This was the first time I heard Jeanie Barton sing. Immediately I was struck at her natural friendliness and take, as well as warm melodic voice. She spikes her material with humour, vivacity, and another, more unique thing – when she sings a song, she introduces it first musically – singing about it, rather than talking, and then going into the piece proper...She also bounces along to the music. Her band – on this occasion she had playing for and along with her - are fully interactive which gives fluency and conversation to their performance.
We could have been dancing along to her performance, except the seating – which is also, of course, in a supper-club location – was not permitting on this particular occasion – although, obviously, could/would be so on future occasions. In fact, this was an advantage at the time, as it allowed us – her rapt audience – to focus more closely on her songs, which have many old favourite musical origins - ‘The Duke’, ‘Ella’, et al.. In fact, what I particularly liked, as an Ella Fitzgerald fan myself, was Janie’s ability in singing ‘scat’ – in tribute her heroine, which she did in many other (unrelated) numbers...
As an aside, Jeanie is a daughter of the renowned Barton Bus Company family – so is very local to this part of the East Midlands. This further added to her familiarity with her audience in the locale.
Back to the Music - Jeanie did her unique take on old favourites (The Man I Love/In the Silence of my Lonely Room and What is this Thing called Love?, etc, but she also included pop songs of the 1960s; There’s a Kind of Hush all over the World, plus Noel Coward and Cole Porter material.
In sum, she was exploring her influences – which were pretty wide-ranging – including Cha, cha, cha and Classical Jazz.
All the way along, she involved herself bodily with the music, using visual leads/aids and bodily movements to her band, including hand gestures for changes of direction, with a smiling, lively performance throughout (I’m in Heaven), and indicated a range of cultural influences in her performance. As noted above – her unique take on performing her material was to make a ‘musical comment’ on the song – and then actually perform the song. This led to a completeness in her performance that I had rarely seen before, in a very adept manner and close to the mike, highlighting her intimate approach to the material.
She had very good four-way connexion with her musicians throughout – in fact, in this manner, conducting her band. In this, for example, I noted that her drummer kept his eyes closely on her rhythmic gestures – as a clue, and prompt, to the beat. Quieter in the first part,then more upbeat. This was quite dynamic, in its way, and unique – especially in performing I’m in Heaven - Dancing Cheek-to-Cheek) – incorporating ‘scat’, as I’ve noted – and in The More I See You, the More I Want You. And her band fully reciprocated, as a result.
Overall, Jeanie IS the focus – rhythmically, as well as vocally. She puts the song over with panache and a joy in performance – which is reciprocated, in turn, by her audience. She explores a song fully, opening her body to the rhythm, the possibilities in the melody – skipping along the wave of the melody, and fully drawing her audience in. We all wanted to dance, dance, dance... a note for the future!
It was – and is – a real privilege to witness Jeanie Barton sing and perform
Jeanie Barton performed at Peggy's Skylight on Wednesday 26 June