Hot Jazz; the NAO & Dominic Mancuso 1

Review by Ursula Erasmus

The Brott Summer Festival is selectively eclectic – classical; popular; operatic and jazz. A splendid way to spend a summer evening, on a soulful tour across cultures and emotions with Dominic Mancuso and his group. The repertoire wound its way through the world of experience we all share, with a combination of laid back ease and deeply connected energy. Dominic is a story teller and an empath, with the themes and characters of the stories emerging through the variety of instruments and Dominic’s rich voice. The fish salesman’s attempts to coax the interest of a lovely woman conveyed the pent-up expectation of the moment.  the stories made the evening personal and relatable.

Singer/composer Dominic Mancuso (center) and his group

            As musicians, this group is cool and delightful. The playing is practiced and yet responsive, with a noticeable element of taking the music where it needs to go. The drummer, from Cuba, kept the group in fluid rhythm. He also played one or two masterful riffs that were not long enough! The bassist and the guitar player were of equal standing, and together they gave stability and richness to the sound. The multicultural, multilingual and cross-generational numbers, including The Beatles and O Sole Mio, showed how versatile these musicians are together.
The number that Mancuso penned for a woman from Johannesburg made me smile. I am from Johannesburg and I know first-hand the journey he narrates. Simple truths shared in a moving and uncomplicated song. The music for this number somehow has a slight discomfort in the rhythm and the words.
By the end of the evening we were transported to Sicily – although the music and Dominic’s wonderfully intensive voice doesn’t let the mind wander, I found myself immersed in the thought of sitting under a shady tree listening to the foreground theme tunes for that fiercely emotive culture. The sound of the group is clean with unexpected elements. The songs and Dominic’s personal lyrics and reflections made the evening intimate and relatable. He let the audience experience how there are many ways to honour a song through feelings and appropriateness to a given situation, and reflected the dynamic and universal themes of the world we share … soothing; moving; provocative, and delightful

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