STAGE: Platform Jazz’s Best of Swing – Rhumbelow Theatre, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
PRESENTING their fifth show at Durban’s popular Rhumbelow supper theatre, in the small shellhole of the same name in Umbilo, exuberant local dixieland and swing band, Platform Jazz, comes up trumps again with its latest serving of toe-tappers and nostalgia.
A collection of highlights from their previous shows in this small venue, with a few fresh ingredients, Best of Swing is a sure cure for the blues that has the amiable and talented cast exuding an infectious warmth and zeal.
The team is headed by host and trumpeter Cathy Peacock – a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra when she is not in Platform Jazz – and her easy charm, served with minimal patter, is quick to put the audience at ease.
Also featuring Andreas Kappen on double-bass, Bruce Baker on drums, the wonderful Melvin Peters on the keyboards, Kirsten Sayers on clarinet, Jeff Judge on sax and vocals, Duncan Wooldridge on slide trombone and the unfailingly delightful Shelley McLean on lead vocals, the show opens with the jolly Twelfth Street Rag.
Over the course of the next two hours or so, including an interval, we then get a diverse mix of upbeat numbers, a ballad or three, and novelties that include the musicians donning nun’s habits for a lyrically reworked My Favourite Things, and then later snaking through the audience to create a conga line.
Early programme highlights include Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine from Showboat, S’Wonderful, Spencer Williams’s Tishomingo Blues and a great rendition of Sweet Georgia Brown that has the impish Judge on vocals with Baker providing main backup by playing a washboard on his lap.
Judge also handles lead vocals on All of Me, Mr Bojangles and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, and takes to pennywhistle for a fun Meadowlands, performed as part of a tribute to the late Thandi Klaassen that includes McLean offering a lovely version of Sophiatown.
McLean’s vocal highs include Blue Moon, The Lady is a Tramp, Almost Like Being in Love, Mack the Knife and a first-half closing medley including Ce’st Si Bon, Hello Dolly! and When the Saints Go Marching In.
Also of note are a zippy instrumental composed by Peters, titled Bag of Marbles; the elegant Sayers’s clarinet clarity in Moonlight Serenade and Strangers on the Shore; and Baker taking an energetic solo in the crowd-pleasing Sing, Sing, Sing.
The band also features two short video interludes, shown on suspended screens flanking the stage – one featuring an all-woman orchestra in which drummer Viola Smith (now 103 years old) lets rip; the other highlighting the playing of a large, low-toned new saxophone.
In the Mood, Pennsylvania 6-5000, It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing and Quando, Quando, Quando are also on the programme of a show that has final performances at 2pm today (Sunday, January 29), 8pm next Friday and Saturday (February 3 and 4) and 2pm and 6.30pm next Sunday (February 5).
Tickets cost R150 each. Book at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.