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Review: Morning Melodies - Alinta Chidzey Divas: Past to Present at the Arts Centre Melbourne

By Taylor Kendal

The term Diva has been coined throughout the musical world for years, with origins as Opera’s Leading Lady, to today’s ideas of a powerful female presence who at times could be a little difficult to please. In musical history, Diva has become synonymous with some of the great legends of our time. In her performance with her band The Jazz Emperors, Alinta Chidzey takes her audience on a musical journey through Divas: Past to Present.

From the very beginning, the audience is thrown into the world of smooth jazz, provided by the talented Jazz Emperors. Alinta Chidzey is looking every part a diva as she dives into a beautiful rendition of Goldfinger, arguably the most famously recognisable Bond theme, sung by Dame Shirley Bassey. The classic theme transitions seamlessly into one of the more modern Bond themes, Skyfall, made famous by Adele.

Though Chidzey’s vocals are strong, they are at times a little overpowered by the force of the band surrounding her. Whether this was an audio issue or simply her interpretation of the song is unclear, but it was a slight disappointment to have some of those famous well known notes drowned out by the music. It seemed at times that she was perhaps holding back in some areas of numbers that are known for their powerhouse moments. However, I was pleasantly surprised with her rendition of Feelin’ Good, which brought those strong, intense vocal runs that I had been waiting for.

It was assured to the audience early on that although the songs performed would be recognisable, they would not necessarily be performed the way that they originally had, with Chidzey and the band putting their own spin on things. The show was of course, a celebration of women in the music industry that had impacted her as a performer throughout her life, and helped shape her life and career through the power of their talent and artistry.

A lover of Jazz from a very early age, it is clear to see the effect that the genre and its subsequent influences have had on Chidzey both as a person and a performer. One of Chidzey’s central inspirations was Joni Mitchell, both as a performer and a song writer, and her rendition of Edith and the Kingpin was clearly evident of that. There were times where Chidzey was not overly engaged with the audience, but clearly lost in the music. This of course is far from a bad thing; her stage presence and obvious capturing of the music is almost spellbinding in a way and the audience can’t help but feel in agreement that this performance is solely about the music, as it should be.

The repertoire spanned generations of classic and beloved divas, from Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Carole King and Aretha Franklin; some who might not be considered as a jazz standard at first glance, but have been arranged and performed so beautifully that it is easy to forget that they hadn’t always been that way. Audiences also got a glimpse at Chidzey’s songwriting skills herself as she performed an original number I Got You.

A highlight of the show was Chidzey’s rendition of Bang Bang. Written of course, by Sonny Bono for his then wife- Cher and made famous by Nancy Sinatra, Chidzey’s take on the classic has a faster tempo and rhythm, but kept its gritty and almost noir feel to it, and with stunning vocals, it was an incredible performance.

Closing out the show with another Joni Mitchell classic, Chidzey captured audiences with an emotional take on Both Sides Now, once again getting lost in the storytelling of the piece and leaving an almost devastating feeling throughout the hallowed walls of Hamer Hall.

A special note should certainly be made for the band. Remco Keijzer on Saxophone and flute, as well as being the musical director and the genius behind some of the most incredible arrangements I have heard; Sam Keevers on piano, Craig Fermanis on guitar, Ross Irwin on trumpet, Philip Rex on Double Bass and Darryn Farruigia on Drums – who quite frankly had one of the best drum solos I have ever heard performed in a jazz piece. What was so integral to the performance, I believe, was how it was truly a collaborative effort; the band were simply not providing backing music to a singer, they all had their moments to shine and show their skills, which they did without hesitation.

Alinta Chidzey and the Jazz Emperors command the stage with their clear and dedicated love of the genre and are certainly not something to be missed! Catch a gig whenever you can, or find Alinta later this year as the infamous Velma Kelley in Chicago.

Taylor with Alinta Chidzey

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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