Words: Flora Neighbour
If you’re looking to ease yourself into jazz, look no further than Cherise Adams-Burnett. Performing for the second time during EFG London Jazz Festival, the 23-year-old took to the stage in front of an intimate audience fuelled with anticipation and excitement. Kicking off the night, Cherise glided through the audience in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall in her floaty, white dress, looking ethereal, confident and ready to perform.
The first half saw Cherise accompanied by Gabriel Piers-Mantell on the piano, Olly Sarkar on the drums, and Louis van der Westhuizen on the double bass. Playing music from her forthcoming album – out next year – Cherise treated the audience to an insight into her love life and the trials and tribulations of a past relationship. Taking influence from Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae, the music felt vulnerable and poetic. However, what Cherise lacks in age, she also lacks in experience, and often the words sounded a little contrived. Although her youthful energy and multi-faceted repertoire helped bring variety to her performance of Pretenders, her talent and vocal abilities took centre stage over the lyrics. The audience, however, lapped it up and we saw Cherise finish the first half of the set performing earthy, soulful tracks with classical influences and the odd, extremely impressive, scat.
The second half of the evening saw Cherise joined on stage by Ife Ogunjobi on the trumpets, a string quartet and backing singers for a big band sound. Bringing up the tempo, the more upbeat half had a very different feel to the first, and I could see Cherise’s famed neo soul and R&B influences making an entrance. I could feel the audience tapping their feet to the tracks performed, enjoying Cherise as she sung in harmony with the backing vocalists and occasionally played her flute – once again, showing off her conservatoire training. The hazy, smoky lights were dimmed red and the room channelled the late-night jazz sessions many of the audience hoped for. Overall the evening was a wonderful showcase of talent from everyone involved. An eclectic mix of genres and a very youthful affair, the performance perhaps lacked that rough experience that comes with time. I look forward to Cherise perfecting her own sound with her distinctive, beautiful voice. Give Cherise time to grow and she’ll flower into a deeper shade of blues.