REVIEW: Big names make for an evening to remember at Blenheim

Natural showmanship: Jamie Cullum

Natural showmanship: Jamie Cullum

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Jeremy Clack reviews Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum and Gregory Porter, performing at the Nocturne concert series at Blenheim Palace

How refreshing it was to enjoy a triple bill of music perfectly suited to lazy, hot summer evenings, and for the weather to play ball as well.

Quiet confidence and honeyed voice: Gregory Porter

Quiet confidence and honeyed voice: Gregory Porter

The sun was beating down as we got started at 6pm on Saturday. As if in response, Corinne Bailey Rae set a mellow mood, requiring little of the audience but to listen along appreciatively. Mostly singing, but occasionally adding pep to her band with a guitar for the more up-tempo numbers, this was light R&B at its best.

Next up was Jamie Cullum with a bigger performance in every way, combining a regular band with a twelve-piece big band. Cullum’s natural showmanship was on display right from the off (jumping off a piano: tick). It did take a while to get a true sense of Cullum’s talent, but this then set the scene for a mix of blistering piano solos and more contemplative fare (High and Dry was a highlight), moving snappily through songs and delivered with plenty of pizzazz. With the knack of genuinely engaging his audience, Cullum had us eating out of his hand.

And then came Gregory Porter. Superficially, this was the same musical style, but Porter’s approach to it was quite different. Songs lasted for minutes but stayed interesting, helped by time spent developing themes and slipping effortlessly between them: the double bass solo to start Musical Genocide, which included a nod to Deep Purple, was a particular case in point. This was a performance suited much more to a small-scale jazz club than a concert arena, but Porter’s quiet confidence, his honeyed voice and the warm night combined to make this an evening to remember.

Mellow mood: Corinne Bailey Rae

Mellow mood: Corinne Bailey Rae

The crowd at Nocturne on Saturday evening

The crowd at Nocturne on Saturday evening