Big thanks to Margot Gordon for introducing me to the magnificent Ali Hughes who performed with her fab jazz ensemble last night at The Basement. The gig was a one-off fundraiser to help get the band to the Big Apple for The New York International Fringe Festival in August and they performed the show that they’ll be presenting there; a captivating collection of songs by Leonard Cohen beautifully rearranged by Ali and her crack musical director and pianist Daryl Wallis.
‘Leonard Cohen’s Koans’ not only explores the music but also the spiritual philosophy of Cohen with Ali acting as both siren and storyteller throughout. A koan is a parable or an ambiguous question in Zen Buddhist training that requires a certain amount of intuition to unlock. Ali described a man hanging from a rope with ravenous tigers above and below. A mouse begins to gnaw at the rope. The man sees a luscious strawberry nearby and reaches for it. We are suspended in the image as she launches into another song ripe with suggestion.
Ali is like a zen master herself, drawing us in to the most delicate of perfectly articulated phrases then hurling us up against a wall of sound with an awesome display of her vocal power as she transforms into some hard wired rock goddess. She has has an incredible ability to hold the stage. No energy is wasted. It’s all channelled into the emotion, and with Cohen, thats a deep well. Her rendition of ‘I’m Your Man’ is enough to make you want to rip off your knickers and throw them at the stage! Here is an authentic talent who will no doubt hook in those American sweethearts she’s after. Let’s just hope that she scrapes together enough dosh to get home again!