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David McAlmont, Fletch at St Andrew's, Hove, May 18
There is a scene in one of my favourite books, William McIllvanney’s The Kiln, where the narrator’s uncle describes going to see Frank Sinatra at a theatre in Kilmarnock in the 1960s.
At the time rock’n’roll had taken the swagger out of swing, so even a small venue like that was barely a third full.
Ol’ Blue Eyes barely broke sweat, just called everyone down to the first few rows, sat on the edge of the stage and sang as if the concert was in his own front room.
A similar level of intimacy was felt by the lucky hundred or so souls who sat in St Andrew’s Church enthralled by one of the finest voices of his generation.
David McAlmont, accompanied by pianist Natasha Panas, picked some of his favourite old-school Hollywood showtunes, from the sublime innocence of Somewhere Over The Rainbow to the drunken serenade One For The Road.
The majority of the hour-long evening was made up of Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen compositions and, especially during the sweet sadness of Blues In The Night, McAlmont showed off his incredible range throughout.
Cathedral-high or catacomb low, he reaches both effortlessly and everything in between.
If anyone ever wrote an opera set in the cotton plantations of the Deep South, McAlmont could play every part.
Nowhere was he more impressive than during That Old Black Magic, during which he performed a duet with himself, channelling both Ella and Judy in a way that was still undeniably his own identity.
It was a privilege to experience, and something everyone can enjoy when McAlmont records the same set at London’s Jazz Rooms for release at the end of the year.
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