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The Boswell Project


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The central characters in this terrific piece of cabaret are the Boswell Sisters – Martha, Connie and Helvetia – musical superstars of 1930s America, played skilfully by Louise Messenger, Kylie Ferreira and Valeska Laity.

These extremely talented Adelaide jazz vocalists have undertaken a lot of effort and research to faithfully re-create the music of the actual Boswell Sisters.

Tightly complex three-part close harmonies, with lead duties shared by all three, are the basis of the largely jazz-based songs, supported here by an excellent band of local musicians.  The three voices blended perfectly and never missed a beat throughout this performance.  Many of the vocal arrangements stepped well outside the conventional square and must have been unique in their day.  We were even treated to a nose trumpet solo by Messenger!

All the great jazz hits of the time were faithfully re-created – “Mississippi Roll On”, “That’s How Rhythm Was Born”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing, If it Ain’t Got that Swing” – as well as the Boswell’s own hits, including “Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day”, “Object of My Affection” and the then controversial “Coffee in the Morning, Kisses at Night”.

Most people are probably not familiar with the Boswells’ story.  Thanks to an excellent running dialogue performed to link the songs in this show, members of the capacity Banquet Room audience now know it well.  We learnt how the sisters’ performances weren’t always well received, because of their penchant for changing tempo and rhythm within the framework of a song – evidently too confusing for some purists.  But the progressive jazz audience embraced their darlings, as we did our very own during this engaging performance.

The Boswells toured all over America and had their own radio show. Connie Boswell, who was wheelchair-bound as a result of a fall while on tour as a teenager, was even credited by Ella Fitzgerald as being the biggest influence on her style.  At the end of their career together in 1936, the Boswell Sisters’ place on the touring circuit was taken over by the Andrews Sisters, who jettisoned most of the complexities of the Boswells to present a more straight-forward pop style.

Our own Boswell Project is so well regarded internationally that the Adelaide “sisters” will be performing in New Orleans later in the year at the launch of a documentary which has been made about their idols – a fitting recognition of their excellence and another example of the world-class musicians and singers we are fortunate to have in Adelaide.

The Boswell Project is currently running a crowd-funding campaign to help raise funds needed for their American trip. They performed in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room on June 8 and 9 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which continues until June 21.

 For more stories and reviews, see InDaily’s 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival hub.
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