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Victoria Klewin with the Jim Barber Trio

Victoria Klewin with the Jim Barber Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/03/2020.

by Ian Mann

March 11, 2020


Klewin confirmed her status as a highly accomplished and very classy vocalist while the trio members offered her excellent support and made some very impressive individual contributions of their own.

Victoria Klewin with the Jim Barber Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/03/2020.

Victoria Klewin – vocals, Jim Barber – keyboard, Ashley John Long – double bass, Ian Poole – drums.

This well attended club night featured the welcome return to Brecon of Bristol based vocalist Victoria Klewin.

The singer had last visited the Club around a year ago and had delivered a very well received performance of mainly standards based material in the company of the Swansea based trio led by pianist Dave Cottle.

Prior commitments had prevented me from attending that particular performance but I was already aware that Klewin was a class act after reviewing her “Sings Blossom Dearie” show at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny in September 2019. That performance was made in the company of her regular Bristol based working band featuring guitarist and musical director Denny Ilett, keyboard player Dan Moore, bassist Pasquale Votino and drummer Matt Brown. My full account of Klewin’s Dearie themed performance can be read here;

Klewin was born in Buckinghamshire but brought up in Corsham, Wiltshire. She studied music at Dartington College in Devon before re-locating to Bristol, the city she now calls home.  She is a highly versatile vocalist capable of singing in a variety of musical styles including jazz, pop, soul, blues, folk and their various sub genres, and even classical and opera.

Her regular engagements have included touring as a backing vocalist with the internationally known soul act Hannah Williams and The Affirmations. An accomplished session vocalist she has also worked in musical theatre and advertising. She is also an acclaimed musical educator and vocal coach.

However her first love is jazz and she works regularly with leading figures on the Bristol jazz scene as well as performing solo shows as a pianist and vocalist. In 2016 with her band The True Tones, she released the album “Dance Me To Heaven”, a recording that featured her own songs alongside rarely heard items from the ‘Great American Songbook’. She hopes to record a second solo album featuring her own songs later in 2020.

For Klewin’s second visit to Brecon Jazz Club organisers Lynne Gornall and Roger Cannon decided to team the singer with a Cardiff based trio led by pianist Jim Barber. Lynne and Roger have a proven track record of bringing together musicians who have never worked together before to produce unexpected and highly creative alliances.

Such was the case tonight as Klewin and the trio bonded through the shared language of the ‘Great American Songbook’ over the course of two sets of richly varied standards material. The singer had worked with Long previously but had never met Barber or Poole prior to tonight’s performance. It was a tribute to the skills of the performers, allied to the quality of their chosen material, that the one off quartet gelled so quickly, and in such a relaxed and cheerful manner, a quality that quickly transmitted itself to the audience.

The performance tied in with the recent Brecon Women’s festival, itself timed to synchronise with International Women’s Day on March 8th. It had therefore been the idea to have a female led band for the March club night and although there was a subtle underlying feminist theme this was never really pushed or overstated.

Klewin might have been calling the shots, musically speaking, but nevertheless she gave plenty of room for the members of the trio to express themselves as instrumental soloists, particularly Barber and Long, with these two enjoying extended features during the course of nearly every number. The pair grabbed their opportunities with both hands and delivered some truly dazzling solos over the course of the evening.

Indeed the performance started with the trio and an instrumental version of “The Surrey With The Fringe on Top” with Long’s deep, resonant bass lines and Poole’s vigorously brushed drum grooves fuelling Barber’s introductory solo, with Poole switching to sticks as the momentum began to build. Barber is a leading member of the Cardiff based Capital City Big Band and as well as leading his own trio regularly accompanies horn soloists such as alto saxophonist Glen Manby and trumpeter Steve Waterman. The pianist was followed by Long, an outstanding double bass soloist whose classically honed technique makes him a real virtuoso on the instrument. Much of his soloing takes place up around the bridge and is often prodigiously fast and precise. As I’ve said many times before bass solos are never boring when Ashley John Long is around, and it is to Klewin’s credit that she allowed him plenty of room in which to express himself throughout the course of the evening.

A second instrumental piece saw the trio tackling “Bernie’s Tune” in brisk and lively fashion with solos from Barber and Long and a series of drum breaks from Poole as the musicians ‘traded fours’.

Barber now invited Klewin to the stage and for a moment it appeared that the evening might end in disaster due to a seemingly unrepairable glitch with the singer’s vocal mic. However the simple expedient of using the mic intended for announcements by the club officials provided a quick and easy solution to the problem and soon we were ready to go again.

Klewin’s contribution to the evening began with Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear from Me” which commenced as a voice and piano duo prior to the introduction of double bass and brushed drums. Barber brought a subtle blues influence to his piano solo and this was mirrored by Klewin’s vocals, which mixed a talent for jazz phrasing with an underlying soulful bluesiness. Barber’s Nord 2 Stage keyboard allowed him to mix piano and organ sounds, the latter used sparely but adding to the blues feel of certain numbers, as demonstrated here.

A breezy rendition of Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, which saw Klewin flirting briefly with scat, kept the energy levels up with instrumental solos coming from Barber and Long. Throughout the evening Barber’s solos frequently referenced the “Surrey” motif from the opening number, a humorous touch that many listeners appreciated.

Klewin changed the mood with a beautiful rendition of “God Bless The Child” as she paid homage to the late, great Billie Holiday with Barber’s lyrical piano solo complemented by Poole’s delicate brushwork and Long’s use of the bow at the close.

The tempo increased once more with “That’s All”, a song that Klewin first heard in a version by Bobby Darin. The singer tore through the lyrics before handing over to Barber and Long for virtuoso instrumental solos, with the bassist again particularly impressive.

Unaccompanied piano introduced Klewin’s emotive reading of Jerome Kern’s “Can’t Stop Loving That Man of Mine” from the musical “Showboat”, another piece that saw Barber mixing piano and organ sounds and which also included a melodic bass solo from Long and more sensitive brush work from Poole.

A highly enjoyable first half ended with another Ellington tune, this time “Satin Doll”, featuring a vivacious vocal from Klewin and a typically inventive piano solo from Barber.

The second set also began with the trio taking to the stage first to perform an instrumental version of A.C. Jobim’s “One Note Samba”, introduced solo by Barber at the piano and including subsequent features from all three musicians, with Poole relishing the chance to step into the spotlight.

Klewin then joined the trio to deliver that most versatile of songs “Comes Love”, this time introduced by Long at the bass and featuring later instrumental solos from himself and Barber. The line about toothache and seeing a dentist straight away was particularly personal for Klewin, who was suffering with just that malady and hadn’t yet found the time to visit the ‘fang puller’. Not that it seemed to affect either her mood or her performance, the mark of a real professional. Victoria tells me she’s never had as much as a filling before, which represents pretty good going in my book. She has my sympathies, hopefully she’ll get it sorted very shortly.

On with the show and a scat vocal intro to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, delivered with a blues infused panache and a piece that was particularly well received by the Brecon audience.

The audience also loved Klewin’s deeply emotional rendition of the ballad “Don’t Go to Strangers”, introduced by Barber at the piano but later also incorporating organ sounds. After a duo passage featuring Klewin and Barber brushed drums and double bass were added, with Long subsequently taking a highly melodic solo, his lyricism matched by Barber at the piano. “Those lyrics get me every time” explained an almost tearful Klewin to her highly appreciative listeners.

On to something rather more cheerful and a breezy romp through “Mountain Greenery”, another song introduced to Klewin by her father during the singer’s childhood. With solos by Barber and Long allied to a vigorously brushed drum groove Klewin and the trio turned the song into a convincing jazz vehicle.

“Route 66” re-introduced the quartet’s blues leanings and featured Klewin’s soulful vocals as Barber again fused piano and organ sounds, the trip down America’s most famous road powered by the hypnotic grooves generated by Long and Poole, with the bassist taking a pit stop to deliver yet another brilliant solo.

This is another “grumpy woman song” announced Klewin as the quartet tackled “Why Don’t You Do Right”, a song most closely associated with Peggy Lee. Klewin’s bluesy take on the vengeful and disdainful lyric was supplemented by instrumental solos from Barber and Long.

At this juncture Lynne Gornall came to the stage to thank the band for their efforts and so “Love Me Or Leave Me” was effectively an encore, with Klewin skilfully negotiating the rapid fire lyrics as Barber and Long delivered final instrumental solos.

This had been an excellent evening of music making from this one off quartet, a group that quickly established an excellent rapport and a high level of understanding. Despite the problems of toothache and the dodgy ‘mic’ Klewin confirmed her status as a highly accomplished and very classy vocalist while Barber, Long and Poole offered her excellent support and made some very impressive individual contributions of their own. I think it’s fair to say that the Brecon audience went home well satisfied with what they’d seen and heard.

My thanks to Victoria for speaking with me at the interval and again at full time, and to the other band members too.

Klewin is due to appear with fellow Bristol based vocalists Lady Nade and Elles Bailey, together with a stellar instrumental quartet on March 28th 2020 at the forthcoming Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival with the three singers paying tribute to pioneering female blues singers, among them Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and Etta James. Visit  for details.

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