Returning to the Fringe for a ninth year running, the Gargoyles are a class act. A self-styled smooth Jazz and scat outfit, they float through their 50 minute set with a self-assured understatement that lulls the afternoon audience into a particularly pleasant post-lunch slumber. The Gargoyles showcase intricate arrangements with slick changes that, unlike their brash Oxford counterparts - OOTB, In The Pink and the Alternotives - welcomes the audience in like an old friend for a cup of tea.
No one does what the Gargoyles do better.
This sense of intimacy is complemented perfectly by some tasteful lighting, particularly during Fever, where the red backlighting emulates a seedy club without becoming cheap and clichéd. The piece also showcases some equally tasteful choreography. As a unit, the group has a fantastic blend with some lovely open vowel sounds and a sense of innocence in their voices often lacking with more pop-orientated groups. This comes to the fore in more sombre numbers such as Unforgettable which, although slightly off-pitch to begin with, is quickly recovered proving the professionalism and versatility of the group.
Some clever prop work with an umbrella that morphs itself into a bunch of flowers and then a tree adds a lighter moment to the set that is equally accomplished alongside some more upbeat numbers such as the Diggin’ on James Brown / Cantaloupe Island mashup that leads into Top Cat. In a set that could easily be dragged down by its own silently confident reservedness, these moments keep it all ticking over and ensure that the aforementioned intricate arrangements and fantastic musicianship really shine through.
Specific references should be made to Jack Gee and Caroline Halls whose low and high-ends are so casually thrown in that you’d be forgiven for missing them. Gee’s solo in Unforgettable is particularly well-rounded, almost Sinatra-like in attitude and Halls scat-work, although momentary, still stands out.
No one does what the Gargoyles do better. If you’re expecting fireworks then this show isn’t for you. But if you like the odd Bing Crosby christmas album over a roaring fire with a Jazz-infused Magnificat that makes reference to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered then this definitely is.