JAZZ singer Beryl Hart describes herself as something of a ‘late starter’. A little bit of an understatement, but not unexpected from a very understated – and remarkable – live performer.
Now an octogenarian, Hart has just released her first album (Retroactive) and encouraged by renowned Scat singer Anita Wardell (co-producer of the album) she has taken to the stage in order to promote it. Last Saturday (January 5) saw her pitch up at Crazy Coqs, London to ‘launch’ it into the City’s stratosphere.
On paper, a tall order for someone so tiny and frail, but Hart is made of stern stuff. Surrounding herself with excellent musicians (the superb Robin Aspland on piano, guitarist Jim Mullen and Andrew Cleyndert), Hart made a mighty fist of it. Aided by Wardell (waiting in the wings to provide Scat support) and encouraged by jazz singer Ian Shaw sitting in the audience, she had the packed house tied around her little finger from start to finish.
Most of her music was taken from Retroactive, an album recorded in 2013 but not released until now. An eclectic mix of songs, embracing the Beatles (Blackbird), Cole Porter (Dream Dancing), Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin (I’m All Smiles, covered by Barbra Streisand in 1964) and Frank Sinatra (Someone To Light Up My Life). Hart did justice to all.
She excelled on both When In Rome and Leonard Bernstein’s classic Some Other Time, ending her performance with an impromptu Bye Bye Blackbird.
Although it is hard to find out much about this delightful and delicate performer, Hart is a remarkable individual and an outstanding advert for longevity. No wonder Shaw says Hart’s ‘beautiful phrasing, diction and choice of notes is always a delight’ while Wardell describes her singing as ‘authentic, meaningful and hugely listenable’.
An individual born to perform. Inspiring.