By Mae Anthony
If you ever want to see Jazz done right, go to the Ellington; in fact, go see a Jazz Quintet and immerse yourself in the likes of someone like Libby Hammer – charming, attractive, and skilled in all things that soothe the soul and cheer the weary-hearted. Now one might ask, “You figured out all of this from just one gig?” I sure did, but then again, did you really expect anything less from The Ellington Jazz Club?
Amidst an interplay of humour and jiving tunes, Libby Hammer sang with the vocal prowess of a diva – confident and secure, but without all of the hype that borderlines on self-absorption. An immensely modest performer that got me thinking about how the height of the pedestal for a true performer is built on the quality of comfort you find yourself in whilst listening to them. She was charismatic and jovial towards the audience, treating them as her own, and interacting frequently. She was also notably respectful towards the venue, and expressed immense gratitude towards the Ellington for having her, a humbling component that helped to make her performance, much like the act of sprinkling sugar to add that little bit of extra sweetness to that appetising dessert.
Playing Jazz standards by an assortment of lesser known Jazz composers to well-known names like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, The Quartet ventured through an evening of delightfully enthralling tunes that gave off a by-product of a sufficient buzz. Notwithstanding the heightened energy of majority of songs played, I did relish in the natural contrast; the ballads were particularly special. Hammer commented on how her and the boys enjoy having the opportunity to play ballads at the Ellington, not always a preferred option in other venues; people always want the upbeat numbers and everything is triple go nowadays.
In these gentle pieces her vocal sensitivity was a real treat and the accompanying reduced textures, characteristic of the slow ballad style, allowed for a clearer conviction of her deep musicality and made for a poignant contrast to the upbeat bounce of the surrounding tunes in each set. Her lower tones were heavenly, and her diction was superb. Hammer’s mike technique was particularly commendable and the sound in this venue was exceptional, much of which was cleverly exploited by Hammer’s fine-tuned craftsmanship. It is worth mentioning that, in due course of what such a wonderful performer deserves, fellow Quartet members were also exceptional.