Dayna Kurtz, The Constitutional Club (Lewes, UK) September 25th 2013
It was serendipity…there was I just getting ready to go to work but sneaking in time to check out what was happening in the land of Facebook and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a post by the Con Club in Lewes stating that Dayna Kurtz was playing there that evening…oh my! I last saw her at the Blue Highways festival in Holland in 2008 and have been waiting for a chance to see her again in live performance. Less than fifteen miles from my front doorstep – well I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity…
I e-mailed the appropriate contact, secured a ticket for the show and spent the day eagerly anticipating what was to follow…
Summertime has given way to autumn, leaves are turning, the days are getting shorter, people are starting to hunker down as evenings get cooler. It was a wet and drizzly September night and that made me wonder how many would turn out for a date that had been squeezed in at pretty short notice. My concerns were realised when the show started and there was just a small audience – however as Dayna Kurtz started singing a few more people came in from the bar, sat down and listened like the rest of us in hushed reverence. Kurtz has the most smoky, sultry alto, which is just so captivating. She inflects, jazz, blues, folk, roots in her singing and has drawn favourable comparisons with greats like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.
Accompanied tonight by Peter Vitalone on melodica (a small keyboard with a mouthpiece) Kurtz intimated that they had anticipated a piano being available and as one wasn’t she made up the set list as they went along. Choosing from what appeared to be a pretty comprehensive list of songs, she elected for ones that would work best with her acoustic guitar and Vitalone’s melodica. The selection leant towards her recently released album SECRET CANON VOLUME TWO – it continues where VOLUME ONE left off (naturally) and includes her interpretation of some rare blues and jazz covers from the mid 20th century as well as some original compositions. Fully respectful of those that have gone before her, she wisely adds her own inimitable mark to the songs she covers. Listening to the collection, it may not come as a surprise to learn that her self-penned songs could quite easily have come out of the same era because she not only constructs them so well, she delivers them in quite some style.
She dipped into 2010’s AMERICAN STANDARD (made with the assistance of fan funding – yes, I contributed as I think she is a class act whose music should be reaching much wider audiences) and one of the highlights from it was an a capella You Fine Girl.
About half way through the set, Kurtz sang four songs solo; she’s sassy, she’s got attitude, she smoked an electronic cigarette and asked for a Jameson to soothe her throat. She talked about living in Lewes for a year when she was a student at the nearby University of Sussex – she hoped her landlord wasn’t in the audience as the property she shared got ‘trashed’. As she introduced Postcards from Downtown she confirmed that the first lines ‘I lost all my faith in love, on those stairs that November…’ reflected the time she had her heart broken whilst living in Lewes.
A surprise was her take on Those Were The Days a huge hit for Mary Hopkin back in the late 1960’s – Kurtz said ‘feel free to sing along if you are over 45!’ Finishing the ninety-minute show with an encore – Veneuzela made this reviewer very happy, as it was the song that absolutely floored me at Blue Highways.
Kurtz is a dazzling live performer; the few British dates on this short run were sandwiched between shows in Spain and Holland where she has huge followings – our continental European friends sure do know a thing or two about music! If Kurtz is ever performing near you, go and see her – I guarantee you will thank me! I certainly hope that I don’t have another five-year gap before I see her again. Jela Webb