Last night I went back to my old university campus, the University of Sussex, to see American jazz pianist and singer-songwriter Kandace Springs and her trio performing at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA), formerly the Gardner Arts Centre. The place had definitely changed since I left in 2009 but I must say that the new and improved ACCA is a stunning new venue. As I felt when I visited the Ropetackle Centre to see Courtney Pine last weekend, I was amazed that there was another great venue within close proximity of Brighton that I’d not visited, and again this is another venue that is really worth the effort to visit.
The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Located near the sports centre and facing Falmer Bar on the University of Sussex campus, there is ample free parking in the evenings near to the centre and a cafe/bar just outside the auditorium for you to get a pre-concert beverage. Inside, the venue is a modern theatre space with tiered seating and a stage big enough for any sized ensemble. The building itself is Grade II listed, but inside you would not tell as it looks like something that was made for this purpose very recently. The performance space is used for everything from dance and theatre to debates and live music, making it a very diverse venue indeed and a real asset to University of Sussex.
Following on from her bassist and drummer who led the way onto the dimly-lit stage, Kandace Springs bounced onto the stage with a broad smile from ear to ear and buckets of enthusiasm as she greeted the audience before taking her position behind the Steinway & Sons grand piano which occupied the left side of the stage. Her performance was confident and assured, not something that you would necessarily expect from an artist who is just 27 years old and on their first UK headline tour. It was clear from the start that Springs was a very accomplished jazz pianist and that the Steinway was not there for decoration whilst she plodded along through the set – she gave elaborate and technical jazz piano solos and extended introductions throughout the set without the tendency to overdo it or show off., as can be easy to do.
Springs’ trio played a solid 90-minute set, including tracks from her debut album Soul Eyes, her previous EP, some new and unheard tracks from their forthcoming album and some classic contemporary jazz standards including ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face‘ by Roberta Flack and Etta James’ big crowd-pleaser ‘At Last‘. The musicianship of all three musicians was top-notch, with the drums and bass playing intricate parts to underpin the piano/vocal lead throughout. With her original tracks varying from upbeat grooves to down-tempo ballads, Springs is by no means a one trick pony, and with songs written for her by the likes of Grammy-award winning songwriter Jesse Harris (amongst many credits, Harris wrote Norah Jones’ hit ‘Don’t Know Why’), you know that you are in safe hands when you go to see Kandace perform live.
From the taster track from her next album, Black Orchid, it looks like the new record might be a bit more sombre than the first, but perhaps that track is just a curveball to catch the audience unawares. Whatever it may be, Kandace Springs is certainly one to watch out for in the future and I hope that her visits to the UK become far more frequent.