Don’t hold back perfection

Monique Hellenberg is a perfect jazz singer.

I have problems with perfection.

The diminutive young BMus (jazz) graduate and UCT music lecturer has a personality that smiles from every pore.

The grand hodads of Cape jazz, Alvin Dyers on guitar and Charles Lazar on big bass, have handed her the platform like a big, warm embrace.

Her voice is divine, and she smiles with such genuine grace, that we are bowled over.

But this not before she has to kindly ask some patrons to lift their faces from the bowl and show a modicum of respect to the artists and arts lovers.

People have paid for their ticket to appreciate art undisturbed by clattering crockery and faux conversation.

Hey, the food looks pretty good at The Crypt for a hungry, penniless blogger perched in a high seat in the corner watching laden plates waft past at shoplifting level. (Ya, those lefts at Long Beach were fantastic yesterday morning.)

Monique tells me she used her “lecturer’s voice” to ask the feeders to hold off until half-time.

She does it with aplomb, and the silence is guilty, but we move on having learned a lesson in grace and graciousness.

She starts with Autumn Leaves, paying tribute to late jazzo Eva Cassidy’s wonderful rendition of this classic.

Theres an ease about the show which is always a good sign of rehearsal, confidence and sublime talent and skill.

The solo breaks from Dyers and Lazar are acomplished and we soar gently.

The second set starts with Hellenberg on the white Steinweg piano with her one composition about children, called Angels.

I see that the microphone wire is hanging against her right pinkie.

It must be disconcerting singing solo, reading music and hitting keys with precision and feeling, when you have a thick electric chord knocking about.

She does not register the distraction and puts it all together beautifully.

They trio end the second set with Route 66 where it all falls into place for me.

There’s a groove goin’ on here, and she’s clicking her fingers poking out of those sexaay black netted fingerless gloves, tapping those heeled ankle-length boots with the hip curvy designer line from ankle to sole.

She is the quintessential jazz singer; slim yet curvy, long luxious locks, rich pink lipstick, a black sleevless top and body hugging short skirt, a hint of flat belly, and this big blue coat.

It’s all code to me. What is the full glory of jazz? Swingin’ pumpin’ musos, giving it? Yes indeed.

But the jazz singer is the cherry on the top.

Monique is a beautiful and lovely woman; she hails from Athlone, went to a Model C school, worked her butt off to get to the point of performing with the Jonny Cooper Big Band and Goldfish.

She is perfect. But that big flapping cloak …

I remember watching Dan Patlansky perform at a gritty hotel in PE in the early days. He was totally introverted and let his tools do the talking (his voice and his geet).

This year and last I saw him on the Guy Butler stage in Grahamstown and, in the intervening years, the oke had suddenly developed a stage personality. His veins pop, a few buttons are undone showing chest, he has extroverted his introversion. He is Dan the Man! All his tools are doin’ talkin.

Maybe it’s time for Monique to ditch the big blue tent and make full-bodied use of her artistic artilery.

Why? Because audiences, men and women, want it.

Performance art needs it.

And jazz loves it.

Time will pass.


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