Gill Manly - Live at the Vortex - May 2010

The release of Gill Manly's 'With a Song in My Heart' in 2009 marked her return to the recording studios after a gap of 13 years; this gig was her first at the Vortex since the mid-1990s.

There was, consequently, an almost palpable sense of anticipation in the air as she took the stage, accompanied by pianist Simon Wallace, and her first set, comprising nine songs ranging from Nina Simone staples such as 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' and 'In the Dark', through jazz classics ('A Night in Tunisia') to standards and torch songs, was performed to a rapt hush punctuated only by applause and the odd burst of laughter provoked by her punchily acerbic stage announcements.

Manly trained as an actress at the London Drama School, and began her singing career in fringe musicals, so her interpretation of 'Love for Sale' brought out all the world-weary complexity and humanity in Porter's lyric, and her visit to 'September Song' was at once thrillingly dramatic, tender and touching.

She is also a skilful jazz singer â€" her voice flexible and versatile enough both to insert passages of imaginative but surefooted scatting into songs where appropriate and to move easily between the hushed romanticism of 'Wild is the Wind', the uncomplicated joyousness of 'Moondance' and the heart-on-sleeve sincerity of her singalong closer 'You've Got a Friend' â€" and a warm and witty stage presence, interrupting 'Black Coffee', for instance, with an amusing disquisition on what she refers to as 'doormat' songs.

In short, this was a wholly enjoyable performance from an assured and accomplished singer, and it richly deserved the standing ovation it received from a full house.