‘A 24 carat voice’ says the Guardian, and I can’t improve on that. The voice, crystal clear tone with a rich timbre, was the compelling key to this gig. Whatever style or genre the trio touched on (and they were varied), the sound and identity was unmistakebale. Tobin frequently sings the lyric of songs more than once, progressively stretching and reshaping it over the accompaniment; it has the effect of really focussing on the story of the song as well as upping the emotional tension. The departures into wordless scat become totally natural extensions. This was in part what gave the set a distinct personality despite including as it did diverse material from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Dance me to the end of Love’, through Carole King’s ‘Home Again’ via Brazilian tunes with Portugese lyrics, to classic standards like Cry Me a River and I thought About You. A second element was the awesome combination of Phil Robson on guitar and Dave Whitford on bass. The rythmic intensity and flow of their playing never diminished, even with dazzling, lyrical solos from Robson on some of the more up-tempo tunes. A masterclass in making us all feel a rythmn is there by playing ‘as if’ it is without anyone beating it out. Had drums been there, they would have added colour and sound but we didn’t miss them. What a trio. There should have been no surprise, these musicians are long standing stars of the British scene. That wasn’t enough to draw a crowd to the Vaults on this particular Sunday, who knows why – perhaps the fact it wasn’t in the usual pattern of gigs. The sparse numbers made this a slightly low key date for the band, but no less a delight for those of us there.
An audience with Christine Tobin, St. James Wine Vaults, Sunday 18th September