Carol Kidd - Johnny Mercer Centenary Concert - The Scotsman

23 June 2009
The Scotsman
Jim Gilchrist

Johnny Mercer proudly boasted among his ancestors a Scots physician who tended the wounded at Culloden, but Sunday night's Glasgow Jazz Festival tribute to this "poet of Tin Pan Alley", born 100 years ago, was concerned with more recent history, and with Mercer's inordinate contribution to a golden age of popular songwriting. Presented with warmth by Sir Michael Parkinson, who met Mercer on several occasions and was joined by pianist Laurie Holloway, former musical director of his shows and an old acquaintance of Mercer's, this could easily have turned into a mawkish nostalgia trip, but instead was marked by outstanding performances from the Mercer songbook by three fine singers, working with peerless accompanists in bassist Mario Caribe, drummer Alyn Cosker and guitarist Nigel Clark, and Holloway switching piano stools with David Patrick and Paul Harrison.

Clare Teal kicked off with the rumbustious, bossa-propelled It Had Better Be Tonight and the slinky Midnight Sun (featuring Mercer's bare-faced rhyming of "chalice" with "alabaster palace" and "aurora borealis"), while Todd Gordon caught the eloquent, bar-stool melancholy of One For My Baby and swung along nicely with Anywhere I Can Hang My Hat. Carol Kidd brought the house down with authoritative ease and unerring pitch, in the beautifully swooping Skylark and her full-pelt delivery of Come Rain or Come Shine, while she left Moon River hanging in the air, over Nigel Clark's spare guitar, a sublime demonstration of the enduring nature of a great song.

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