The Jazz Mann review of Brecon Jazz Festival 2011
“Singer and songwriter Sara Mitra’s début album “April Song” attracted a compelling degree of critical acclaim not just on this site but also from more influential commentators such as Jamie Cullum and Gilles Peterson. I caught part of Mitra’s set at the Market Hall which found her in the company of most of the members of the very classy band that graces her album. James Allsopp (reeds), Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet), Ross Stanley (piano, organ ), Riaan Vosloo (double bass) and Mitra’s husband Tim Giles (drums) are among the UK’s foremost jazz musicians and all contributed substantially to a well programmed and highly convincing performance by the singer.
Mitra proved to be a surprisingly compelling and confident performer with a wide vocal and emotional range. I arrived just in time to catch a Sigurta trumpet solo but the first song I heard in its entirety was “Understand”, scheduled to appear on Mitra’s second album, with its sly lyrical allusions to the jazz standard “All Of Me”.
The Rogers and Hart tune “To Keep My Love Alive” was a blackly humorous tale about a female serial killer, a kind of “black widow” character and was delivered with obvious relish by Mitra with Ross Stanley taking the instrumental honours at the piano.
At this point the band left the stage leaving Mitra alone with her RC20XL live looper for a delicately layered solo vocal rendition of the traditional Irish folk song “Black Is The Colour”, a tune which appears on “April Song” and represents Mitra’s acknowledgement of her part Irish heritage.
The band rejoined her for the jazz standard “Who Can I Turn To” with Allsopp on tenor and Stanley on piano impressing as instrumental soloists. Pared down to a quartet with Stanley on organ and with Vosloo as featured soloist Mitra and the group then delivered a beautiful version of Nat Adderley’s “The Old Country”, another tune sourced from the “April Song” album.
Next came the playful, Latin tinged “Going Home Alone” from the yet to be released second album played by the quartet with Stanley excelling at the piano. The horns then returned for “Let Me Love You” with Allsopp on bass clarinet and Stanley soloing at the organ.
An excellent set concluded with the song “Love Affair” with Stanley still on organ and with Allsopp delivering a superb solo on the tenor.
I’m not always a big fan of singers but I was highly impressed by Mitra. If “April Song” hints at a certain fragility her live performances are anything but. Mitra’s sassiness and excellent technical skills suggest that a degree of mainstream success awaits if she wants it. Many of her band members are into more experimental projects but their versatility suggests that they enjoy playing in this context too- and of course the standard of musicianship is superb. The chances are we’ll be hearing a lot more of Sara Mitra.” Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann review
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