Live Reviews









Jazz local and national; Riff Raff in Sheffield – What a difference a grant makes?

The back room of a pub, something ear tweakingly interesting leaking out of the PA as a respectable sized crowd gathered , settling amongst a mis-matched jumble of chairs and tables. It was the Lescar in the backstreets of Sheffield, but could have been almost anywhere. It was my first visit. In Sheffield for non-jazz reasons serendipitously on a Wednesday, I nipped along.  It felt like visiting a distant branch of an extended family. The Lescar’s back room hosts a well established weekly session programmed and promoted by the energetic and discerning Jez Matthews with  a crew of willing volunteers making it all happen on the night (Jez’s energy had taken him off to the Copenhagen jazz festival on this particular evening).  The gig turned out to be the penultimate date of Dave Mannington’s Riff Raff  tour . I’d caught them early on in May  at the BeBop Club in Bristol so knew I was in for a treat.

Riff Raff are a band of band leaders. With Ivo Neame in the piano chair, squeezing in this leg of Riff Raff’s tour before dashing of to continue Phronesis’ relentless international schedule,  and Tim Giles on drums this is no ordinary rhythm section .Tom Challenger, Rob Updegraff and Brigitte Beraha complete the band and Mannington has a premier league outfit to negotiate his complex compositions. They unfold, rarely doubling back on themselves, exploring different styles and with references from around the globe, but a soaring melody or electric atmosphere is never far way. The impact of touring and playing the material was evident as the evening wore on. The already riveting music seemed to have  grown and relaxed and deepened since Bristol. Early on, their cover of Bjork’s Anchor had everyone sighing as an extended  climax built behind Brigitte Beraha’s swooping vocals with the whole band blending beautifully. Ivo Neame’s intro to Catch Me the Moon was even more expansive and edgy, and a spacy cadenza from Rob Updegraff emerged to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.  There was new material with Iliad having the whole band glued to their charts for the epic, adventurous piece. What a treat.


A quietly exhaled, appreciative ‘oh yeah’ from Bobby Wellins summed up all of our responses to this trio, just starting a short tour  playing the repertoire from their recent album.  The sigh came as Brigitte Beraha’s interpretation of My Funny Valentine added a new twist to  a familiar standard, stretching the lyric out and gliding over John Turville’s rolling arpeggios from the piano. The lush, fluent accompaniments gave a classical air to a few standards throughout the evening. This is a class act and there was plenty of range and variety within and between songs. The chosen standards almost defined the term: They can’t take that away from me, But not for me,My Funny Valentine of course and a good sprinkling of Jobim. In contrast there were unusual tunes: A Paul Simon song ‘Night Game’, Beatriz by Chico Barques (you’d have to be a close follower of Brazilian music to know that one) and the odd Beraha original. Brigitte_BerahaThis was a very intimate performance with Bobby Wellins’ tenor twisting around Beraha’s vocal lines as much as providing solos. The trio format gave them plenty of freedom to develop that interaction without ever distracting from the focus on the song. A delightful and uplifting evening.




Babelfish gig guide



The Bull/Lauderdale House, London

The Guardian, Wednesday 29 August 2012

Brigitte Beraha, the lyrical, Italian-born singer-songwriter, and Gareth Williams, the powerful Welsh pianist, between them embodied the fundamentals of the Jazz With Soul weekender in London's Highgate: spontaneity, high-class UK jazz artistry and a cherishing of popular song. Beraha's Saturday performance and Williams's Sunday afternoon show with his Power Trio also called for other kinds of improv skills – Beraha had to reinvent her gig for a duo in the absence of her traffic-jammed trumpeter, Williams found himself wrestling with a recalcitrant PA – but neither artist's style was audibly cramped.

The last-minute reshuffle probably inclined Beraha to more jazz standbys than originals, imperturbably propelled by the resourcefulness of excellent pianist Ross Stanley. She's a fine singer of well-travelled materials, however. Jobim's Wave found her coolly squeezing and stretching the samba pulse, My One and Only Love and I'm Old Fashioned were softly confiding and briskly improvisational respectively, and Jerome Kern's In Love in Vain was yearning and robust. Beraha's more impressionistic,Norma Winstone influences nonetheless did surface on gracefully folksy, mostly wordless originals in both sets, and her handling of Kenny Wheeler's steadily building, wide-interval song, Kayak, showed how much subtle technique she keeps in reserve.


  • Babelfish Album Launch 
    (Pizza Express Jazz Club, 15th July. Review by Rosalie Genay) 

Last Sunday was the long awaited album launch of Babelfish, a collaboration between Brigitte Beraha and Barry Green, recorded at Abbey Road with Paul Clarvis on percussion and Chris Laurence on bass. 

They performed tracks from their new album as well as a moving tribute to Pete Saberton (to whom the album is dedicated) 'Heart, We Will Forget' by Copland segue-ing into 'Chasing Rainbows' in front of a welcoming audience at Pizza Express.

These gracious and wonderfully talented musicians delivered an exciting and unusual combination of music. Featured were new compositions, with highlights for me being the remarkable eccentric 'Popular Mechanics' by Green with text from Raymond Carver, the melancholy 'The Apple Tree' by Beraha, and cherished tunes such as the beautifully executed 'Falando de Amor' by Jobim. And we can of course rely on Green and Beraha to dive into lesser explored territory with art songs from Britten, the haunting 'Poem for F' by Ned Rorem and a touching arrangement by Pete Bernstein of Alec Wilde's 'While We're Young'.

This partnership is the sum of very special parts indeed. Brigitte Beraha's warm and interpretative vocals are deployed with sincerity and musicality. She has a wondrous and fearless ability to push the limits of vocal agility. Barry Green's inventive and sensitive style of playing for which he is well recognised, create patterns of rich harmonies and locked-in pulses from which he launches all kinds of unanticipated narratives. 

The nothing but brilliant percussion by Paul Clarvis, the equally astounding Chris Laurence and the visible joy of this band working together on stage were transferred to the audience. The sensitivity toward the music and each other and the creation of space within the form made it into a unique evening, a moment when magical soundscapes would transport you out of our dreary London


  • Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, The Herald, 2007

BBT Herald


    “Still Greater Expectations - 16 December 2005 - Brigitte
    Beraha Quintet” - Chichester Jazz Club December 2005

'I expect that my reader must be getting tired of all these variations on
‘expectations’. It is very appropriate for this review, however. My high
expectations of the Brigitte Beraha Quintet were founded on repeated
hearings of their album Prelude To A Kiss and hearing them perform live at
their album launch. Theirs was clearly music of originality, influenced but not
constrained by the past, performed with great confidence and technical
assurance. High praise from such as Cleo Laine and John Dankworth,
Humphrey Lyttleton, Lee Gibson, and Kenny Wheeler convinced me that I
was on the right track. I also found a review in Jazz Review magazine that
identifies Brigitte Beraha’s predominant qualities: ‘one of those singers
who primarily emphasises the jazz elements of her craft’. Selecting from the
review, ’her scatting; her lively and spontaneous interaction with the band;
and her adventurous choices of route through the melodies of standards; her
excellent composing and arranging skills. She concentrates on the music’s
core values: imagination, individuality, and improvisation. The voice may not
be the most flexible or dynamically varied instrument but it’s undeniably
powerful and enviably clear‘. I wish I’d written all that!
So how was it for me? It was the ideal end to a happy day – corny but true!
I was very surprised by the progress that the band had made from an
already high level, playing with even more assurance and cohesion. The
repertoire was wider and richer than before with surely enough standards for
any jazz fan – and every single number arranged by Brigitte herself.

Fororiginality and creativity this was certainly my favourite gig of the season so
far – I’m sure it wasn’t the favourite of some members of CJC who want the
old stuff played the old way by the same old musicians. In case anyone
thinks this is a direct dig at the bands that have performed at CJC in the
past, just read my (guaranteed 99% honest!) reviews.
Let’s talk about the live music! A selection of some of the more delightful
numbers: East Of The Sun: a standard to start, with a typically distinctive
arrangement, was followed by a haunting version of Moon And Sand - an
Alec Wilder composition recorded by veteran guitarist Kenny Burrell – that
featured Phil Donkin, surely one of the most creative and solid bassists
anywhere. An energetic version of Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home
To gave solo space to everyone except Phil. Barry Green showed that he is
moving steadily higher from his rising piano star status and Ingrid
Laubrock was amazing and brought creative composure to her tenor solo –
drawing on her work in the avant garde arena but never frightening the
natives! George Hart on drums played a nice, relevant short solo to
complement his excellent ensemble work, which was more convincing than
when I heard him before. The mood switched again to two of Brigitte’s own
compositions: the abstract Elephants On Wheels. This number was another
chance for Ingrid to revel in the dark and imaginative musical world in which
she so excels. Ingrid was also prominent on the compelling Got No Blues, for
which Brigitte has written a new arrangement since the album, making it
more of a vehicle for the band’s solo skills. Both Kenny Wheeler and I are so
impressed by Brigitte’s writing!
There followed two standards by two Rodgers and Hart tunes. The first was I
Didn’t Know What Time It Was, the recorded up tempo arrangement with
excellent long solos from Barry and Phil, a nice drum break from George,
and Ingrid sitting out - very nicely. The second was a duo version by Brigitte
and Barry of It Never Entered My Mind, which Brigitte introduced as ‘my
current favourite’. This was a fine performance that demonstrated Brigitte’s
ability to convey emotion without diva-like histrionics and Barry’s ability to
create spare eloquence. What a great song!
Next a performance without drums of Sometimes I’m Happy - a light
version, excellently sung, with witty interplay throughout, especially
between Barry and Ingrid – followed by Jobim’s Retrato Em Branco to close
the first half, with Brigitte demonstrating her ‘ vocal technique which is quite
superb’ (to quote Lee Gibson).
After a mince pie, a coffee, and a talk to these fine musicians there was a
further hour of the same calibre of music, still nicely varied, including my
favourite from the album, Love In Vain; Love For Sale, a ‘Wheeler-approved’
arrangement; Autumn Leaves, mainly in French; ‘On The Street Where I
Live’ by Lerner and Loewe; and a particularly lively version of Jobim’s
Desafinado.This was a fine evening’s music by some of the best young musicians around
– real teamwork, no showboating, and a delight to deal with. They’re all
working on their ’projects’, which sound great and worth hearing - but they
all seem to be working on ‘stuff that probably wouldn’t be right for here’!
Sounds like music I love.