Friday 27 May 2011
Leigh Barker & the New Sheiks played at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday night as part of the Stonnington Jazz Festival. Bopstretch were in support, playing their usual mix of lush ballads and fast-and-furious bebop, with trumpeter Eamon McNelis moonlighting after the interval with the main act.
Bassist-composer Leigh Barker was joined onstage by the New Sheiks: Don Stewart (trombone), Anthony Schulz (piano) and Al Kerr (drums), along with the aforementioned McNelis. The band were resplendent in suits, looking every inch the professionals they were, and they quickly showed it with some superb polyrhythmic work off their new self-titled album. ‘Be Still Hold On Tight’ by Melbourne guitarist John Scurry was a particular stand-out as the band locked down the groove and stretched out.
For the second half of their set they were joined by guest vocalist Heather Stewart, and the night clicked into another gear. A solid cover of ‘She Ain’t No Good’ by the Mississippi Sheiks eased Stewart into the set, Schulz’s staccato piano playing complementing the bluesy vibe nicely. The singer pulled out her fiddle too on a Cajun-sounding ‘Funeral Blues’, swinging as tight as the band did as they rounded out the show with more tunes from their latest album.
All in all a great performance and a fantastic chance to see some swampy-sounding blues and jazz. This band drew a straight line between the two genres, even managing to bypass rhythm and blues on the way too.