Laurie Coldwell 4 March 2010

ADC Lateshow – Tues 2nd March 2010


It’s hard to tell the difference between cults and jazz choirs. Both smile in a manner that isn’t quite connected to the reasons why a person smiles. With cults, it’s because Lord Drakan has plied you with psychotropic drugs and demanded you commit mass suicide in order to ascend to the pan-dimensional heaven of Mount Sidcup.With jazz choirs, it’s because someone has said you should smile when you sing, because otherwise you look as maudlin as if Great Auntie Ethel had been re-animated for the coming apocalypse and was doing sex gymnastics in the back of the auditorium.

Scatpack is a brand new jazz acapella choir who sometimes smile like they’ve been told to. During the night, the 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 2 tenors and 2 basses romped through the staple vocal jazz arrangements with a fair, if varied, degree of success and a workmanlike attitude. As an ensemble, they scattily lurched from the sublime to the sketchy, with certain individuals and arrangements unfortunately proving markedly better than others.

Both Argyro Nicolaou and Kome Gbinigie (altos) brought the sex with them. During ‘Fever’, they smouldered and rasped with more sass than Peggy Lee’s famous version ever mustered and kept on smouldering away in the background all night, moving effortlessly and comfortably between any switch of style demanded of them.  Joachim Cassel and Tom Davenport complemented them with strong support as basses. Sadly, others were not so comfortable and the higher soprano parts were uncomfortable to listen to, sometimes suffering from bad tuning and shrill swoops. Similarly, the inability of some of the performers to slip from one style to another was painfully apparent; an already badly arranged version of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ was strangely sterile. Many of the singers were obviously well-versed in the choral tradition and their well-trained chapel syllables were far too English public school for American spiritual tune ‘Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho’.

The singing although mainly solid was not spectacular. My attention thus slipped and focused on the physical performance. Scatpack need the help of a choreographer, a psychologist or to just stand in front of a mirror whilst they practice, if they are not to seem unnerving.

Standing in a semi-circle, some bob irregularly and some faces have the forced smiles of the heavily sedated. Tenor William Morland looks on the verge of tears, the altos are at a sexy party to which they didn’t invite the sopranos – who are busy having an intense religious experience, eyes shut – opposite jolly basses tracing expressive circles with their palms. Fair singing, certainly, but it was like watching a mainly tuneful group mental breakdown. Or a cult.

Laurie Coldwell