My current travels in Australia brought me to Melbourne just in time to catch Yvette Johansson's appearance at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club. And what a treat that turned out to be! Supremely elegant in a wrap over top and long black skirt, she took am enthusiastic audience through two sets of well loved jazz standards and some of her own compositions.
I had not been familiar with her work before the concert but she won me over with her opening number, a velvety reading of - Give Me The Simple Life, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and written by Rube Bloom. She went on to give us Duke Ellington's It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing), an uptempo version of Love Me Or Leave Me, made famous by Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole's Let There Be Love. On the latter number she displayed her talent for improvisation, adding some humorous words of her own…Let there be oysters (and other crustaceans!) under the sea…
These were great song choices and everyone loves standards but Yvette put her own stamp on them. Nowhere was this better demonstrated than in Bill Loughborough's Better Than Anything where she added several verses of her own…better than pizza on Lygon…better than brunch on Brunswick…better than sun dried tomatoes - giving the song a real Melbourne stamp. Effortlessly at ease with her standing room only audience who had turned out on a cold Good Friday evening, she chatted about falling in love, her preference for cold weather and this week's eclipse leading us into a cool version of Moonglow. Her own compositions were equally engaging. I especially liked Half A Dozen Daffodils and Sophia Loren whilst Alaska, her plea for love in a cold climate, was also well received. Clearly influenced by Ella, Billie and the other greats, there is also a touch of Stacey Kent about our Yvette with her rich, velvety and very clear delivery.
Ms. Johansson was ably supported by talented trio - drummer Gideon Markus, pianist Joe Ruberto and bass player (and club owner) Michael Tortoni. Ruberto was particularly outstanding and injected some nice Latin touches into some of the numbers. The evening was rounded off with Bobby Hebb's Sunny (the second time I have heard this performed live in recent weeks) and she left us wanting more. A great evening at a great little club. Yvette performs regularly at Bennetts so Melbourne jazz fans really have no excuse not to catch her!