XRIJF Day 1 – Lorna Reid
As John Nugent of the XRIJF often says (or something like it): “It’s not about who you know, but who you don’t know.” Finding Lorna Reid, Scottish singer-songwriter and occasional guitarist, was such an example.
The Scot kicked off XRIJF’s “Made in the UK” series at Christ Church with a set of all original music, featuring guitarist Graeme Stephen and local bassist Danny Ziemann. With a lovely and charming accent, Reid gave brief stories and introductions before each of her tunes, and introduced the band. Moving from start to finish, Reid moved from swing/ sounds of straight-ahead swing, all the way through to her final song off her new EP – which was produced in time to give Rochester the first crack at it – which she wrote as a song that Dolly Parton would sing.
Like many independent artists, it’s difficult to place Reid in a clean “genre” box. Vocally, she reminds a listener off a less smoky sounding Diana Krall; cool and gliding. That said, placed against music with country, folk, and blues elements, one could quickly draw the conclusion that Reid is Scotland’s Norah Jones. An effortless blend of jazz and (oddly enough) some Americana, Reid made an impression on the crowd at Christ Church.
She started off with a tune she didn’t name, but it was a grooving jazz tune with a bass groove that reminded one of Frank Sinatra/ Nelson Riddle’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” She followed that up with a tune from her previous album, “Falling Like Dew,” called “Too Busy.” She described it as a “break up” song, and it was about the time two people are apart and when they think of each other. This was the first moment an audience member may have connected her stylistically with Norah Jones, as Reid held the stage with concise and practiced stage presence, conducting , flowing, and directing the music while facing the audience.
The next tune, “Smash and Gamble,” Reid discussed her approach as a lyrical sleuth, and how she used a conversation with someone complaining about relatives to start the words for this song. With a deep groove, it put the “feels-good-but-mean-face” on Ziemann and Stephen, who were communicating well and were clearly having fun throughout the whole. Stephen opened up his solos behind more open chords like you would hear in bluegrass music.
Reid followed up this with more eclectic choices, first with a quiet song about having a steady person in your life called “My Anchor.” This may be a weird remark, but sometimes a key is perfect for a song, and that was a GREAT Bb tune. Stephen also broke out his distortion and looping pedal, which he used to great effect for chords and solos, and provided a nice contrast to Reid’s exceptionally tasteful acoustic guitar. After that, it was a cute love song called “Someone Brought Me An Angel” that had jazz and pop flair. This tune gave me a good sense of Reid’s ability to write for her own voice is.
The bluest tune follow that, a soul-esque composition in minor called “Doggone Good,” which started with some more miasmic distortion and pedal work from Stephen, and transitioned into a grooving guitar and bass vibe with blue vocals. Careful listeners (or maybe not so careful, Ziemann had on his trademark big grin when he did this) would have heard Ziemann quote the open to Miles Davis’s “Autumn Leaves” at the end of the piece.
What could only be characterized as a “really nice tune” came up next without an introduction, a ballad called “Can’t Rain on My Parade” with a classic Great American Songbook rubato verse to open with electric guitar and vocals, and featured a very nice bass solo from Ziemann that received a hearty round of applause.
The next two compared and contrasted the sides of Reid, first with a R&B flavor and a side of pop about giving too much in a relationship, “Sacrifice Me,” with a shredding solo from Stephen that made me right down: “That’s a rock solo.” Then came a country waltz piece, inspired by a trip to Idaho with beautiful cars and a lovely roommate, “Miss Idaho.”
Following that up was my favorite piece of the night, an abstract piece called (I presume, she didn’t announce) “Souls of Sand,” which discussed demon-like figured with shark fins and teeth and souls of sand. With a Brian Setzer-like cool riffs with jazz harmony, the tune highlighted the evening with the some unique sounds, and thematic and lyric material.
She wrapped up with a Dolly Parton-style country tune about settling into a (new) family life “My Hotel Wrecking Days Are Over.” With another hearty ovation, Reid chatted with audience members and signed CDs afterwards. Stephen and Ziemann really pulled together this show, filled up the space extremely nicely, and made no one miss the drum set in the “echo-y” space.
I would feel remiss if I didn’t comment on the etiquette and quirks of the Jazz Fest. I understand, appreciate, and accept that it’s perfectly OK to get up to see another show. That said, too many people were on their phones. If the show is boring you, or you need to answer it, just leave! It’s OK to do that, especially at this Festival. I also had to stop someone from using their phone to take a picture, with the flash on, in a very dark space. He tried to explain to me that he does it all the time, but I still prevented him from taking another.
Finally, there were some sound issues. There was some feedback from the guitar amp in the form of a high-pitch ringing, which Stephen did everything to fix, and correctly concluded that it was an issue with the venue’s hardware, not his. Then the sounds of a loud rock band playing outside and across the street bled into the church. It’s hard to blame anyone; maybe someone wasn’t conscious of the scheduling, maybe doors were left open, I don’t know. But it did affect our experience, and hopefully it is resolved for the next show!