September 1995 – live reviews – Kate St. John @ DreamHouse @ The Water Rats, Kings Cross, London, 5th September (“like finding a priceless pearl in the Sunday teacups”)

8 Sep

Kate St. John is best known as reedsperson to the stars: whenever someone wants a solo oboe on a rock record, she’s usually the one who gets the call. In her time, she’s been a member of The Ravishing Beauties, of Dream Academy and of the collective Channel Light Vessel (which also boasted Bill Nelson and Roger Eno). Now there’s the solo project – an apparently gorgeous album called ‘Indescribable Night’ and a four-piece acoustic band in which her voice and reeds are joined by guitar, viola and fretless bass.

What with her past work and the sessions for the likes of Julian Cope, we’d expect her to launch into a crazy and beautiful atmosphere project. But what Kate seems to be into right now is a featherlight fusion of classical, lounge jazz and blues – Green Park Blues being the most obviously successful example tonight. A love of the French chanson tradition shows itself as well, in the summery Paris Skies and in Kate’s choice of cover version tonight (Francoise Hardy’s Le Premiere Bonheur de Toujours).

This comes as quite a surprise (positioned as it is in the midst of a DreamHouse evening of intense contemporary rock singer-songwriters with guitars, but Kate and co. are unfailingly tasteful: beautiful arrangements played impeccably to form a sort of mildly fusion-flavoured chamber music. One can’t help thinking, though, that it’s a pretty tame world for such musicians to be installing themselves in. It all just floats along gracefully on leisurely viola shapes and restrained guitar, with Kate’s wispily pretty voice bathing in nostalgic warmth. And then she places an oboe, a cor anglais or an alto sax in her mouth, and out comes this phenomenally beautiful sound which stops you dead in your tracks and sets hunger in your soul…

It’s like finding a priceless pearl in the Sunday teacups: sheer beauty reduced by finely-crafted but over-genteel surroundings. Kate St. John’s musicality needs a more passionate setting than this, a possibility hinted at by the ethereal mediaeval vocalising of There is Sweet Music with its heartstoppingly lovely cor anglais. But until then, at least we have this fine quartet. Many of you may be intrigued by this tasteful breed of crossover music: if so, I’d advise you to seek out the album. I myself am left wondering what it would take for such a phenomenal thread of music to be allowed freedom from the cosiness of café memories and to fly liberated, soaring to the heights that each and every one of tonight’s reed solos hints at.

Kate St. John online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Deezer Pandora Spotify Instagram Amazon Music
Additional notes: (2020 update) Kate St. John spends most of her time supervising film music these days – if you want to listen to the album which this music came from, its available on Bandcamp.
 

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