Melissa Western has a lot of friends. And with good reason. She is a sparkling personality and a consummate professional performer.

Tonight, five of those friends were on stage with her, providing a crisp and dynamic platform for her exquisite vocals.

Chris Poulsen, with his quirky, minimalist improv, was at the piano. Helen Svoboda was super-cool as always on upright bass. Nathan Goldman was at his silky best on the drums. While John Smallcombe on Sax and Lachlan Mackenzie on trumpet pushed it along from the horn section.

Now, there are many things that you remember about a Melissa Western performance.

You can’t forget the Pocket Rocket with the big, big voice which belies her tiny frame. Tiny Dynamite. The diminutive dynamo with the amazing vocal range. And wow, what a range!!

Then there are her beautiful smiles; miles and miles of them.

There is her self-evident gratitude for, and generosity with her musicians, as she stands, absorbed and grooving through their fills and solos.

There are her perfect diction and her fascinating scatting style, with which she deliciously delivers her songs. With energy. With honesty. With raunchy. With cruisy. With crisp. With clean. With honey.

And there is her shining personal power, which leaps from the stage; at times, almost independent of the classy quintet behind her.

Tonight, Melissa and her friends shared with us a coooool selection of Blues, Latin, Swing and gentle ballads, and powerful top-of-the-register screamers such as The Work Song.

They shared their kicks, from Chicago to LA, with vocals, scatting and a high-pitched ‘bloobing’, (can’t think of a better word), as they cruised down Route 66. They took us further South and into the territory of her beloved Antonio Carlos Jobim, with Dindi and One Note Samba.

At one point, we could have been on the mighty Mississipi ourselves, as the Kookaburra Queen paddled past the club on its way upstream. With Melissa and the band in full cry, it was easy to picture that grand old lady, full of Creole Jazz Men and riverboat gamblers.

Melissa and Friends said thank you and good night with, Bye Bye Blackbird; delivered first in a ‘he’ octave, for the guys to sing along, and then in a ‘she’ octave, for the gals; all of whom joined in enthusiastically.

The final verse was a tribute to the ‘Jazz Possum’, which Melissa recalled, was once a well-known intruder at the Jazz Club. However, it could perhaps have been better billed as the ‘Jazz Chipmunk’, given the amazing, faultless high pitch at which that last verse was delivered. It blew us away!!  As I said earlier, what a range this young lady has!!

Tonight, Melissa stepped on to the Brisbane Jazz Club stage with five friends. When she walked off, she had gathered many, many more in an audience that was entranced, enraptured and delighted. Thank you.

Oh, And That Reminds Me, Melissa…I am looking forward to hearing you sing my favourite Della Reese song at the Brisbane Jazz Club on New Year’s Eve!!  😊

Alan Smith

Brisbane Jazz Club