Smooth, sultry and splendid

By Narelle Wood

Jessamae St James delivers a very cool performance in her show honouring the early jazz and blues hits from the ‘Duchess of Coolsville’ Rickie Lee Jones.

The Duchess of Coolsville

The set list, taken from Jones’ early years and her first two albums, are a mix of everything from sultry and sometimes haunting jazz to some upbeat blues with a story to tell. Interspersed between the songs St James takes us on a journey of Jones’ life. While these snippets highlight the influences her life had on her music, it’s also a glimpse into just how cool Jones’ was ‘living on the Jazz side of life’.

I found it a little disappointing that St James didn’t often introduce the song title, and it was hard to discern from the song itself, as in true jazz form there were no formulaic structures in verse, chorus verse style to help work it out. All this meant though was that I had to buy both albums in order to hear my new-found favourites. Prior to the show I knew very little about Rickie Lee Jones and I am now ever grateful to St James for the introduction to the talent of Jones.

St James herself epitomises cool in a very unaware kind of way. Her voice mellifluously glides over the notes and the brief moments of scatting were something you’d expect to hear from the jazz greats like Fitzgerald and Jones herself. Elizabeth Blackthorn provides the accompaniment on the piano, playing everything from a mean blues riff to soulful slow jazz.

The Duchess of Coolsville as almost an authentic New York Jazz club experience: the only things missing were a smoky haze and a bottle of whisky. This was certainly jazz at its coolest.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, CBD
Season: 26th and 30th November at 8pm, 27th, 28th and 29th November at 9pm
Tickets: Full $25| Conc $22