REVIEW: Jake Dennis & the Mint Jazz Band – Classic Crooners

Words by: Mandy Tu

A few weeks ago I received a message from Jake Dennis, poet and jazz singer extraordinaire. I’d interviewed Jake a couple of months ago, and we’ve known each other for little more than a year. He asked me if I’d be interested in coming along to his newest show, the Classic Crooners Cabaret, and reviewing it for Rotunda Media. “Two free tickets for the writer and friend,” he’d said.

I accepted his offer, since I’d long been meaning to attend one of his shows. So I roped my nerd boyfriend Jack into coming along with me, and yesterday, we drove down to the Fremantle Fibonacci Centre, on Blinco Street, in Fremantle. (Surprise, surprise.)

We walked up the stairs to the Blinco Street Cafe. I caught Jake’s eye through the open doorway, leading from the cafe to where the event was being held. I greeted Jake, who was dressed immaculately in a tuxedo.

‘So where’s the thing happening?’ I said, articulately.

‘Through here,’ replied Jake, gesturing; ‘take a seat.’

The Fibonacci Centre was dimly but beautifully lit. The focal point was of course the stage; but there were neon lights scattered about the room, and each table had its own little candle, which I entirely approved of.

Jack and I chose some comfortable seats, just a stone’s throw from the stage. (If that stone was thrown by a person with a strong throwing arm.) I was unduly excited to find that my chair swiveled. Jack got us a bottle of complimentary water; I ordered a bowl of chips; we watched people file in; listened to Jake sing a snippet of Me and Mrs. Jones, at the end of which I was the crazy person clapping; and we waited.

Jake greeted everyone who was at the venue, and afterwards returned with a clipboard with a list of Classic Crooners on it, and we were asked to vote on who our favourite crooner was. I picked Nat King Cole and Jack chose Ray Charles. And then, at 7:15 pm, Chris Marquand of the Mint Jazz Band efficiently summoned the audience’s attention through a dramatic drumroll. Jake made his appearance, from the side of the stage. His opening words were: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, do you believe in love?’

And I, very sensitively, went, ‘Uhhhh….’

Jake kicked off the show with a beautiful rendition of ‘Recipe for Making Love’ by Harry Connick Jr. He then plunged into the storyline that would glue the cabaret of ‘manliness, love, and enjoying life’ together, giving it a structure and a theme: he introduced himself as a Leo, in love with a girl called Judy (he had a framed picture of Judy Garland on a small table onstage). The cabaret followed his story: Judy left for Kansas (“What are you going to do there?” he said into the phone, which was hilarious), he fell in love with a young lady named Miss Mary Jones (played by the lovely Miss Tash Dawson) in the second act, who later got married in the space of a song and a half after she saw Jake singing ‘Beyond the Sea’ (whose girl’s heart wouldn’t that break?). The two rekindle their relationship despite her marriage, and finally Jake Dennis and the Mint Jazz Band finished the show with a bang by singing ‘Ain’t That A Kick in the Head’.

Other songs included ‘Sway’, ‘Mack the Knife’, ‘Judy’, and a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Mona Lisa’, possibly my favourite song of the night. And I hadn’t heard the song before, so it was wonderful hearing it sung by Jake’s melodious voice.

The entire cabaret was fantastic: the venue was beautiful, with a laid-back, romantic atmosphere; Jake’s singing was an absolute delight to listen to; the Mint Jazz Band–Mark Cunnife on keys, Chris Marquand on drums, and Malcolm Mah on double bass–were amazing.

It made for a perfect Friday night. If ever you get the chance to go and see one of Jake Dennis and the Mint Jazz Band’s shows, I encourage you to do so. I promise, you will not regret it.