sometimes doesn’t seem to be playing together.
This lack of cohesion extends to the breaks between songs. Richard is clearly chuffed to bits to be playing with his family but the same can’t be said for anyone else on stage: daughters Hilary and Joanna, on sax and violin, and nephew Paul, on double bass, regularly cringe as Richard goes off on one of his old stories or attempts some groovy talk, ‘like a drummer man, yeah!’, sometimes even frantically mouthing and gesturing to each other to communicate just which song their old man has settled on.
Perhaps they’re shaking off some cobwebs - this family band is not the primary focus of any of its members - or maybe their communication is a little stunted even at the best of times. Whatever the reason for it, Richard Michael and Family’s occasionally awkward stage manner sucks some of the fun out of an otherwise enthusiastically delivered and imaginative take on universally loved tunes.