LJF 2018: Camilla Beeput

Camilla Beeput's drama with music about Lena Horne lifts Leon Nock out of his seat and ends the London Jazz Festival on a high

For me the London Jazz Festival ended as it began and that, to repurpose T.S. Eliot, was not with a whimper but with a bang. If Down For The Count lifted me out of my seat on the opening Friday, Camilla Beeput (pictured right) blew me onto the chandelier on the closing Sunday.

Something of a renaissance woman, Beeput works closely with her quintet, three of whom – Sue Richardson, trumpet, Erica Charles, tenor, clarinet, flute, and Cheryl Alleyne, drums, are female, leaving Miles Danso, double bass, and Alex Webb, piano, to do as best they can. Still in her 30s – there are at least three conflicting years of birth though all agree on September 9 – Beeput has already amassed a busy CV embracing stage (West Side Story), screen (Writers Retreat) and television (Birds Of A Feather) and has now moved up to triple-threat as writer, co-composer and performer in Camilla Beeput As Lena Horne, which has just wrapped five performances at Zedel.

Although she fails to list any official dramatic training in her CV it’s not unreasonable to assume she read Energy at the Guildhall because in her incarnation as Lena Horne plus several key figures from her life she is all over the lot. This is not your usual tribute act, far from it. Although Beeput does at one point lay a pensive Stormy Weather on us, that and Billy Strayhorn’s Something To Live For are virtually the only non-original music on offer for this is an angry Lena Horne, a tireless activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps somewhat incongruously, Beeput won an effortless standing ovation from a predominantly white, middle-aged, audience.

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