Jazz on a Summer’s Day at the National Concert Hall, August 22nd 2014

Inspired by the movie of the same name, ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’ features a broad selection of jazz standards, along with a few lesser known tracks. The National Concert Hall‘s Lunchtime Concerts can be a risky business at times, with less consistency in quality than their evening counterparts, but the packed audience in the John Field Room were in luck this particular day, with the Emilie Conway Quartet due to take to the stage.

As the backline of piano, bass and drums begins the intro to the light jazz waltz If Love is Like a Lark, Conway herself takes to the stage, clearly well at ease in the limelight. While her vocals warm up through the first track with a few pitches only just good enough for jazz, she enjoys herself regardless and brings a warmth into the room; a delightful contrast to the nip in the air outside.

By My Shining Hour Conway is full steam ahead, her own vocalese to Coltrane’s solo demonstrating her abilities to their fullest, flitting through the lyrics at a tempo most rappers would be envious of, while maintaining a bouncing melody and clarity of diction throughout. We would look forward to a few more originals from her in the future as her creativity could clearly lead to something great.

The set for the concert ranges from 1924 to 1988, so nothing too contemporary, but twists like the Coltrane vocalese, along with a version of Cinema Paradiso with Conway’s own poem set to the music, keeps the set list far from predictable. These unexpected elements are what give the concert an edge, along with Conway’s lighthearted anecdotes between songs. The other members of the quartet are more than equal to Conway’s abilities, with Damien Evans’ more energetic bass solos particularly noteworthy.

While there were some unsettled moments throughout the programme, the Emilie Conway Quartet provides just what we want from an August midday concert; light entertainment and a reminder of the sunshine which we were so recently enjoying, with a few musical surprises to keep us on our toes.