Elaine Delmar – The Lady and Her Music continues at the Crazy Coqs, London until 1 August.
Star rating: 4 stars ★ ★ ★ ★
Elaine Delmar, making a most welcome return to the Crazy Coqs, is one of Britain’s finest jazz vocalists. Her pedigree began with singing as a youngster with her father’s (Leslie ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson) band and working with such giants as Herb Ellis, Benny Carter and Stephane Grappelli. In a long career she boasts credits in theatre too, both in musicals and plays.
Her latest cabaret pays homage to the Great American Songbook as well as to later composers and, in doing so, provides a delectable melange of the well-known with the not so familiar – Gershwin and Porter rub shoulders with Noel Coward and Spike Milligan.
Delmar is a lady of few words who wastes little time in introducing each number, believing that the songs say it all. In the space of just under two hours she delivers 21 gems.
Her voice is a remarkable instrument that she plays like a virtuoso. She strokes and teases out some lyrics, others she delivers with belting defiance, switching effortlessly from ballads to torch songs. There is a frisson when her voice plunges from high range to low.
Cole Porter is well served by Delmar’s renditions of ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, ‘Begin the Beguine’ and ‘Let’s Do It’.
Personal favourites for me penned by other writers include a sensual and hypnotic version of ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’, ‘Send in the Clowns’ delivered with remarkable simplicity, and an exquisite ‘Summertime’. There is a charming number, ‘English Folk Song’, which is a poem written by Milligan that has been set to music by the distinguished jazz musician, Duncan Lamont .
Delmar allows her comedic side to emerge when she puts across a la Noel Coward, ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’. Her performance concludes with a most sensitive rendition of the Master’s ‘If Love Were All’.
Musical support is provided by pianist Barry Green and Jim Mullen on guitar. They not only provide excellent accompaniment to the vocals, but they are allowed generous space by Delmar to show off their jazz riffs in their solo spots.