Gig @ Spin Club, Oxford

Thursday, 9th November 2006


Guitartist Deirdre Cartwright has been in the music business for the past thirty years and was one of the original members of the all-female jazz ensemble, The Guest Stars, whose album, Out at Night, recorded in 1985, is still one of my favourite bits of vinyl. With her roots in rock from a teenage desire to play like Jimmy Page, Deirdre Cartwright seemed to move easily into the jazz idiom not long after she had cracked the secrets of wild rock guitar. On stage with her at the Spin was Alison Raynor, another veteran from the Guest Stars and drummer, Butch Birt*.

Playing two sets of entirely original material, apart from an arrangement of Kate Bush?s Wuthering Heights, Cartwright showed what a mature and imaginative musician she is. One gets accustomed to spotting the licks and mannerisms of a player by the end of an evening but here is a guitarist who is able to fit her playing to fit the mood and needs of a melody rather than bending the tune to fit the musician. With a technique that obviously allows her an unusual breadth of approach each number had great individuality and freshness in the soloing. It was a delight to listen to a musician who could run the whole gamut from quiet lyricism as in Precious Things, in memory of her dead sister, through to rough wild rock/jazz in Smells Like Jazz, a homage to Miles Davis, a number which somehow ironically got the strongest applause as Cartwright out-fingered Jimmy Page.

The evening was augmented by vocalist Sarah P a singer with a refreshingly crisp enunciation and a forceful voice that was a great foil to Cartwright?s guitar. The last number of the evening, In the Bag, yet to be recorded, about the contents of an older woman?s bag was fiercely ironic. Meanwhile Alison Rayner?s work, particularly on acoustic bass was as sharp and inventive as in her early years. Deirdre Cartwright is not only a highly inventive musician but has a wonderfully relaxed conversational stage presence which undoubtedly helps put an audience at their ease.

? Paul Medley

*Buster Birch ? dc!