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David Wright reviews The Little Radio (Iain Bellamy and Stian Carstensen) at Scarborough Jazz Festival

It is hard to believe that this ever-growing festival is now in its twelfth year; and we are reminded a little of its roots when saxophonist Iain Bellamy recalls playing with button accordionist Stian Carstensen at Scarborough Jazz Club, when it used to be based at the old Mermaid pub, which now sits, unused, next door to the redundant Futurist Cinema.

"We got lost trying to find our B&B," he chuckles, and this humour is maintained at times in their music, which isn't constrained by being in any particular musical genre. Anything goes, as Sinatra once sung; they keep the crowd guessing, as the throng delight in humming along to the evocative TV theme 'Tales Of The Unexpected' and Kurt Weill's 'Mack The Knife'. We're even treated to a quirky version of 'Teddy Bear's Picnic', but it doesn't sound gimmicky - these duos put on a watertight performance and seem connected at the musical hip.

Bellamy's superbly sensitive playing almost sees Hoagy Carmichael's lyrics floating out from his tenor during 'Stardust'. He has a unique, almost old fashioned, sound which is rarely heard these days, and his light breezy touch on Erik Satie's 'Je Te Veux' suits this sentimental waltz perfectly. I close my eyes during this piece and Carstensen's accordion sounds like the organ at Blackpool Tower.  Notes soar and bend as his right hand dances on buttons, not the keys normally associated with the traditional accordion, whilst his left hand gracefully moves the bellows back and forth, squeezing out musical enchantment. From a distance, this gifted Norwegian looks like he's playing a magical musical typewriter, but this isn't the only trick up his sleeve as he scats and whistles in unison like a bird to his own playing.

During Burt Bacharach's 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again', he uses his mouth once more, but this time to add another musical texture and accompaniment as the former Loose Tube saxophonist plays the longing melody so tastefully.

"What piece to leave you with? We decided on Whitney Houston" smiles Bellamy and I chuckle out loud at the joke with the rest of the crowd. Moments later, the joke's on me as this astonishing duo work their wonder on 'Saving All My Love For You'.

My only regret is that this really is their last number, and I doubt if I will hear anything as good for quite some while on my own little radio at home.

 

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