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One of the UK’s most singer-songwriter, Gwyneth Herbert, joins forces with the members of the Buck Clayton Legacy Band to explore the jazz repertoire of Peggy Lee. The band’s arrangers, Matthias Seuffert, Adrian Fry and Menno Daams, have taken Lee’s work with Jack Marshall, Quincy Jones and Billy May to create new charts for what has been recognised as one of Europe’s leading mainstream bands.
Gwyneth brings her own unique gift for storytelling in song to reinterpret tales of love lost and found, as well as the life affirming qualities of music itself. Expect vibrant playing from what Jazz UK called this “knockout band” plus tears of pain and joy from songs both familiar and less well known. Gwyneth and co-leader Alyn Shipton will also introduce the event with film and audio clips of Peggy Lee herself.
Gwyneth Herbert: Vocals
Alyn Shipton: Bass
Menno Daams: Trumpets
Ian Smith: Trumpets
Alan Barnes: Reeds
Matthias Seuffert: Reeds
Adrian Fry: Trombone
Martin Litton: Piano
Martin Wheatley: Guitar
Bobby Worth: Drums
With a pre-concert talk at 7pm. Free to ticketholders.
Gwyneth Herbert © James Pfapp
Peggy Lee Project © Ben Edwards/ERProductions
A celebration of Peggy Lee
By Martin Chilton, Digital Culture Editor
Gwyneth Herbert says she has “fallen back in love with singing jazz” and she may have found the perfect way to express this enthusiasm by performing the songs of jazz great Peggy Lee.
Herbert, an original and talented British singer, has joined forces with the members of the Buck Clayton Legacy Band to explore the jazz repertoire of Lee in a series of concerts and talks.
Lee, who died in 2002 from a heart attack at the age of 81, recorded hit songs with the Benny Goodman band, starred on Broadway in a short-lived autobiographical show, and had enormous success as the voice of ‘Peg’, the cartoon dog in Disney’s film Lady and the Tramp. Her voice was husky and seductive and has enormous appeal for Herbert. She said: “This is a new venture for me because I normally sing my own repertoire.”
The concerts are being pulled together by Matthias Seuffert and BBC Jazz presenter Alyn Shipton and Herbert added: “I have done a few jazz library shows with Alyn and the idea evolved of doing a concert around Peggy Lee’s music. It will be me singing as myself rather than trying to imitate Peggy’s voice. She was so idiosyncratic, with such a quiet intensity. She never belted things outs. All her dynamics came from a sort of conversational style and her ability to tell the story within a song. She knew how to time a lyric and communicate stories – that’s what made her such a great person to investigate. It was fun doing the research.”
Lee’s more notable recordings included Fever, The Way You Look Tonight and Is That All There Is?, which won her a Grammy for best contemporary female vocal performance in 1969. Herbert said: “I have always been a bit terrified of doing Is That All There Is? because she is really untouchable for that one but it’s such a fantastic song. There are so many great songs to do. We are planning to cover songs such as A Woman Alone With The Blues, Blues in the Night, Fever, I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City, It’s Been a Long Long Time, Ridin’ High and There’ll be Another Spring.”
There will be a couple of originals, songs from the Benny Goodman band era and a selection from Lee’s work with Quincy Jones. Some songs will have the same arrangements, some will be scaled down.
Lee, born Norma Deloris Egstrom in 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota, had an amazing, soulful voice and, for a performer brought up in a Nordic enclave near the Canadian border, could really adapt. Louis Armstrong used to praise her ability to swing – a skill Herbert agrees that she had in bounds. Herbert said: “Peggy Lee knew how to kill a ballad but she could really swing too. She could do everything. I’ve always been into jazz, even as an oddball student, but recently I have fallen back in love with the idea of singing jazz and it will be great to pay tribute to someone as talented as Peggy. I’ll mainly be singing but my ukulele might make an appearance. I’ll be performing with a great band – people like Alan Barnes and Martin Wheatley, all of them – and they will also be showcasing the great music of Buck Clayton.”
Before some of the concerts there will be talks on Lee, and trumpeter and arranger Clayton, and the place of both stars in jazz history.
It is not an urban myth, incidentally, that four-times married Lee was also the inspiration for the feisty Muppets character Miss Piggy, who was originally called ‘Piggy Lee’. Muppet designer Bonnie Erickson recalled: “My mother used to live in North Dakota where Peggy Lee sang on the local radio station before she became a famous jazz singer. I first called the puppet Miss Piggy Lee – as a joke and an homage. But as Piggy’s fame began to grow, nobody wanted to upset Peggy Lee, especially because we admired her work. So, the Muppet’s name was shortened to Miss Piggy.”
But it’s not for her acting, or Disney roles, or TV homage creations, that she will be remembered. It is as a true singing great. As jazz critic Leonard Feather once remarked: “If you don’t feel a thrill when Peggy Lee sings, you’re dead, Jack.”
Expect to feel a thrill when Herbert brings Peggy Lee’s music back to life again.
The UK’s biggest jazz festival held under one roof. #gijf12