On the eve of this year’s London Jazz Festival The Pheasantry marks the 10th anniversary of its relaunch with four consecutive (Monday through Thursday) evenings during which 12 of the most popular acts – three on each evening – have been invited back with new material. Whilst it’s true that it costs a little more than usual, for your £35 you do get complimentary drinks from 6pm in the upstairs bar with the show starting at 8pm in the basement.
With events such as these it’s always a good idea to start strongly and Monday night’s opening show clearly had this in mind with Dominic Alldis, Summer Strallen and Fascinating Aida – three separate acts punctuated by two intermissions.
All-rounder is as good a word as any to describe singer-pianist Dominic Alldis, who has been in the forefront of the jazz-cabaret scene for quite while. Although it is fairly close, for my money his jazz-inflected, swinging piano-playing just eclipses his singing although his vocal repertoire is definitely out of the right bottle – on Monday it embraced Jerry Kern (The Way You Look Tonight), Walter Donaldson (Love Me Or Leave Me), Cole Porter (Night And Day), Fritz Loewe (I Could Have Danced All Night), Michel Legrand (Windmills Of Your Mind) and Johann Sebastian Bach (Prelude In B Minor). If he has a flaw as a vocalist it is a tendency to swing everything, even a ballad like I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face; and whilst he included the verse to Night And Day he then double-timed the refrain to death. Nevertheless, he is both a crowd-pleaser and value for money.
Strallen is completely at home chatting to the audience and had them eating out of her hand in nothing flat
There is, it seems, an exception to every rule, and in a week in which grizzled veterans of The Pheasantry are making their umpteenth return to the venue 33-year-old Summer Strallen is making her debut – though judging from the reception she received she will soon be a veteran herself. She has the kind of voice – Kathleen Grayson, Jane Powell – that invariably makes me wince and endure rather than enjoy movies in which they appeared (Anchors Aweigh, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers) though with Strallen I don’t have a problem. Again, like Alldis, her repertoire is flawless: a brace of Cole Porter, I Get A Kick Out Of You, So In Love, a brace of Sondheim, The Miller’s Son, Losing My Mind, and one each from Jerry Herman, Wherever He Ain’t, and les frères Gershwin, Nice Work If You Can Get It. As a seasoned singer and actress – Guys And Dolls, A Little Night Music – she is completely at home chatting to the audience and had them eating out of her hand in nothing flat. Whilst Bassey, with similar pipes, brings me out in hives, Strallen sends me to Roget’s Thesaurus in search of synonyms for “too much”.
Fascinating Aida: as well-drilled as the Basie band and as polished as the floor at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool
Succinctly, Fascinating Aida is not unlike Victoria Wood times three and/or Kit And The Widow plus one and with pudenda, which is, of course, a roundabout way of saying they write and perform witty songs (Kit And The Widow in fact, will be performing here on Wednesday under their new name Kit & Mcconnel). Dillie Keane co-founded Fascinating Aida in 1983, Adele Anderson joined the following year and Liza Pulman arrived only in 2004. By now they’re as well-drilled as the Basie band and as polished as the floor at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool and it’s just a matter of wallowing in their wit via such gems as Little Chef, So Long As You’re German, I’m Getting It, Cheap Flights, My Shattered Illusions etc. The trio were a fitting climax to a top-class evening’s entertainment.
The Pheasantry, The First Decade, Day One. Kings Road, London SW3 4UT. 11 November 2019