20th Jan, 2022

REVIEW - Saxophone virtuosa Jess Gillam delights audience at Coventry's Drapers' Hall

DRAPERS’ Hall, pleasingly restored to its Regency splendour, cannot even in its heyday have hosted many evenings like this.

Saxophone virtuosa Jess Gillam can, even in a relatively short career so far, be relied on to pull in the punters and the hall was full for this spirited recital.

Now a firm fixture on Radio Three and classical music’s occasional airings on the television, Ms Gillam has become a real proponent for the instrument and its repertoire.

Accompanied – if such a word can possibly describe so thrilling a contribution – by pianist James Baillieu, the programme covered music as diverse as the classicism of Telemann, the brisk modernity of Piazzolla and several excursions into the sultry, bluesy world of jazz.

To be proficient in any of those spheres is praiseworthy, to be able to move effortlessly and utterly convincingly between them all is little short of miraculous. But that’s what happens when a musician’s playing is so much more than just mastery of the notes. This was live music-making of the first order, and a very rare order at that.

The full range of power was on display. The Telemann crisp and confident while passages of the jazz-inspired pieces were barely more than sighing breaths given a frail note. Sublime and endlessly impressive.

There’s a popular view among the sporting fraternity that nobody ever remembers who came second. That’s certainly not the case here. Despite falling at the last hurdle in the very public final of Young Musician, Jess Gillam has shown she has the talent, personality and sheer quality to lead the way in her profession in a way that nobody, certainly nobody who witnessed this evening, will forget.

Drapers’ Hall continues to announce its return in a launch season stretching well into next spring and featuring artists including Orchestra of the Swan and Talvin Singh. Visit drapershallcoventry.org.uk for full details.

 

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