Colin Bailey reviews THE 1971 PROJECT gig at Riverhouse Barn, Walton-on-Thames 28.9.2012

Fittingly billed by the venue as The American Songbook 1971, this was an evening of new interpretations of songs from four classic singer-songwriter albums produced that year – James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon, Neil Young’s Harvest, Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Carole King’s Tapestry.

A less than cheery introduction informed us that this was the year Charles Manson was sentenced for his part in the Tate-LaBianca murders, and a hundred people died in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. After that, however, the mood lightened as the accomplished five-piece band reminded us of the superlative writing of Laurel Canyon’s famous residents. A year in gestation, the project brilliantly showcased the jazz credentials of the players thanks to the imaginative arrangements of guitarist Chris Winslet (distant cousin of Kate, if you’re wondering).

The opener, a subtle ‘Heart Of Gold’ featuring wooden flute and melodica, was followed by ‘Mud Slide Slim’ with a characteristically delicate vibes solo from percussionist Martin Pyne (Busnoys, HarmonieBand) and the first of a number of blistering sax solos from reeds virtuoso Tony Woods. Vocalist Rebecca Thorn moved to piano to deliver a duly laid back ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’. Her delivery never an imitation, she consistently gave sympathetic and sophisticated performances, worthy of these great songs.

The most striking rendition of the evening was ‘Blue’ with Rebecca’s vocals accompanied only by the double bass of her father Mike Thorn (Just Misbehavin’, David Essex). A creditable enterprise, to be repeated occasionally – catch it when you can. Colin Bailey

Tags: James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim, The Blue Horizon, Neil Young, Harvest, Joni Mitchell, Blue, Carole King, Tapestry, The American Songbook 1971, Chris Winslet, Kate Winslet, Martin Pyne, Tony Woods, Rebecca Thorn, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Blue, Heart Of Gold, Laurel Canyon, the 1971 project, Colin Bailey