Archive for the ‘Jazz’ Category

Other Top Live Song Performances of 2013

Yolanda Brown’s Bob Marley medley mix
Zaz – “On ira” and “Je veux”
Siouxsie (Sioux) “Dear Prudence”
The Rolling Stones “Paint it Black”
Paramore “The Only Exception”

From amongst the 32 concerts I went to see this there were no shortage of candidates. Kicking off the year February , MOBO award winner Yolanda Brown’s sassy sexy sax medley of Bob Marley Classics –Waiting in Vain / Is this Love etc. got the crowd going in our tiny little local theatre in Barking.

French singer’s Zaz’s deeply humanitarian lyrics for “On ira” and “Je veux” set against a bouncy up-tempo beat provided a moving performance in June at the pocket-sized Scala Theatre in Kings Cross.

Also in June, in what has to be one of the coolest gigs of the gig and only just outside my Top 10 of the year, Siouxsie (Sioux) dressed in a white latex cat suit sang some stonking post punk classics at Yoko Ono’s meltdown festival at London’s Festival Hall, the memorable of which was “Dear Prudence” .

While the open-air concert may have been overpriced and the facilities pretty terrible for concert-goers not paying the premium rates, during the hot summer the Rolling Stones did play a number of classics. A barnstorming rendition of “Paint It Black” compensated a little for a distant view and long waits at the beer and food stalls.

In Autumn, Paramore’s live performance of “The Only Exception” to the sold out crowd of Wembley Arena made my hair stand on end with the 12,000 crowd singing the chorus and waving their lighted mobile phones. Some may mind it a bit cheesy. I found an unforgettable moment.

However, head and shoulder above all those is a man at the age of 63 is a man who moved around the stage like a man 20 years younger full of spirit and verve. This is also a man who quite rightly is about to be inducted into the hall of fame. This is Peter Gabriel, a creative genius who, together with his high calibre band, produced a flawless and entertaining of his massive 1986 hit “Sledeghammer”. The nostalgia buzz was immense for me personally. Check this out.

Zaz Pizazz at Scala, London, UK June 12th 2013

Zaz Pizazz at Scala, London, UK June 12th 2013

Having chalked up from her first two albums, 10 top 5 places in 5 European countries including 5 No.1 spots, Mademoiselle Isabelle Geffroy, better known by the stage name of Zaz, had every reason to be smiling as she hit the London lights at the Scala venue in King’s Cross. Blending a variety of different styles in her set ranging from old “chanson Française” to folkish ska rhythms through to ballads and jazz fusions, 33 year old Zaz has had a steady rise since breaking through in France in 2010 picking up a European Border Breakers Award in 2011 along the way. She is now a well-known established European artist.
Since Zaz has not yet reached the mainstream of these shores and as she sings almost completely in French (with the odd Spanish language thrown in), you were left to wonder why London was a destination on the tour in the first place. Sure, there were a lot of french people, some of whom had queued for several hours to get the best places at the front in the 1000 capacity. But certainly there also a significant minority of English speakers.
Always smiling, Zaz, started with “Les Passants” (The Passers by), arranged in a light folk jazz fusion whose lyrics reflected upon the rush of everyday life , the passing of time and personal growth from this. In fact, the interpretation of free spirit is a theme that Zaz would return to a number of times in songs during the set, notably in her current single On ira (Let’s go) and best known track “Je veux”, (I want).
Also notable was her use of scatting during a number of songs such as Je Saute (I jump).
Slightly more poppy was “La Fée” where the band tried to work up the audience to sing vocal instrumental bit of the song to only limited success. There was a much better attempt at working the crowd into another number where Zaz got 3 sections of the audience to sing in melody. The bulging crowd did a lot of work that evening, one audience member even going so far as to translate the detailed synopsis Zaz gave her of the story behind Piaf song “Dan La Rue”. You couldn’t help thinking that the poor soul should have been on a commission rate. Still, it was needed. it was evident neither Zaz nor her band’s command of English was the best, in particular unwittingly mixing up the words joke and play.
Zaz was to perform another classic Piaf “La Vie en Rose” very competently with an up-tempo beat from the band as well as a very chilled-out cover of Jacques Cabrel’s “Petite Marie”.
The end of the show was wound up in a very lively fashion with Ni Oui Ni No (Neither Yes or No), a lot of jumping which only added to the sweltering humidity in the building and proper rock track “Auz Detenteurs”. Zaz was also to give an impromptu stint on the drums.
Zaz’s enthusiasm for the show was infectious and she was backed up by an excellent band. However , the sheer number of the crowd made the venue feel small and cramped. In addition, at times, particularly while doing the links to the songs in French, she struggled with the incessant crowd chatter which I personally found irritating . Next time, I see her it will have to be in a bigger venue or nothing but this lively charming singer definitely is worth seeing again.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, live at Scala, London, UK, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour land in London, Live at Scala, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour land in London, Live at Scala, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour is a group hailing from Denmark and based in Copenhagen. It is principally  a collaboration between song writer and producer Lars Iversen and singer Mette Lindberg. On tour the band bring in other musicians to round out their psychedelic and slightly funky based sound. They formed in 2007 and released their first single in September of 2008.

The group have a good claim to one of the most unusual and original names around for any band. Along with other bands with memorable names like Death Cab for Cutie, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and The Ozric Tentacles to name but a few , this group’s title does stick in the head but does the music?

Mette Lindberg of The Asteroids Galaxy Tour exudes a air of cool European chic, Live at Scala, London, April 10th 2012

Mette Lindberg of The Asteroids Galaxy Tour exudes a air of cool European chic, Live at Scala, London, April 10th 2012

Judging from the very intimate live show I attended at Scala, it does. The stunning looking Mette Lindberg made her way on stage in a shimmering gold jacket backed by a guitar, bass, drummer and a three man horn section, lightly stomping her way through the set, moving occasionally from one side to the other on the small stage.  The band started with the opening three tracks of their 2nd album- “Gold Rush part 1 -Dollar in the Nights –  Gold Rush part 2” rolled into one and played many of the tracks from the new album  “Out of Frequency” including the title. Second track of the night “Heart Attack” was definitely a stomping song. Third one “The Sun Ain’t Shining no more”, a song about a short term fling had the ambience of early 1970’s Steely Dan jazz rock about it.

Mette Linberg didn’t say that much to the audience between numbers. She didn’t really have to. Many in the audience knew the songs and were just happy to swing along to the rhythms. Mette appeared controlled in her delivery and at times a little detached at the start but this may just have been her stage persona.  She noticeably relaxed and became more engaged with the audience as the gig went on.   The band – particularly the brass section – seemed to be  having great time throughout. Even the guy sound in the caged covered sound desk was constantly moving through the gig.

From a musician’s perspective, the 6 minute long “Theme from 45 Eugenia” mid-way through the set was probably the most interesting combining as it did a 60’s style psychedelic melody and lyrics with a slow Kravitz style funk beat.

Lindberg did speak to the crowd saying it was great to be back in London and at one point tried to make a joke about the size of the horn section but somehow it got lost in translation. What really got the crowd going though was “Around the Bend” with its infectious horn packed rhythmic hook. The main set wound up with the flourishing psychedelic fanfare and sliding downscale minor chords of “Push the Envelope”.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour live at Scala, London, UK, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour live at Scala, London, UK, April 10th 2012

The encore saw the group play “Golden Age”, essentially a party piece as homage to the Brat Pack era. This is the song that has brought them to the attention of a wider public via a TV commercial and naturally the crowd responded enthusiastically. The set was rounded off with another great funky horn section hook in “Major”, a song whose lyrics raise the pitfalls of rising stardom, ambition and a fast lifestyle.

Undoubtedly, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour has still a way to go to make themselves more widely known in the UK but on this performance they certainly deserve to increase their following and start playing bigger venues in the future.

This year will mark the 10th Anniversary of the Lovebox festival, held every year in East London’s  Victoria Park. Apart from the Under the Stars festival held literally round the corner round my house in East Ham , Lovebox is my local festival. Forget Glastonbury, I only have to travel 4 miles to this delightful non-camping festival to see some of the best and collest contemporary acts around. Proof of the the quality of the festival is shown by the fact it was voted in 2008 the Best medium size festival in the UK. It was founded by the DJ’s who make up Groove Armada. I went 3 year’s running from 2008 to 2010 and I will go again this year.  In this post which is published on www.bluesandsoul.com , I reviewed one of the best new acts I saw at the festival – Paloma Faith.

Paloma Faith in Sumptuous Dress at the Lovebox 2010 festival

Paloma Faith in Sumptuous Dress at the Lovebox 2010 festival

Retrospective : Concerts of 2010 – Paloma Faith Live at the Love Box Festival, London, July 17th 2010

Paloma Faith surely went from musical starlet to star at the 2nd day of the, as ever, diverse Lovebox Festival.  She stunned the thousands of people present as much with her fabulous dress sense as her sassy jaw dropping performance.

She marked her entry onto stage in a figure hugging full length velvet green dress with a giant orange white and black pleated attachment that fanned out like a peacock. This was complimented an orange fan headpiece. Understandably, she moved gingerly at first in her spangley platform high heels onto the raised podium but eventually found enough footing to stroll from one side of the stage to the other. She deftly moved through tracks from her debut album from belting numbers like ‘Stone Cold Sober’ and ‘Do you want the truth or something beautiful’.  There was a little banter with the crowd between songs.  Paloma reminded everyone she is an “ackney girl” and she made clear her delight at in front of a home crowd as  she doesn’t  “gets home these days”.

The adaptability of Paloma Faith voice is remarkable. Jools Holland has compared  Paloma’s voice with blues, soul and jazz singer Etta James and she duly obliged with a classy version rendition of  ‘At Last’.  But then she went all “Winehouseque” – maybe slightly too much with ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

The track that the crowd clearly loved was the finger snappy up-tempo ‘Upside Down’ but the most impressive was the sophiscated  ‘New York’ in which it felt like the soaring chorus was where R’n’B almost met cabaret.  Maybe not in the tonality of voice but there was something reminiscent of Candi Staton in Paloma’s style of delivery.  Until this point the festival had not sparked for me, but  with the aid of her very good backing band and singers Paloma delivered star quality in as good a performance as I have ever at Lovebox. I hope her management and record companies take note. This is one class act. Words

Paloma Faith surely went from musical starlet to star at the 2nd day of the, as ever, diverse Lovebox Festival.  She stunned the thousands of people present as much with her fabulous dress sense as her sassy jaw dropping performance.

She marked her entry onto stage in a figure hugging full length velvet green dress with a giant orange white and black pleated attachment that fanned out like a peacock. This was complimented an orange fan headpiece. Understandably, she moved gingerly at first in her spangley platform high heels onto the raised podium but eventually found enough footing to stroll from one side of the stage to the other. She deftly moved through tracks from her debut album from belting numbers like ‘Stone Cold Sober’ and ‘Do you want the truth or something beautiful’.  There was a little banter with the crowd between songs.  Paloma reminded everyone she is an “ackney girl” and she made clear her delight at in front of a home crowd as  she doesn’t  “gets home these days”.

The adaptability of Paloma Faith voice is remarkable. Jools Holland has compared  Paloma’s voice with blues, soul and jazz singer Etta James and she duly obliged with a classy version rendition of  ‘At Last’.  But then she went all “Winehouseque” – maybe slightly too much with ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

The track that the crowd clearly loved was the finger snappy up-tempo ‘Upside Down’ but the most impressive was the sophiscated  ‘New York’ in which it felt like the soaring chorus was where R’n’B almost met cabaret.  Maybe not in the tonality of voice but there was something reminiscent of Candi Staton in Paloma’s style of delivery.  Until this point the festival had not sparked for me, but  with the aid of her very good backing band and singers Paloma delivered star quality in as good a performance as I have ever seen at Lovebox. I hope her management and record companies take note. This is one class act. Words

Well, it was another busy year in London town for gigging, full of interest and some surprises. If you had told me at the beginning of the year what my favourite gig  would be, I wouldn’t have believed you. Pure pop will always have its fling but it’s quite clear to me that artistic creative groups and singers are in the ascendancy. That makes 2 two years in row that shall we say an Artrock group has won the gold medal in my affections. (The pick of 2010 was  Fever Ray’s ethereal performance at the temple of indie, namely, Brixton Academy with its forest of rhytmic flashing Edwardian lampshades – yes I’m a sucker for a light show).

It’s hardly suprising though that I should look around for something original when you consider the number of bog standard indie groups there are around. I went on one ticket agent website and found anyhthing between 300 and  600 Indie groups touring the UK at any one time and with some of these bands, it feels to me sometimes like – been there, seen that, done it.  There are notable exceptions, of course, such as great bands like The Kooks, The Rakes and The Wombats – apparently anything with “The” in the title.

But to get back to the point, great pure indie performances have been hard to come by of late.  So with that mind, here is my Top 5 of 2011. Many may say where is Adele in this list? I say show me the person who could get a ticket to one of her concerts.

1. Metronomy – Royal Albert Hall, London,  October 3rd

Mighty Metronomony, a band from tiny Totnes, a Devon seaside town, were little known at the beginning of the year. They had played UK festivals but in the biggest performance of their career so far, they blew the roof off with their dreamy electro-Wurlitzer style of Art rock. They had the whole of the Albert Hall crowd dancing their socks off. This show saw them graduate from the little to the major league of live performances. Quite unforgettable.

2.KT Tunstall – The Forum (HMV Forum), Kentish Town, London, March 8th

Early in the year KT Tunstall gave a masterclass in how sassy, cool Rock and Pop should be delivered in this intimate venue. Looking every inch the rock star as she assertively and rhythmically strummed her Gibson dove, she was totally engaged with the audience and served up rock newbies from latest album Tiger Suit and crowd pleasers such as Suddenly I See and Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. This was a performance from a musician absolutely at the top of  her game.

3. Caro Emerald – Shepherd’s Bush Empire (O2 Empire Shepherd’s Bush),  London, December 13th

She is extremely popular in Europe with a cult status in her native Holland. With her 40s and 50s swing style mixed with old time jazz, 80’s scatching  and contemporary rhythm, this entertaining newcomer to the UK was  classy and  spell binding throughout her 1 and half  hour long show.  In my view, she should have been shortlisted for Best International newcome for the BRIT awards but sadly it didn’t happen. Who are these people who sit on the panel anyway?

4. Pulp – Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, July 3rd

What can I say, Jarvis Cocker is legend. It takes a hell of a performer to keep 30,000 people (many the worse for wear from a day’s drinking) engaged but this was a fantastic trip for the nostalgia junkies – myself included. Cocker’s weird geeky dancing, almost nonchalant demeanour and wit added to the charm. You could not imagine anyone less likely to be a rock star but at the same time also superb at it. I and thousands of other bounced up and down and belted out Common People at the top of our lungs with a feeling and intensity I have seldom witnessed at any other concert.

5. Take That – Wembley Stadium, London, Thursday 30th June

Its unusual for me to list boy bands and pure pop groups amongst my favourite live acts but with songs from an exceptional latest album –Progress, Robbie Williams return to the group and his 30 minute solo spot, a stage set to rival Star Wars and a giant hydraulic man going from sitting to standing – standing, morever, at the height of the stadium, you cannot fail to be anything but impressed. The most expensive ticket I ever payed for a concert in London at £105 – remember Take That sold over a million tickets for the UK tour. The price and demand reflects the enduring popularity of the group. Would I spend the money again? No! Was it worth it? – Yes, absolutely . The sight of more than 70,000 people singing Robbie Williams’s Angels, one of the most beautiful and enduring songs ever produced in the UK, was worth the price of admission alone.

Emilia Martensson, Consort Cafe, Royal Albert Hall – London Jazz festival series,  17th November 2011.

Emilia Martensson performs at the Cafe Consort , London UK , November 17th 2011

Emilia Martensson - Rising Star of the UK Jazz Scene performs at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

It was a curious experience indeed to walk into an upmarket cafe/restaurant at midday, struggle to get a table in what proved to a venue for ladies and tourists that lunch and yet witness a full-on jazz gig of  an hour and half that could have equally taken place in a smoky jazz club in Paris or Chicago.

But Emilia Martensson and her band delivered in spades. Opening the show with “If You Go Away” Emilia showcased her charming soothing voice accompanied with light touch piano solos as she conveyed beautifully a sort of mournful longing but in a considered and controlled delivery. A contingent of Emilia’s family and friends were present in the odd banana shaped room as she dedicated the song “Something in the Way she moves” to her sister , a song whose lyrics about a close intimate relationship with an extremely melodic and soulful piano as the main accompaniment,  reminded me stylistically of Nerina Pallot combined with the quiet power of Eva Cassidy.

There were certainly a diverse mix of styles in the first set including a song in Swedish about the seasons which evoked the power of nature in its composition; and another with a bossa nova beat where at one point bass and piano played so frenetically off one-another, it was like two pieces string twisted up together, pulling apart to try to unravel the knots but in doing so creating further tension. Somehow the musical conundrum resolved itself in the end. In spite of it being midday, this particular musical piece definitely had me imagining being at that smoky jazz club .  Credit to bassist Sam Lasserson , pianist Barry Green and drummer Jon Scott for bringing that atmosphere.

The final song at the end of the first part of this two set show called “Everything Put Together Sooner or Later Falls Apart” contained a strong message about drug addiction against the backdrop of Broadway style melody. This melody masterly transformed into an off-soul slow jazz funk solo with a mellow bass before bringing the half to a close.

Emilia Martensson and Barry Green on piano at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

Emilia Martensson and Barry Green on piano at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

In the second set the versatility of this captivating singer was shown again when she slightly altered the tonality of her voice to convey an “easy listening” style while ably covering James Taylor’s “Another Day” juxtaposed by the equally versatile jazz funk piano of Barry Green.

A second Swedish ballad “Krystallen den fina” in 3:4 time revealed an almost child-like pop side of Martensson’s voice and contained a laid back jazz piano melody bordering on classical that was ingenious in its subtlety. Do not ask me for a translation I do not speak Swedish but it was charming

“And so it goes”  –  an intimate love ballad with great lyrics and a gorgeous piano intro and solos played immaculately  – the title track of Emilia Martensson  and Barry Green’s new album brought the whole concert to a close.  

Martensson, already a winner (along with Jon Scott as part of the Kairos 4tet) of a MOBO award is rapidly rising star on the British Jazz scene and this understated but nonetheless musically versatile performance demonstrates why.  In spite of the unusual time and setting on the concert, in spite of the constant two and fro of waiters, I really enjoyed the show. This was also one of the Best Value for Money concerts I have had the privilege of attending. For the price of a pot of tea I came out into the cold Autumn sunshine feeling relaxed and serene. Not many artists can make me feel that way.

Amy Winehouse Tribute review – Recollections of her 2004 Brixton Concert

Way back when in November 2004, I had the privilege of attending Amy Winehouse’s concert at Brixton Academy. The concert was not a sell-out and although the downstairs was quite packed only half the Balcony was full. Of course, if you had been lucky enough to get a ticket for a concert this year 2011, you would have found not only the venue sold out but it would have cost you an arm and a leg. My ticket was around £20 and upon reflection proved to be excellent value for money.

So let’s set the context:  Back to Black was still far off in the future;  Amy Winehouse had  been nominated for the Mercury Music prize  for the album Frank but did not win. That honour went to Franz Ferdinand’s self titled album. Her greatest glories and tragedies were still to come.

As for me, I had not started writing reviews at this stage. I had only started going again to concerts a year before in 2003 after an absence of 10 years. I was like any other gig goer, just going for the fun and the buzz of it. I still go for those reasons but I like to record the experience as well which I why I started writing in 2007.  Back in 2004, there were no notes, no photos just my memory which thankfully happens to be very good.

So back to the gig. After a performance from the support act that didn’t impress me or my friends, we dulled the event with a pint or too of tepid lager from the bar.  The ground floor level had had the atmosphere of a festival : lots groups of friends and some couples sitting  down on a sticky alcohol  imbued carpet. As the ground level steadily filled up people had to stand up.  20 meters up the gentle rake of the auditorium from the stage was a great place to stand.  Amy tottered on stage about 9:15pm in amazing high heels and dressed in a white very short summer dress looking sensational. She did not have yet have her synonymous beehive. Her black hair was combed straight and worn at shoulder length. Less the rock star and more the girl next door dressed up on a night out, even then she had a stage presence and her voice was engaging and seductive. Now, at this stage, 7 years down the line I do not recall the exact order of the set list but I remember individual numbers. She sang most of the songs from Frank and there are certain tracks I remember more than others.  On “Stronger than Me” you could have believed yourself transported into a smoky jazz club rather than being at Brixton Academy.  The control and contrast of Amy’s voice was amazing to behold: at one moment you had her deep laid back American jazz voice in conjunction with the sassy sound of the brass and then in the chorus the lighter touch fresh soprano girly sound.

 I equally liked the laid back grandeur of “Take the Box”, the vocal dexterity of “No Greater Love” which incidentally got massive applause and the drama of “In My Bed” whose  darkly danceable rhythm filled the vaulted space of the Academy while exuding the feel of the sexual tension within the story of the gradual breakdown of a relationship. The musical arrangement on this was masterful and even thinking about it now puts my hairs on end.

What is remarkable is that this song was sung at the Contralto level but Amy could easily fly up the scale almost to Soprano as she did on one of the choruses of “You Sent Me Flying”.  Hearing this unexpected change live was spine-tingling.

My final favourite of that wonderful was “Amy Amy Amy“which stylistically and vocally recalled Nancy Sinitra’s These Boots were made for walking” towards the end of the concert was a cheeky self reference to her love of men and falling to temptation.  If only she had stuck to the men and not fallen to the temptation of anything else.

“Frank” has been a very overlooked and underrated album amid the hype of “Back to Black” but her show-casing of it that night was sublime and greatly appreciated by all who attended. If you don’t believe this though, I happened by chance to be standing next to Johnny Vegas the comic that night and his partner. I asked him what he thought and in his very down to earth northern way he replied “Yeah, she alright, ain’t she” with a glint in his eye. Well the years and her untimely departure caused me to recall this concert and she was already a good deal more than alright. At that time she was on the cusp of being one of the all time greats but she still retained a kind of innocent beguiling charm.

No words will, of course, do the level of  Amy ‘s talent justice but these ones are my tribute to a great artist who had so much more to give and who has been taken from the world before her years.

RIP AMY WINEHOUSE September 14TH 1983 –  July  23RD 2011