In the weekend that followed the passing of Frank Sinatra Jnr, a tribute to his father seemed more relevant and appropriate than the programmers of Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival 2016 could ever have anticipated. ‘Perfectly Frank: Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back!’ celebrated the icon’s best-known selections from the American Songbook in an afternoon concert that united generations and set them swinging.
The Big Buzzard Boogie Band were joined by the massed ranks of the Bristol Jazz Festival Chorus – the latter’s brightly coloured t-shirts and glittering smiles filled the stage of Bristol’s Colston Hall and appeared like a cascade of hundreds and thousands with a sweetness of tone to match. The concert got off to a bouncy start with a new arrangement of the occasionally sluggish ‘My Way’, which instead zipped along wrapped up in a sugar-rush of its own. The choir’s energy and charisma filled the hall and the band’s daring to tamper with revered arrangements transformed the occasion into a rewarding celebration of Frank, rather than simply a tribute.
Clare Teal’s self-deprecating geniality made her the perfect host for the occasion and brought true warmth to her performances of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ and ‘The Fool on the Hill’. Joe Stilgoe joined for the obligatory croon through ‘Somethin’ Stupid’, but shone best when permitted to sneak one of his own compositions, ‘Pocket Song’, into the proceedings. Both vocalists could have carried the show on their own and brief solo opportunities for the Band too left a suggestion that another hour could easily have been filled and readily enjoyed.
Stilgoe teasingly hinted at some of the less-salubrious elements of the Sinatra mythology, but any suggestion of sugar-coating his legacy resulted in a pure celebration of swing music that delighted both the performers and an audience full of families.