Jan Preston: Play It Again Jan (janpreston.com)

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Lazy Boogie
Jan Preston: Play It Again Jan (janpreston.com)

Greymouth-raised singer/pianist and composer Jan Preston may have been classically trained but her career in New Zealand saw her best known as a member of the innovative Red Mole Cabaret theatre troupe, Midge Marsden's Country Flyers band and in Coup D'Etat alongside then-former Hello Sailor member Harry Lyon.

Her repertoire expanded from soundtracks and classical into boogie, jazz and blues, and after she'd moved across the Tasman she kept winning awards and acclaim for her film scores, albums and performances (in 2003 she won Australian Blues Performer of the Year).

It's a big story which might have come to a literal crashing halt when she fell in 2016 and broke both wrists.

It seemed she might not be able to perform again but, as the title of this new collection asserts, she is back and playing hot boogie woogie originals here alongside the great Hadda Brooks' Lazy Boogie and the classic Ida Cox song Wild Women.

With a small band recorded at the Boatshed Studio in Tauranga – Nigel Masters on upright bass, Mike Pullman (percussion), Ian Gilpin (drums) and acoustic guitarist Nick Charles – Preston sounds like she's thoroughly enjoying herself and (as the little amusing insert essay attests) very glad to be able to play again.

She touches the spirit of great New Orleans players like Professor Longhair and Chicago's Albert Ammons, nods to her home locale (Gold Coast Boogie) throws in a witty ragtime piece (Jan's Rag) and “I'll tell you about the 1970s Red Mole days in Wellington” on Wild Days: “Sunday night, queues around the block, the music never missed a beat . . . bouncer on the door, cops on the stairs . . .”

Although mostly an upbeat and entertaining collection, she touches a soulful place with Your Own Life and some swaggering Fever-like low blues on Scared of the Dark, its braggadocio undercut by the title.

Jan Preston tours soon and doubtless these songs – and her entertaining delivery – will be very well received.

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