Tin Cat Cafe, Fri 19 Feb
The garden at the Tin Cat Café is an ideal place to sit back with a glass of wine, some fine food, and listen to some cool jazz music. Cue Bonnie Lee Galea, with some superb backing from pianist Dave McEvoy and bassist Quinton Dunne. But this is not meant to be an evening of cool jazz. This is a show exploring the music of 3 particular jazz singers, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. The connection between them is that they lived tormented lives, and died tragically at an early age.
Rather than compare these women and their circumstances, Bonnie performs their music in separate segments. We begin with a group of eight Bessie Smith songs interspersed with some anecdotes about her life. Beyond expected songs such as Ain’t Nobody’s Business and St Louis Blues, the team have done some homework and found some darker songs such as Devil’s Gonna Get You and Send Me To The Lectric Chair. But at 7.30pm the sun is still up in the garden and the misery that must inhabit these songs is difficult to imagine.
Bonnie does better with Billie Holiday, capturing the mood of God Bless The Child and even managing to inhabit Gloomy Sunday, a song reportedly banned from the charts for being too miserable.
The feisty character of Dinah Washington is well represented in Ain’t Misbehaving, Amy Winehouse favourite Teach Me Tonight, and Since I Fell For You. Again we are given some details about her life, and Bonnie is to be applauded for reminding us about this largely forgotten singer.
There were some first night nerves on display, and I couldn’t help thinking that the drama of these women’s lives could be better realised in a theatre setting. Meanwhile, sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy some of the great songs this show has to offer.