The wait nearly unbearable. The date twice postponed. Now, finally, on the last day of March in the year two thousand twenty-two, vocalist Kat Little and gang rode into the capital city to entertain us at the aptly named Bedlam & Squalor. Kat was ably assisted by Leonardo Coghini on piano, Seth Boy on the manly bass, and Hikurangi Scheverien-Kaa on the drumkit. All were warmly welcomed by the crowd at B&S. They played a nice mix of standards and pop classics, all in perfect jazz style. But it was not
simply the way in which Kat sang each piece.
At first, I thought it an amusing stage performance in the best chanson tradition where each song is a story. But then I realized that they were living each song, fully immersed in that moment and place and luring you to join them in that fantastic world. With each piece, a new world manifested itself around us, called forth by their pose, their mimics, and Little’s versatile voice.
Kat is the kind of artist you can listen to for hours on end and still not have had enough. And the band enjoyed the performance as much as the audience, both by catalyzing Little’s vocals and by articulating their own talents with the occasional solo. Leo turns pop classics into jazz victories, among them Killing Me Softly with His Song and Abba’s The Winner Takes It All, which so impressed the audience that they nearly forgot to applaud. You can’t make this stuff up. Hikurangi made sounds from his drums so unusual that they might have come from another dimension. They scattered across the room like frightened kittens. [Note: no animals were harmed during the show or in the writing of this review.]
And Seth, as usual, let forth with a well-rounded, musical, and sensitive bass solo in My Foolish Heart, so intimate it felt nearly nude. Kat’s rendition of the Nina Simone classic, My Baby Just Cares for Me tracked tightly with Simone’s original, while simultaneously being so very Kat, so very real: a feat that only a true musician can pull off.
The spacious bar of Bedlam and Squalor was filled to the brim: completely sold out. And the audience was oh-so-Wellington, very Aro Valley, mostly young but clearly into it. Kat mentioned that she missed performing in front of live audiences and shared that places— and audiences—sculpt the musical choices of performances as much as the era does. For example, one plays a different set for a seated audience than one would for a standing (and dancing) crowd.
That made me long to hear more of Kat Little’s little quartet in different contexts: cozy bars, large halls, out on the lawn, with audiences large and small, old and young, just to hear how the pieces change to fit the context. I simply can’t wait for their next appearance.
By Charlie Queen