Gig Review:
Joanna Strand - Live At The Forge, Camden Town, London NW1,
Tuesday 11th September 2012
Forge Venue presents:

Cabaret Jazz – Fly Transatlantic

Launch Of Joanna Strand's Album 'Fly Transatlantic'

The Forge Arts Venue
3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL
Tuesday, 11th September 2012, 8pm


Joanna Strand - vocals
and friends
John Bailey - piano
Romano Viazzani - accordion
Nick Pini - double bass
Asaf Sirkis - drums

Special Guests
Yazz Ahmed - trumpet, flugelhorn
Frank Walden - tenor sax

Date of Review: 2012/09/12

All illustrations by and © Alban Low

Joanna Strand - Colour Sketch
Joanna Strand
Joanna Strand - Live At The Forge, Camden Town, London NW1,
Tuesday 11th September 2012

Joanna Strand launched her debut cabaret jazz concept album Fly Transatlantic at The Forge last night in the kind of style that befitted such a classy release.

Sandwiched between a reception and a drinks party for invited guests, both of which were put on in style and offered a chance to meet both old and new friends for a chat, the performance was excellent and relaxed. Joanna Strand - Fly Transatlantic Live At The Forge rose well above the average album launch.

This was greatly enhanced also by the wonderful ambience of The Forge Arts Venue, in 'cafe' configuration for this event, and its friendly, efficient staff, and especially by the superb sound engineering of Adam Nichiolas, one of the very finest in the business and The Forge's greatest asset. Nichiolas has the ability to create an optimal sound picture that conforms to the artists' wishes while maintaining optimum quality. In the case of last night's performance, the sound was delightfully 'acoustic,' as if the musicians were 'unplugged' so to speak, making also best possible use of The Forge's wonderful acoustics.

John Bailey - colour image
John Bailey

The performance of Joanna Strand - Fly Transatlantic Live At The Forge consisted of a single set of roughly an hour and a quarter's duration. Ms. Strand was joined by friends John Bailey on piano, Romano Viazzani on accordion, Nick Pini on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums, as also heard on the album. Itself a stellar line-up, they were joined by special guests Yazz Ahmed, trumpet and flugelhorn, and Frank Walden, tenor sax.

Romano Viazzani - colour image
Romano Viazzani

The single set was very finely judged. It was near perfection for an album launch, in that less is very often more. It presented the superb material of Fly Transatlantic, plus one new French chanson from a forthcoming album, and anything more might well have been less.



Ms. Strand's performance and her unique interpretations, and the arrangements (mainly by pianist Bailey), were as classy as one would have expected from the album, and a sheer delight that would have been hard to surpass. Every song, whether the 1930s+ standards or the more modern classics, was given equal attention and its individual treatment by Strand and each and every one stood out as much as the next.

Nick Pini - colour image
Nick Pini

The balance of the songs was perfection itself. Although not wishing to single out individual ones as stronger or better - this would be futile anyway - personal 'favourites' included the Peggy Lee / Johnny Mandel classic The Shining Sea, Randy Newman's Feels Like Home,   and    the   immortal

Michel Legrand / Marilyn & Alan Bergman classic Windmills Of Your Mind, among others. But this is more a matter of these being among my favourite songs than anything else. The only way that Strand could have made me even happier might have been the inclusion of Burt Bacharach / Hal David's Walk On By - probably their finest song and one of the most perfect ever. But on second thoughts, it would probably not have fitted into this wonderful selection, nor would it have quite fitted the 'transatlantic' concept.

Asaf Sirkis - colour image
Asaf Sirkis

Strand's outstanding vocals were superbly supported by her band. Bailey is a young pianist who is more than deserving of stellar status, going by his performance here. Pini is already a star among star bassists and much in demand. Viazzani of course is a long established maestro of the accordion and perhaps its most versatile one, his credits ranging from classical to jazz, Italian dance music, tango and more. And Sirkis of course is the premiere drummer/percussionist of our time, in such demand that he is one of the (two) hardest gigging musicians on the scene.

Ms. Ahmed is one of the fastest-rising stars of the trumpet and flugel and last night impressed highly. As indeed did tenor saxophonist Walden.

Yazz Ahmed - colour image
Yazz Ahmed

But of particular note also were the soundscapes frequently created by Pini, Sirkis, Bailey and Viazzani, sometimes creating almost literal sound images, as for instance with Windmills Of Your Mind and The Shining Sea.

The superb arrangements were also remarkably 'democratic' in that each player was, from time to time, given the opportunity to shine in their own right, which added to the over all excellence of the performance.


Frank Walden - colour image
Frank Walden

All in all, Ms. Strand and band's performance was never anything less than exquisite. Had an encore not been forthcoming this might have caused a riot! But as it was, all turned out exceedingly well.

Joanna Strand - Fly Transatlantic Live At The Forge was a huge delight and an  exquisite  launch for

the album that could not have been bettered. If only all album launches could be like this...

Finally, a big thank you to artist Alban Low for the use of his brilliant illustrations and all his hard work in preparing them. To find out more about Alban Low's work and to see more examples of his exquisite art and to get a catalogue of posters, please visit his web site.

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