The intimate, candle-lit St Nicholas Church in Brighton feels a
bit like the setting for a nativity play or a night of carol
singing. It seems an odd choice then, for an evening of energetic
jazz with charismatic lesbian jazz vocalist, Aneesa Chaudhry and
her band, BLISS ART. But a brown-haired girl, in a polka-dot
shirt, Mojca Monte, soon begins to spice things up on piano with a
catchy little number, accompanied by some melodic flute playing
from Jana Cadez Amali, in a unique way of introducing the band.
Opening with "Once upon a time on the Island of Lesbos", the song
cleverly weaves in a few amusing sexual innuendos, with more than
one reference to "finger picking" and "musicians making sweet music
Aneesa has an edgy elegance about her as she strides onto the
stage, combining an eastern-inspired dress with a chic cropped
haircut. Her tuneful tones instantly make me think of elegant
champagne bars, with her jazzier trombone-based numbers conjuring
up images of brass bands in a wintry Central Park.
The singer gets her intimate audience clicking along to her cover
of Peggy Lee's classic Fever where she demonstrates excellent vocal
range and really explores the depths to which her voice can
Aneesa proves herself to be a charming, bubbly character, making
an effort to entertain her circle of fans at every opportunity. At
one point revealing herself to be a "secret" Celine Dion fan,
prompting a few reluctant grunts of agreement from her audience.
Her moving rendition of Roberta Flak's The First Time Ever I Saw
Your Face, also covered by Celine Dion had, dare I say it, even
more depth to it than Celine's version.
The girls close the first half of their set with a standout
Performance of Etta James's I Just Want To Make Love To You, which
sees a few fans giving in to the irresistible urge to get up and
shake their thangs.
The second half sees us plunged into darkness, the ominous sounds
of Jana's flute coming from the back of the church in an
opera-style performance which begins with the singer knelt on the
floor like a small child, slowly becoming illuminated as she sings
in Urdu, which, she tells us is an important part of her Pakistani
Aneesa treats us to a few more flawlessly performed covers
including Eva Cassidy's Songbird, Adele's Make Me Feel Your Love
and a fitting tribute to Whitney Houston, a performance of My Love
Is Your Love which more than does the late singer justice.
It's their own songs that really make the night, however. The
vibrant It's Alright has the audience chanting back the lyrics. The
Heart of Sappho's Bosom was inspired by their time in Lesbos, and
Guappa Chica, which she tells us is about a beautiful woman, is the
perfect closer to the evening.
Although Aneesa's voice is a power in itself, the performance
would not have been what it was without the incredibly talented
flutist, Jana, who wrote the up-beat, You and the masterful
pianist, Monti, who also wrote one of the songs, On the Edge.
Monti's playing of the church's beautiful grand piano was flawless
throughout the night.
After their set they dart around the room chatting to people, I
manage to squeeze in a quick chat with Aneesa, in which she sums up
their album On The Edge as "blissful, spicy and honest."
You can be sure to catch BLISS ART at one of the many women's
festivals around the country this summer: they tell me that they
want to raise their profile in the lesbian community and intend to
play as many festivals as they can squeeze in.
BLISS ART are:
Flute: Jana Cadez Amali
Piano: Mojca Monte
Vocals: Aneesa Chaudhry