Gill Manly and Ian Shaw live at the Purcell Room

Ian Shaw and Gill Manly are both widely respected figures in the UK jazz scene and I would have been more than happy seeing either one of these performers on stage alone, doing their thing. But to have them both together, performing music from the repertoire of legends Ray Charles and Nina Simone, was an absolute treat.

Shaw opened the show with roaring renditions of Ray Charles' 'You Don't Know Me' and 'Hallelujah I Love Her So'. This was followed by a hilarious introduction where he regaled the audience with a tale of how he and Gill Manly met in a kitchen shop 25 years earlier (only to have Manly tell a different version of events when she arrived on stage). It was instantly clear that, along with being extremely musically gifted, Shaw is an immensely likable and very funny man.

It is true, however, that the two have been friends for a very long time and it was apparent the moment the inimitable Ms Manly joined Shaw on stage. They had an obvious chemistry and their intimate banter added a warm comedic layer to the whole evening. Referring to themselves at one point by the names of Muffin and Ringpiece (I won't go into details!) they are a highly entertaining duo, even when not singing.

Gill Manly's command of the stage was instantaneous - she has an unbelievable vocal range and sings with such pure crisp tone that I wanted to bring her home, sit her in the corner of my room and have her sing me to sleep each night. Shaw's smooth soulful voice is unique and versatile and when the two harmonised together it was a pure delight. Anyone would think they had been singing together for years (something tells me they have!).

Shaw is an accomplished pianist and created some exceptional musical arrangements. There were seamless fusions of songs - 'I Put A Spell On You' and 'Feeling Good' effortlessly flowed from one into the other - and improvisational joys, such as 'None of Us Are Free'.

The highlight for me had to be Ray Charles' 'Heaven Help Us All'. Originally recorded by Stevie Wonder, this gospel and soul inspired rendition had me almost waving my arms in the air unashamedly (quite like the woman sitting in front of me had been for the whole gig!).

I have seen Gill Manly perform once before and she blew me away on that occasion. She did even more at this event to impress upon me what a magnificent performer she is. Having never seen Ian Shaw before, he has found himself a new fan after this show and I will definitely be looking out for more performances from him in the future.

Both Manly and Shaw are performing (separately) at Ronnie Scott's over the next few months and I urge you all to go. These are two performers who are so musically talented that hearing them verges on the sublime and once you've seen them once you will, like me, become a fan.

29 April 2010