I first had the exquisite pleasure of seeing Kristin Berardi perform with Three Shades Blue at the Brisbane Jazz Club in April 2016, thanks to a recommendation from a musician friend who studied with her at the Queensland Conservatorium. As a newbie to the Australian jazz scene back then, I had no idea of the exceptional award-winning talent I was about to experience live.
Since then I’ve seen her perform whenever possible, in a range of ensembles delivering various jazz repertoires. So it was an absolute treat to revisit the Three Shades Blue core line-up of Dave McGuire on guitar, Joel Gregory on double bass and Berardi’s vocals in an intimate performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s acoustically stunning Salon, on Saturday 3 February.
As the trio’s name suggests, the repertoire comprised blues standards interspersed with some of Berardi’s original compositions with folk-pop leanings. The trio first formed when they were students at the Con in early 2000 and have recently re-formed to record an album, due for release mid-year.
Their set opened with a gorgeous interpretation of B.B. King’s ‘Everyday I Have the Blues’ which had Berardi stretching out on her magnificent vocal range, demonstrating a marvellous timbre for blues.
Berardi introduced the next song as one of her own, a folk-pop number called ‘Cycle Man’ which featured an impressive bass solo by Gregory.
Other originals interspersed throughout the set included the sublime ballad ‘Slow Waltz’ with stunning guitar work by McGuire and a delicate emotion in Berardi’s vocals transcending the kind of intense beauty I’ve experienced listening to Sufjan Stevens or ‘To Build A Home’ by The Cinematic Orchestra. Divine.
Berardi’s story-telling in her lyrics was highlighted in ‘A Child’s Eyes’, a sweet song with a pop-country flavour that was, she explained, inspired by a derelict cottage she’s seen as a child on long drives from her home in a small country town south of Mackay. It’s a delight to hear the stories behind the stories in her songs.
I once described Berardi’s voice as one that could simultaneously melt glass and mend broken hearts. In the purpose-built acoustic perfection of the MRC’s Salon, surrounded by the silence of a small but captivated audience, I closed my eyes for a moment as she was singing. Again I’m melting, mending.
Eyes open, it was fascinating to watch such a powerful voice emanate from her delicate frame. Her pure enjoyment performing blues numbers like ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ and ‘Going To Chicago’ was evident as her body moved and grooved with the rhythms and her hands seemed to elicit each note, fingers gently plucking invisible strings controlling a rapid scat, and active facial expressions reflecting the emotion of the words she sings with absolute sincerity.
It’s all part of what makes witnessing a live performance by Three Shades Blue so special. No doubt there’ll be more shows soon to support the release of their forthcoming album. So if you have the chance go, see, hear, feel, melt and mend.