I should really get out more. Until I saw her name on the list of performers at this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, I had never heard of Georgia Mancio, let alone heard her sing. The blurb said she was celebrating female artists and writers and that was enough for me. I’ve been celebrating female songwriters since Dorothy Donnelly laid the book and lyrics for The Student Prince on Broadway theatregoers in 1924. Donnelly’s lyrics to dots by Sigmund Romberg – Serenade, Drinking Song, Deep In My Heart, Dear, Golden Days – kept it running for 608 performances. Mancio didn’t mention Donnelly but she did nod to Dorothy Fields who started her career barely a couple of years after The Student Prince.
‘She has a lovely voice and is mostly content to just stand there and sing in English or Portuguese with seemingly no desire to double as a Mexican jumping bean or garble the lyrics like Marlon Brando on mescaline’
Before going on I’d like to nod to the musicians behind Georgia – three of the four were female: Nikki Iles on piano, Julie Walkington on bass, Alina Bzhezhinska on harp plus Dave Ohm on drums, all out of the right bottle. When I heard Mancio sing I kvelled, as we say in Golders Green, possibly because she opened with On The Sunny Side Of The Street which was well within my comfort zone. As it turned out there were only two more numbers I knew, with another 10, several with lyrics by Georgia herself that, if not actually outside my comfort zone were kinda sidling towards the perimeter. I was able to chat with her twice, once at intermission when we talked about female writers – Dana Suesse, Bernice Petkere, Carolyn Leigh, Mabel Wayne, Joan Witney – that she hadn’t been able to include and once at the end.
She has a lovely voice and is mostly content to just stand there and sing in English or Portuguese with seemingly no desire to double as a Mexican jumping bean or garble the lyrics like Marlon Brando on mescaline, as so many of her contemporaries do. She’s also a gifted lyricist and, wonder of wonders, she writes in pure rhyme.
There is, however, for me at least, a downside; in the second set came arguably the finest ballad of the evening, one that has stood the test of time – it was written some 87 years ago – and for reasons that elude me it opened with the drummer taking a frenetic solo that felt like 96 bars and felt like Ginger Baker running all out to keep Buddy Rich in sight. Eventually Georgia came in and sacrificed all the tenderness and plaintiveness on the altar of hip.
I mentioned this on the way out and the conversation verged on heated but despite this she was gracious enough to give me an album of her own lyrics. It is of course difference of opinion that makes horse races, added to which as a reviewer I don’t have to pay for a ticket. But such was the quality of the performance I will gladly pay for admission when next she is in town.
Georgia Mancio – Open The Door: A Celebration Of Female Artists. The Other Palace, Palace Street, London. November 16, 2019.