American Songbook classics from Moodswing – and all that jazz

Noreen Parker (vocals) and Dave Howell (sax) playing with 'Moodswing' at SD Bells Sunday jazz brunch in Belfast
Noreen Parker (vocals) and Dave Howell (sax) playing with 'Moodswing' at SD Bells Sunday jazz brunch in Belfast
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Some things stand the test of time better than others - including the best of local musicians and the classic American Songbook of jazz standards.

When the two collide, the magic that springs forth can take you back to less complicated golden age when genuine talent would rise above the mediocre and mundane.

Accomplished vocalist Noreen Parker is well-equipped to take you on that journey and has been getting back into the swing of things after a lengthy break to get married and to raise a family.

The years have been kind and Noreen - who was a familiar voice on local radio and popular jazz venues in the late 80s and 90s - and she continued to hone her skills with fairly regular gigs at great music venues such as Teatro in the Botanic area of Belfast.

I caught up with her last weekend at the SD Bells jazz brunch (on Belfast’s Upper Newtownards Road) where a full house enjoyed a well-judged collection of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee classics, among others, from her band Moodswing.

“I’m feeling really blessed to be doing what I love and working with such great musicians,” Noreen said.

“The only downside is the shortage of venues available to showcase all the wonderful jazz talent out there.

“I’ve noticed in the last year or so, since I started performing again on a regular basis, that only a small number of venues cater for jazz.

“That’s disappointing because the music has such broad appeal.”

Noreen said she regularly meets people who say they don’t like jazz, but can then sing along to so many of the timeless classics that have universal appeal.

“The music of Billie Holiday has been a major influence on my music career but there are so many fantastic songs by the likes of Nina Simone and Etta James it’s always difficult to finalise a set list for each show.”

Moodswing’s debut at SD Bells on Sunday went down well with the mixture of jazz aficionados and first time visitors alike.

No surprise there given the band’s line up accomplished professionals; Steve Barnett on keyboards; Dave Howell on saxaphone and Brian Rice on drums.

There were many highlights at the Sunday brunch gig but the Nina Simone classic ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’ and Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Summertime’ were real crowd-pleasers.

“There’s a great chemistry within the band and everyone plays their role so well,” Noreen said.

“I would encourage anyone, whatever their stage in life, to get out there and do what you love - or at least get yourself out there and enjoy what’s on offer at the venues supporting local talent.

“Thankfully there are still plenty of music-lovers who appreciate the unique experience of a live performance.”

Further information on Moodswing is available by emailing noreenparker@btinternet.com

Full list of events as SD Bells