Cabaret Festival Review: Emma Pask – Dream Of Life

If music is food for the soul, then Emma Pask’s performance left her audiences feeling very full indeed.


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 18 June 2022

If music is food for the soul, then Emma Pask’s performance at this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival will have left audiences feeling very full indeed. After recording her new album, Dream Of Life, pre-COVID, Emma launched this sensational album here in Adelaide in the packed Banquet Room of the Festival Centre.

Emma is one of Australia’s leading jazz vocalists. Her talent was first spotted by jazz great, James Morrison, when she was just sixteen years old and he has crowned her ‘the greatest gift to Australian jazz vocals in the last decade’. By request, she performed the bridal waltz for Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s wedding. Recently, Emma supported guitarist/vocalist George Benson on his Australian tour. For this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Emma was invited, by Tina Arena, to launch her new album, Dream Of Life. As Emma explained to the enthusiastic crowd, the new album explores joy, love, loss, hope, freedom and unity, and is a gathering of her favourite pieces that best fit these themes.

The night opened with the first number on the album, Smack Dab In The Middle (Charles E. Colhoun). From the get go, Emma’s voice warmed the room. Her solid jazz training and technical work gave her vocals such ease and grace. Emma’s charismatic personality shone through each number and her banter between each piece. It was really nice to hear the backstories on why each piece was selected for her album. Emma’s scat singing is up there with some of the best, and her vocal work in the final number of the night, Don’t Touch Me, hit some exceptional top notes that deservedly received huge applause.

Emma was backed by one of the best bands in the business. Featuring Tim Firth on drums, Brett Hirst on bass and Dr Kevin Hunt on piano, they worked as one with Emma with extreme precision and unity. Their musical communication between each other through glances and hand gestures was seamless. Each of these fine musicians are at the top of their game, and it was apparent that they all love playing and performing. They would also encourage each other with cheers and cries of excitement throughout each other’s solos. Seeing musicians work together like this adds so much to a performance.

I was very quick to purchase the album after the show and I’ve been playing it on repeat since then. The album was recorded “live” in the studio and you can hear the band members and Emma cheering on and complimenting solo riffs and motifs as each track goes by. Emma’s storytelling and emotion even pours through the speakers and connects with the listener. Not an easy thing to achieve with something that was recorded in the past, but this is credit to Emma’s sensational ability to connect with her lyric and music.

As the weather is setting in for a long cold winter, Dream Of Life is an album I urge you to warm your soul with. Sadly, Emma’s Cabaret Festival performance was for one night only, but no doubt she will grace our state again very soon, and when she does, be sure to grab your tickets to see one of this country’s finest jazz vocalists.

Reviewed by: Ben Stefanoff
Twitter: @theartsislife

Season Ended – One Night Only

Rating out of 5: 5

Photo Credit: Claudio Raschella

#Adelaide #AdCabFest #livetheatreadelaide #supportthearts

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