Review: That Old Black Magic - The Songs of Johnny Mercer, Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

Review by Kay Sharples – 5th August 2011

Tribute Concerts performed by The Janet Seidel Trio at the Melbourne Recital Centre Salon on Friday July 22nd and Saturday July 23rd 2011.

“ ....Recently I was privileged to be part of the inspired audiences enjoying two memorable concerts performed by the Janet Seidel Trio. The group are regular visitors to Melbourne and country Victoria, however, this time performing their first shows in the superb surroundings and acoustics of the Melbourne Recital Centre Salon where the band were very pleased to find the a perfect performing space and were clearly thrilled with the entire experience.

For months I had been looking forward to the shows with great anticipation since the group announced that the Melbourne shows would be paying tribute to two of my favourite music geniuses. Having followed the music of the Janet Seidelband for many years in most states of Australia I had enjoyed their entertaining tribute to Cole Porter many times, I will always rate him my number one composer, but I was delighted that Johnny Mercer had been chosen to be spotlighted as I believe he is hugely under-rated both as a musician and lyricist. I recall my parents playing his vast repertoire, so his tunes are indelible in my mind with the rich texture of his songs including such varied sentiments as romance, pathos, revenge, whimsy, melancholy, contradiction, passion and so much more.

I loved Janet’s selection of Mercer tunes, peppered with some wonderful, interesting and amusing stories of Mercer life, his family and collaborators - obviously well researched. He must have been well respected to have often worked with names like Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini, Duke Ellington, Sonny Burke, Lionel Hampton, and Barry Manilow and last but not least Blossom Dearie.

The show began joyously with ‘Day in day out’. The repertoire continued with ‘Blues in the night’, ‘I’m old fashioned’, ‘Lazy bones’, ’In the cool, cool, cool of the evening’, ‘Skylark’, ‘Come rain, come shine’, ‘Any place I hang my hat is home’, ‘Moon river’, ‘Dream’, ‘You’re clear out of this world’, ‘It had better be tonight’, ’Tangerine’, ‘I wanna be around to pick up the pieces when somebody breaks your heart’, ‘One more for the road’, ‘Laura’, ‘Accentuate the positive’, ‘I’m shadowing you’, and after the well deserved encore – the title song ‘That ol’ black magic’ was a fitting title to end a marvellousnight. The musicianship of the JST is outstanding and never fails to please discerning audiences.

Sadly, the concert concluded with no more time to include more of the plethora of musical output of Mr. Mercer. I would love to have heard ‘And the angels sing’, ‘Satin doll’, ‘Autumn leaves’, ‘When a woman loves a man’, ‘Whistling away the dark’, and ‘Fools rush in’.......maybe next time, but in the interim one is fortunate to be able to play some of the songs on many of the 18 CDs that this world class band have recorded.

Janet, & ‘the gentlemen of jazz’, Chuck and David, keep up the great performances.

In the words of Cole Porter........you’re sensational!