Shenzo Gregorio Quartet and Melissa Western – Saturday November 27 2021

Shenzo Gregorio Quartet and Melissa Western – Saturday November 27 2021

Imagine, if you will, a Parisian street scape. An all-night café. Shot glasses of absinthe. Smoke slowly rising from a Gauloise.

Close your eyes. Sense, feel, hear the spirit, the presence…of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. And is that Ernest Hemingway sitting quietly in the corner, with his head in a notebook?

Well, that’s how it all felt, as we settled in for the Saturday night session of Oz Manouche 2021, at the Brisbane Jazz Club.

And while ‘Paris’ may have been the first word that came to mind as these musicians slipped into their performance…it was quickly followed by words like…‘sublime’…and ‘exquisite’. And ‘Wow!!’

The Shenzo Gregorio Quartet is Shenzo on guitar and violin. (Cameron James aka) Camaron De La Vega on guitar. John Reeves on piano accordion. And Peter Walters on his Bob Manzaneres custom, electric double bass…which he thinks might be radioactive, as it was built in Los Alamos, New Mexico!!

Radioactive? Maybe. Electric and hot? Oh, yes!! This awesome foursome of talented musicians had those forty fingers charged up and absolutely sparking across their instruments!!

They gave us Jazz manouche classics like Camille Saint-Saëns’ ‘Danse Macabre’ and Django’s ‘Swing 42’. And they gave us great originals such as ‘N’Awlins’  and ‘Sahara Swing’…all before introducing their vocalist…former BJC President and darling of the Edinburgh Festival…Melissa Western.

And in introducing her, bass-man Peter waxed lyrical about Melissa’s outstanding contribution to the Club’s development…including being President at the time that the late, great, much-missed Ewan Mackenzie brought to the Club, his ideas for the very first Oz Manouche Gypsy Jazz Festival…16 years ago!!

And so now, there were five instruments on our stage.

Whether delivering the heart-felt lyric of Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’, or scatting in support of Brahms’ ‘Hungarian Dance’, Melissa’s incredible power, range, control and high-octane vocal gymnastics soared beautifully…in flawless synch with the violin, guitar, accordion and bass.

Have Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’ or Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless The Child’ ever been done any better? Anywhere? By anyone?

And when they gave us the Duke Ellington classic, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing, (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’, where on the scale was Melissa scatting at? Just how does she doooo that?

At the end of the evening…which came far too soon…when Melissa asked, ‘Can you handle an encore?’, they gave us Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’. And the packed house audience’s response blew the roof off!!

What an enjoyable and memorable performance. Five great musicians, each adding their own personal touch of Django.

It was gentle. It was frantic. It was simple. It was complex. It was all exactly where and when and how it needed to be.

C’est formidable!! Thank you.

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club