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Meet the Artist: Libby Hammer and Ali Bodycoat

An Interview with Perth's jazz darlings, Libby Hammer and Ali Bodycoat

Libby Hammer and Ali Bodycoat will be Bringing Back Bacharach with their velvety voices in a tribute performance to the king of 1960s easy-listening pop!

Here we chat with them both ahead of their concert Bringing Back Bacharach on Tuesday, 17 May.

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How did you meet each other?

Ali Bodycoat: If I remember correctly, we were working on a recording or show with Nicholas Flanagan, my first professional rehearsal and recording gig, at His Majesty's Theatre and the Playhouse Theatre.

Libby Hammer: I have distant memories of seeing Ali’s name on a note slipped under the door of a café where an old boyfriend worked. The note was to enquire about a vintage leopard print coat that was on display in the window. I thought it odd that she had referred to the jacket as a Bodycoat. I wasn’t too smart in those days! After that, I recall admiring Ali from afar at various parties when I was a jazz student.

When did you start performing together?

AB: It has to be nigh on twenty years... We started performing together with the Bacharach show and were closely involved in the jazz scene managed by Reece Creighton in mid 1995-96 onwards.

LH: It was inevitable that we would eventually come together to perform, especially back then when the jazz scene was so much smaller. Back then, all of the jazz singers worked together at some stage - the annual PJS Ladies of Jazz Concert was a big date in the diary. Singer Helen Matthews was always putting together projects that brought singers together, and both Ali and I owe much to her.

What music did you grow up listening to?

AB: My mother and father were consummate dinner party entertainers and I always watched them prepare stunning dinner parties with ABC Classic FM playing in the background; both jazz and classical wafting through the house at all times. I grew up listening to The Carpenters, Nana Mouskouri, all classical music, classic jazz, ABBA, even Richard Clayderman and Hooked On Classics! My father played the piano as a prelude to these dinners as well.

LH: My mother listens almost exclusively to classical music and is quite the expert. My father plays boogie-woogie piano and introduced me to music that I still adore today - blues, ragtime and old musicals. As a very young child I wore out the groove on several 45s that played music about railroads and lumberjacks and the American Civil War (my parents are American). Names I knew and loved in my childhood include Judy Garland and Patsy Cline. Later on it was ABBA, Billy Joel and Elton John. I came to jazz music quite late in life.

What is the story in ‘Bringing Back Bacharach’?

AB: Libby, Tim Minchin (yes, THE Tim Minchin) and myself started this Bacharach show way back when the Perth Festival Club was packed to the rafters at the Undercroft at UWA. We then went on to perform it at Greenwich Jazz Club underneath His Majesty's Theatre and of course, the rest is history with Tim.  Those heady days stayed with us, Tim is still the absolutely divine Aussie bloke he has always been and Libby and I decided that it was time to re-invent the Bacharach "wheel" so to speak. So with this sensational eight piece band, the divinely Safari-suit clad Robert Pring and the original Bach-Babes, here we go again!

LH: When rewriting the show, I struck upon the idea of weaving a story through it so it wasn't just a string of songs, and it’s the songs that tell the story. The challenge was to create 'highs', because as any Bacharach fan will know, he and lyricist Hal David wrote many more songs of heartbreak than they did of new love. But I think I managed it, and there’s even a happy ending!

Along with the music and lyrics, what other storytelling techniques do you use in the performance? Who plays who?

LH: We kept it simple - Rob plays ‘Boy, Ali plays ‘Girl’ and I play ‘Other Girl’. There’s a recipe for heartbreak right there! Also, the one-hour show is jam-packed with 27 of Bacharach’s hits, so there’s no time for talking, and so the plot is helped along with some simple storyboards, silent-movie-style.

What do you love about Burt Bacharach’s music?

AB: I feel I can answer for all of us here: THE CHEESE! This music is straight from the heart and continues to defy the generations. It remains as timeless as polyester and velour and quite frankly, who tells a better love story?

LH: He is my favourite composer ever, and it’s because his songs are complex and clever, and yet so singable and catchy!

What’s your favourite Bacharach track?

AB: Impossible to answer.... "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?",  "Make It Easy On Yourself"... All of them!

LH: We have a joke at rehearsals about this. Before we rehearse each song, I say, “No, THIS song is my favourite.” So, all of them.

What are you looking forward to most about performing at Perth Concert Hall’s Morning Music Series?

AB: Our audience! The Perth Concert Hall is such an incredible acoustic – one of the best in the world. Combine that with a stunning audience, ready to be entertained by this glorious music. Our band is amazing, and we are ready to bring Bacharach Back at its best!

LH: One thing I did not expect when we remounted the show was how many people in the audience sing along. You don’t get that at jazz gigs. It makes me feel like a rock star! I also love seeing people connect again with these songs, songs that were often the soundtrack to their lives at some stage.

Where can we see Libby Hammer and Ali Bodycoat perform together again in the future?

AB: Libby and I are extremely excited – we will be performing together for the Perth International Jazz Festival on Sunday June 5 at the Northbridge Piazza from 2pm. We have an extensive repertoire of duets which we have put into our latest gig – Repartee For Two – it’s a free concert so come along!

LH: Ali and I always have a show cooking. We can most often be seen performing together at the Ellington Jazz Club or at Jazz Fremantle.

You can see Libby Hammer and Ali Bodycoat perform live together in Bringing Back Bacharach at Perth Concert Hall at 11am on Tuesday 17 May. 
A post-concert light luncheon is also be available for purchase.