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Major to Minor with Emma Hatton at The Pheasantry (Chelsea)

There are jaunty tunes galore in an eclectic set (the term ‘musical rollercoaster’ was used repeatedly) that gave the audience good value for money – a two and a half hour concert on a Sunday night with an 8pm start was a little much for a few patrons who sneaked out before the very end, the limitations of the transport network being what they are. A six piece band backed Jamie Alexander Taylor, and his guest singer for the evening, Emma Hatton, gliding through jazz arrangements of anything and everything from George Gershwin’s ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ to Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?’

Major to MinorThis is, we were told, ‘relaxed jazz’ – I shudder to think what ‘anxious’ or ‘distressed’ jazz would sound like. Interestingly, a number of ‘rules’ were introduced (some of which were fairly obvious), which made me wonder if Major to Minor, as the group are collectively known, have a rather different definition of ‘relaxed’ to mine. This wasn’t the only oddity – a section in which extracts of a number of musical theatre showtunes were sung to (more or less) the same jazz beat was meant to demonstrate, somewhat bizarrely, that ‘all’ musicals sound very similar, though the medley instead suggested that their beloved jazz sound was too generic.

Turn up after the advertised start time at your own peril: a young couple were shown to a front-row table (as the rest of us had taken our places further back) and took their (gentle) punishment from Taylor well. Some audience participation came in the form of a free raffle, and there were the usual regular checks on how we were all doing, and the usual responses that we were doing just fine, thank you very much.

There’s a commitment to provide something for almost everyone. A big band version of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ appears on Paul Anka’s ‘Rock Swings’ album, so its inclusion here came as no surprise to me, having been forewarned alternative arrangements of popular tunes would be included in the setlist, though this version also managed to incorporate a section from ‘Champagne Supernova’, with that (to me) impenetrable lyric: “Someday you will find me / Caught beneath the landslide / In a champagne supernova in the sky”.

Context and background details about the songs in the concert were kept to a relative minimum, and this is evidently a well-drilled and well-rehearsed group, with no restarts or reprises required. Some of that may also be down to jazz improvisation, with Hatton admitting that at one point she went completely off-kilter, though I wouldn’t have known it if she hadn’t said so. The band line-up changes from gig to gig – on this occasion Sam Hall was on piano, Peter Ashwell on drums, Jonny Vaux and Jamie Fathers on saxophones and flutes, Adam Smith on guitar and Ollie Copeland on double bass. Overall, a pleasant and enjoyable performance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Major To Minor is an up and coming jazz band, taking the classics of Gershwin, Porter and Berlin from the 1920’2 and 1930’s, and blending them seamlessly with the likes of Burt Bacharach, Steve Wonder, Major Harris, Lenny Kravitz, Oasis and Pharrell Williams.

Major To Minor’s full and funky sound is delivered by the six peice band, with vocals from Jamie Alexander Wilson.

At the Pheasantry on 8 August, Major To Minor is joined by special guest singer Emma Hatton.
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