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Ava claims her space

Published: 
Saturday, November 18, 2017

On Sunday evening at the Central Bank Auditorium, Port-of-Spain, Ava Hutchinson made her most ambitious step. She claimed her space as a singing/pianist songwriter artiste. In her words “After my recent health issues and being given a second chance, I said to myself, ‘You have done the four CDs for the children, as well as the inspirational book ‘52 Facets of Woman’ so now its time to give your songs a hearing.”

It was a remarkable show for Hutchinson, the culmination of a long journey, of finding her way to herself. It was her first time anchoring her own show, more importantly, performing her own compositions. And she knew the significance of the moment.

Her songs of love and healing succeeded in commanding the attention of a capacity audience. She opened her set with a symbolic affirmation of self in the lyrics of Good Enough, one of her earliest compositions. This song has come to free her to address issues of what Love Is as it colours experiences, especially, the hurt and the disappointments that implore you to Don’t Dream. The compositions opened Hutchinson up to sing convincingly. She says Life is What You Make It, even when life may often dump you on a See-Saw Love, and yes, there are sad moments, but they are only a preparation for the Shining Knight’ who leaves memories with You Got Me Smiling. For Hutchinson, love, with its ups and downs, is a real thing, it is the essence of joy and the force for overcoming difficult circumstances. The lyrics explore personal spaces, but they are primarily, songs of hope and renewal, hope for The Healing, as accepting reality and for finding the strength not just to survive, but to thrive.

Hutchinson’s drive to perform her lyrics and music presented an exciting challenge. How to incorporate this particular set of nuanced words and reflective tunes into a live concert with her supporting guest artistes, especially, in a space as intimate as the Central Bank Auditorium? Achieving a balance was important, eg, on the Jazz Pickle, a group whose high shoulders she has relied all these years. In her words “I knew that Trini audiences might be overwhelmed with originals, so I decided to showcase the Jazz Pickle as well as Ralph “Shearing” Davies and Friends to the mix. I had a ‘girlie’ tea lime to introduce my music, and after listening, enjoying and commenting on what was thrust upon them, I was inspired to go the next step...the show.”

The Jazz Pickle played well-loved jazz standards which created the mood for drawing in the audience. The show, however was re-imagined by Ralph Davies, featuring vocals from Faye Husbands, Lois Hutchinson, Timothy Newton, Harold Richards and Ian Henderson on alto saxophone all serving as delightful turning points, with accents in a really joyful groove. They created spaces in which the audience could reflect on the music, sing along and enjoy songs that have defined so much of their lives. Davies’ touch with the piano, so gentle, so authoritative, innovative and fantastic in its musicality took the evening into another realm. He took the audience into rapture. Davies the maestro at 89, knew precisely how to complete the show, wowing the crowd with his elbow in a note at the end.

In Hutchinson’s words: “Ralph has always been a humble soul, willing to assist in any way he can, and his ability to share and show his skills and technique always produces in us all an enthusiastic guttural response. He has experienced and heard so much that his wealth of knowledge and mentorship brings us all musicians closer to playing that much better, not to mention the importance of daily practise. His fingers are still the best around, as he never fails to excite with his ‘scalic’ and ‘arpeggiated’ lines and passages, the riffs, the cadenzas, his rhythmic comping and his melodic improvisations, not to mention his flair for dynamics.”

This show—Of Love and Life—has the potential to redefine Ava Hutchinson in the Trinidad musical landscape. It presented her voice as that of a strong woman, impassioned, alternatively full of laughter and tinged with the sadness of experience, the tone of which is upbeat, richly textured and meditative. It gets to the point of her lyrics quickly and is the context for the music of her well- defined piano accompaniment. Her sound is overwhelmingly personal, the intimate colouring of experience and the desire to be true to the expression of self—herself.

KEN CRICHLOW