by Ian Mann
August 28, 2019
Ian Mann enjoys the music of Bristol based singer, songwriter and guitarist Lady Nade on the second day of the 2019 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. He also takes a brief look at her two album releases.
Photograph of Lady Nade sourced from http://blackmountainjazz.co.uk/wall2wall-jazz-festival/
Lady Nade Duo, “Tribute to the Blues Dames”
Jazz Lounge, The Kings Head, Abergavenny, 27/08/2019 (Part of Wall2Wall Jazz Festival)
Lady Nade – vocals, acoustic guitar, Holly Carter – electric guitar
It’s hard to believe that 2019 will be the seventh edition of the Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, held annually in the attractive Welsh market town of Abergavenny.
Over the years the Festival has used a variety of venues and experimented with a number of formats but had recently settled into a pattern of the annual dinner at the Angel Hotel on Thursday, a very full and diverse concert programme at the Melville Centre on Friday and Saturday, and the less formal Jazz Alley event and evening party at the Market Hall on Sunday.
This year the unavailability of the Market Hall due to refurbishment saw an enforced change of format with the Festival organisers, Black Mountain Jazz, deciding to extend Wall2Wall to a week long event. This came in the form of a blues related programme at the Kings Head Hotel, next door to the Market Hall but a new venue for BMJ and the Festival.
The performance space, dubbed The Jazz Lounge, proved to be an attractively converted barn to the rear of the hotel. With its own bar and with the capacity to seat up to fifty audience members cabaret style this proved to be an excellent venue with a genuine jazz club atmosphere and the Festival organisers were rewarded with very good attendances for the first two events. BMJ’s head honcho Mike Skilton was said to be “grinning like a Cheshire Cat!”.
The previous evening, August Bank Holiday Monday, had seen Bristol based organist John-Paul Gard, a real BMJ favourite, leading his trio. An audience of around forty were also delighted by an unscheduled guest appearance from Cheltenham based saxophonist and vocalist Kim Cypher, currently making waves on the national jazz scene following the release of her début album “Love, Kim X”.
I was unable to make the first night of Wall2Wall but the feedback regarding the Gard event was universally positive and it was clear that the Festival had got off to a great start.
This momentum was maintained this evening with around fifty people turning out to witness this beguiling performance from Bristol based vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Lady Nade. The singer, who also played some acoustic guitar was accompanied by Holly Carter, playing a beautiful Gretsch Electromatic guitar, that looked authentically vintage but which had actually been manufactured in 2008.
Nadine Gingell, aka Lady Nade has released two albums of original material, 2015’s “Hard To Forget” and 2019’s “Safe Place”. She currently has plans for a third album, for which some material has already been written.
In keeping with the blues theme this evening’s performance was billed as a “Tribute To The Blues Dames” and featured songs by some of the female jazz and blues singers that have inspired Nade, from the predictable Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Nina Simone through to now less well known pioneers such as Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharp.
As the evening progressed the increasingly confident Nade began to include more of her own songs in the set, and the majority of these proved to be very good indeed, and much in keeping with the overall blues theme of the event.
Nade and Carter commenced with Sister Rosetta Tharp’s “Trouble In Mind”, with Nades’s soulful, subtly blues inflected vocals complemented by Carter’s cleanly picked guitar. A finger style specialist the Bristol based guitarist also plays pedal steel in other contexts.
Nade took up the acoustic guitar for her interpretation of “Hound Dog”, made famous by Elvis Presley, but originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (1926-84). Nade’s version, which incorporated the original lyrics, was inspired by jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater’s interpretation.
The duo dug further into the Thornton back catalogue for their version of Big Mama’s “Feelin’ Alright”, with Nade concentrating on the vocals and Carter’s guitar alternating between rhythm and lead.
Having got a supportive audience on side Nade decided to introduce one of her own songs to the set. Sourced from the “Safe Place” album “Sweet Honey Bee” dealt with the subject of romantic love, as do most of Nade’s songs. With the singer also playing acoustic guitar this was a pleasant, if rather slight item. Some of the later original songs were stronger than this. Nade is also a great food aficionado and revealed that most of her own songs have a recipe associated with them, in this case one for chocolate mousse!
It was back to the theme of the evening and a tribute to the now largely forgotten r & b vocalist, songwriter and actress Ruth Brown (1928 – 2006). However the song written by her, “Why Don’t You Do Right”, famously covered by Peggy Lee and others, was rather more familiar.
Nade, a warm and humorous announcer of tunes, confessed that she had been a fan of Muse and Nine Inch Nails before discovering jazz and blues through Nina Simone. Her interpretation of Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free”, written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas, was particularly well received by the Wall2Wall crowd.
The warm reception encouraged Nade to play another original song. The as yet unrecorded “Peace and Calm” featured Nade accompanying herself on acoustic guitar as Carter sat out. This was a genuinely impressive offering, the presumably autobiographical lyrics referencing her forebears were delivered with a very genuine warmth and intimacy – and she’s a pretty accomplished guitar player too.
Carter returned for the duo’s version of “The Sky Is Crying”, a tune recorded by Etta James but perhaps most closely associated with its writer, Etta’s namesake Elmore James. Much covered by blues and rock artists, among them Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, performances of the song are normally distinguished by searing slide guitar solos. Nade’s slowed down arrangement, inspired by several different versions, took the usual macho bluster out of the song. In the hands of these two women it became more intimate, placing a greater emphasis on the sadness of the lyrics. It almost sounded like a different song. An interesting and innovative interpretation.
The guitars of Nade and Carter worked effectively in tandem on the little known Nina Simone song “Be My Husband”, with Carter again impressing with a carefully crafted lead guitar break. Carter favoured a very clean guitar sound with no reliance on FX pedals, although she did make judicious and very effective and evocative use of her instrument’s tremolo arm.
A highly enjoyable first set concluded with the Nade original “Don’t Make Him Wait”, sourced from the “Hard To Forget” album, a blues tinged song with a strong pop sensibility.
Set two commenced with the duo’s version of the much covered spiritual “Wade in the Water”, with Nade’s blues and gospel inflected vocals complemented by a typically economical and tasteful guitar solo from Carter.
Taking her cue from the Etta James version Nade invested “I Just Want To Make Love To You” (arguably most closely associated with Muddy Waters) with a seductive female sensuality in a captivating slowed down arrangement that also showcased Carter’s guitar skills.
“Complicated”, also from the “Hard To Forget” album, with its themes of love and loss was the most enthusiastically received original song thus far.
An equally warm reception was recorded to Billie Holiday’s “Billie’s Blues”. I suspect there might have been a few disappointed people in the audience if a “Tribute to the Blues Dames” hadn’t included something from ‘Lady Day’.
The duo went “way back” to pay tribute to the 1920s blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with the authentically vintage sounds of “Runaway Blues”. Due to the technical limitations of the time the lyrics on Rainey’s recordings are often difficult to decipher, so here Nade included some of her own, but without losing the essential feel of the song.
Another original, “Kiss This Troubled Mind”, was again sourced from the “Hard To Forget” album.
Most of the originals came from the earlier recording, mainly because they were more suited to the sparse instrumental configuration and the overall context of the blues themed evening. Chocolate truffles were on the menu here.
Another trip back to the 1920s for Bessie Smith’s Depression Era lament “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. The song, covered by artists as diverse as Nina Simone and Eric Clapton, retains a worrying pertinence nearly a century later.
From the “Safe Place” album “La La Larve (Deja Vu Refrain)” offered a little light relief with its witty observations on the absurdities of falling in love.
It was back to the Thornton catalogue for the lascivious lullaby “Rock a Bye Baby”.
The performance then ended as it began, with a return to the world of the gospel blues and Sister Rosetta’s “Journey To The Skies”.
Nade had got the audience eating out of her hand by this time, must have been all those recipes, and a deserved encore was inevitable.
She returned solo to perform the original song “Minds Made Up”, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Another song chronicling the pains of love and loss this was an intimate and poignant performance. One could have heard the proverbial pin drop in a hushed room with the audience hanging on every word.
Nade and Carter first performed together at the regular Bristol all female music night ‘Lady Sings’, and it was fitting that the guitarist, who had added so much to the success of the evening, should return to the stage. The duo rounded things off with the song “Ain’t One Thing” with Nade talking about the ‘cocktail’ of different influences on her music.
This was my first visit to Wall2Wall 2019 and I was delighted to see the Festival getting off to such a successful start. I shall miss the visit to the Jazz Lounge by the roots artist Sicknote Steve, an event for which advance ticket sales have ironically been very healthy, but will return to cover the bulk of the Festival over the main weekend.
My thanks to Nade and Holly for speaking with me afterwards and to Nade for gifting me copies of both her albums. These feature her performing in the company of a full band, sadly not including Carter, and the resultant arrangements have more of a pop sheen about them. But there’s no doubting the quality of her songs, many of them written in conjunction with other band members. That warm, soulful voice is there too, at the heart of songs that largely explore the joy and pain of romantic relationships.
These are classy productions that embrace elements of jazz, blues, soul and folk but which would normally be a bit too close to the pop mainstream for my personal tastes. However seeing many of the songs performed live in an intimate duo situation imbues them with an extra resonance and significance. I’ve been listening to both albums while writing this and have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed both of them.
Nade’s adaptability and the quality of her singing and playing, allied to the warmth of her personality, should ensure that her profile continues to rise. Her music has the capability to appeal to a wide musical constituency, something that was reflected in brisk CD sales this evening, and the presence of a clutch of younger listeners among the usual greying jazz audience.
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