Percival, who came to renown 11 years later when runner-up in the first season of TV’s The Voice, has had an odd, stop-start career, with rather more changes of direction than he’s had changes of stage-names (currently three). Yet, despite these transformations, he has never sought to be anything other than his own unaffected self, and, being a genuine artist, to make something where nothing existed.
Among his three songs was the brief Love and Laughter (if memory serves, the encore on the night), a performance so compelling and so perfectly shaded by McNamara as to join the pianist’s 1980s appearance with saxophonist Joe Henderson in my all-time favourite Basement gigs.
Preceding the archival material was a recital by the Fabulous Botting Flower, a trio of singer/pianist Jo Fabro, guitarist Aaron Flower and bassist Max Alduca (standing in for Tom Botting). Their collective territory is prairie-based Americana – a curious inclusion in a Sydney Improvised Music Association program, and after the first two songs I was even more puzzled. Then Fabro sang an original lament called The Looking Glass with such conviction as hoisted both song and performance above the boots and hats of idiom. One suspects that were this project to escape its Americana obsession, it could permanently reside in that elevated zone beyond genre, as, say, Tom Waits and Cassandra Wilson do.
The other two singers in the archival footage both led brilliant bands, and were beacons of the Sydney scene circa 2001. Lily Dior enjoyed a dialogue between her sensual contralto range and more ethereal upper register, while Kristen Cornwell restored memories of her unerring musicality and improvising skills.