Or, ‘Can you imagine if we just made this obnoxiously jazzy?’
It started with a tap on the shoulder from my friends at ACMI (I’d previously worked with the lovely team to do a Judy Garland tribute for their Hollywood Costumes exhibition), it continued with an amazingly fun photoshoot, and then it was time to work on the music.
As I explained to the lovely James in this interview for SWITCH., as a newcomer to Bowie, I reached out to everyone I knew for their favourite David Bowie songs. I asked friends, family, co-workers, fans on my Facebook page…and got so many answers I could barely keep track! I listened to dozens of David Bowie songs, some I loved, some that were a bit too 1970s glam-rock for my taste. But I compiled a shortlist, and brought them to my lovely collaborator, Ned Dixon.
We’re like super, totally professional…
At our first rehearsal, we had just finished running through Starman when Ned, jokingly, started playing a version that they dubbed ‘obnoxiously jazzy’. I literally froze halfway across the room and told them, ‘That’s how we’re doing it!’ After that, we began to take a few liberties with the Bowie recordings, mashing them up with other jazz standards, altering the feel, making them the kind of jazzy tunes Ilana Charnelle is known for!
It was amazing fun.
Our first performance at ACMI was at their Sunday Session on July 19th, where we performed an hour of Bowie, jazzified 70s and 80s songs, and even a sneaky original!
I had enlisted the assistance of the beautiful Marion C. Mellis, a vintage stylist, to help put together this incredible Thin White Duke inspired ensemble. All it took was a trip to Savers and Marion’s magic to put this together, can you believe it?!
Here’s a sneaky recording of our jazzified version of The Man Who Sold The World!
My ensemble got another outing when we performed our second ACMI show, playing a full set of Bowie at their Friday night Up Late session on August 7th. Ned and I were playing alongside the wonderful Mojo Juju, who even joined me for a sneaky dressing room selfie!
Our third Bowie performance was another Late Night with the amazing Kylie Auldist. Kylie and her band were not only spectacular on stage but also super lovely backstage, and it was a pleasure to share a stage with them. I hung around to have a boogie to their tunes after my set and they were fantastic!
While initially Ned and I thought the Kylie Auldist show would be our last performance for the exhibition, we were lucky enough to be invited back for one last Sunday session…the Total Bowie weekend over the 19th and 20th of September! And what an amazing weekend it was…we played two sets on the Sunday, to sunny skies and a truly excellent crowd!
I mean, we not only sang some awesome tunes…
…we had an incredible MC for the day, Miss Lauren Stardust….
…there was a costume competition, with this incredible pair giving the full Labyrinth experience…
…and there was even a face painting station! Well, you know what happened next…
Basically, we had a ball. What an excellent way to finish our involvement with this exhibition!
I want to say a few thank yous: first and foremost, to the marvellous Ned Dixon, collaborator, arranger and accompanist extraordinaire, thank you for all the hours you put into these performances! You’re a tremendous talent and I’m so excited to keep working with you!
To the team at ACMI: THANK YOU for being the most tremendous people and putting on such a fabulous exhibition. I LOVE performing at ACMI and I am very grateful you chose to have me back! The David Bowie Is exhibition runs until November 1st, so don’t miss it!
Finally, thank you to everyone who came along and watched Ned and I do our thing, who sang along to the Bowie, and who made the performances so much fun.
Until next time!