Shureen Francis & Sarah Moule

When Peggy Met Ella

The Crazy Coqs
London, UK
Shireen Francis and Sarah Moule are both accomplished and well-regarded jazz vocalists in their own rights, so teaming with Ronnie Scott’s own Geoff Castle on piano promised an evening of high quality music. The show opened with a lively duet of “Get Happy,” followed by introductions and comments on how the show concept had developed. Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald performed together on Benny Goodman's TV show Swing Into Spring in 1959. Hearing a recording of this musical meeting inspired research into their respective lives, revealing troubled starts for these two icons of jazz and popular song.

Moule, with her air-filled, smoky, honey-drenched sound and super cool phrasing was the prefect emulation of a modern-day Peggy. In contrast, Francis’s earthy, full-body, resonating soulfulness was more Sarah Vaughan than Ella. Compellingly, that difference emulated the underlying premise of pairing of well-known songs by these jazz icons with little-known details about their personal challenges.

From a somewhat muddled start (unsure of where to stand together on the stage, dropping lyrics and swapping microphones back and forth), the show seemed to find its groove about half way to intermission. By the second set, Francis and Moule, perhaps aided by now donning sparkling evening gowns, hit their diva stride. Francis delivered “Summertime” as a powerful lament, while Moule swaggered through the sexy female prowess anthem, “I’m a Woman (W-O-M-A-N).”

Castle’s very supportive playing style was harmonically and rhythmically impressive, but one wonders if he was getting paid by the note, or just overcompensating for the lack of bass and drums.  A little more space would have been nice, but then again, that is a subjective assessment that not everyone would share.

All in all, it was an entertaining and audience-friendly evening of familiar standards, presented by three jazz professionals.

Mychelle Colleary
Cabaret Scenes
July 21, 2014