alison dewar

Liner notes from Natural 2007

Alison Dewar arrived in the UK from her native South Africa — via a sojourn in Switzerland — eighteen months ago and has already left an indelible mark on the British jazz scene. She's received airplay from Humphrey Lyttelton (which is like slapping Michelin stars on a restaurateur), and has filled some of London's top jazz venues with her imaginatively chic vocal interpretations. Alison works with musicians that are stellar by any standards. Messrs Panayi, Nash, Harvey, Chamberlain and Skelton are all potent musical personalities who Alison benevolently moulds into inhabiting her own sound-world.

Sincerity, a generosity of spirit and emotional warmth are all watermarks of a Dewar performance. She's also a singer who trusts in the lyric. To my ears, Jobim's “Desafinado” represents the emotional core of this album, and it was the first Bossa Nova tune Alison learnt. The original Portuguese lyric remains intact because Alison wants to preserve its ironic twist on reality — and listening to this, why would anyone want to sing it in boring old English? At the other end of the scale is “The Best Is Yet To Come”, a tune that's to jazz singing what the Mona Lisa is to painting. Alison strips the accompaniment down to Dave Chamberlain's funky, barrelhouse double bass and squeezes a palette of fresh colours out from its iconic lyric.

Graham Harvey's striking arrangements beautifully incorporates Alison's voice with the low hover of Andy Panayi's flute, or the chirpier tones of Derek Nash's tenor. There's tremendous synergy between band and singer on “Nature Boy” and for the melt-in-the-ear gorgeous ballad, “Solitary Moon”, while “How About You?” is an unashamed pick me up. Alison's introductory CD-single, released last year, was called Introducing Alison. Now the introductions have been made and it's time to listen. Often.

Philip Clark

Clark is a composer collaborating with classical and jazz musicians and magazine journalist who writes about new music and jazz.