Shirley Smart / Robert Mitchell at City University London

Our Jazz/Contemporary music editor Tony Andrews writes .....

I am very fortunate to live close enough to travel in to Central London whenever the whim takes me.One of the benefits of this luxury is that I can attend what appears to be an ever growing number of Free Concerts of Classical and Jazz music by Professional Musician of the highest calibre.

This is not only very satisfying as far as the musical content but the chance to see new venues which had eluded me in the past is extremely enlightening. One of the best kept secrets is City University in St Johns Street close to The Angel, Islington. The University has an extensive Music Department and a Technology Department for those studying to be competent in Recording Music.

City University organises regular lunchtime and evening performance in The Performance Space which is a small theatre with fabulous acoustics and the best PA System I have encountered in a theatre using active studio monitors from a famous brand known for studio monitoring.

Last Friday I had the most joyous experience of seeing Shirley Smart on cello and Robert Mitchell on piano performing traditional tunes from far away places such as Macedonia plus music individually written by Shirley and Robert. The partnership obviously works very well and this is the second time I have been overwhelmed by this duo.

There is real chemistry between the duo and not just two musicians attempting to perform to an acceptable standard. Shirley Smart demonstrates remarkable insight in to writing music which instantly grabs you with clever use of a technique which is so nearly classical in style but with the strongest jazz influences being immediately apparent.

This composing talent worked exceptionally well on two brand new pieces “Anima” and “Mind's Eye” in addition to another well tried piece - “Opals”. They all hit me with equal intensity. I am reliably informed by Shirley that she now classes herself as a fully paid up member of TJF (The Jazz Fraternity.). I can understand why Shirley has had to confirm her position as the cello is so linked with classical music that it can't possibly be used in Jazz according to the musical purists. I don’t agree!

Robert Mitchell performed two of his own creations “Quantum” and “City of Sanctuary” -both quite dark and complex in nature.Both were very beautifully written with again the merest hint of classical style. Considering Robert is a very accomplished Jazz Pianist who I have seen with several different bands and he has a real talent for creating music in the authentic Latin genre but ….. he has the touch of a Classical Pianist.

He clearly could have been a classical pianist had he chosen to be so.Just to prove The Duo can play music by other composers they performed a fabulous arrangement of Chat Pitre by Richard Galliano - a master of The Tango - although I believe is French by nationality. I took a group of close friends to this concert and they were all overwhelmed with the pure musicality and creativity of The Duo. Shirley has a CD released very soon with different group of musicians.  It is called “Long Story Short”. I hope to review this when released. A Duo CD is also in the planning stage for release in 2019

If you get a chance to see Shirley Smart and Robert Mitchell as a Duo then do not hesitate to go. Both obviously play in other ensembles which are more than worth investigating. I will be making every effort to to see both again as soon as possible

Tony Andrews.