Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pimp my Jazz.

There’s nothing easy about choosing to play easy listening, at one extreme it’s the world of Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé; sophisticated and cool. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the world of the Hotel bar pianist and if you’re really unlucky, the music of the hotel lift. Frankly, the level of cool goes up and down with how much modern jazz is in the mix. At its best, like Sinatra, it’s modern jazz with vocals.

Pimp my jazz

are still a new band, a six piece trying to survive in a hostile musical world. Apart from the music there’s nothing easy about their choices; if you look them up on YouTube you can see their promotional video;              


Filmed in Colnbrook it’s courageous to say the least – probably the quietest place they could have picked. As a result it doesn’t do them justice.

In real life, or at least at The Barley Mow in Shepperton on a Wednesday, they were a different band altogether. Lively, sparky and confident. Maybe they’ve got better since the video, maybe it was the venue. I’ve got a few gripes but not too many.

They like a Latin beat and opened with an instrumental; ‘St. Thomas’, the first of a number of pieces that gave their excellent saxophonist Terry Black, a chance to shine.

There was a long line of their own numbers, always a good sign and ‘Blue Moon’ brought the first of a number of fine vocalisations from their singer Lonette Charles.

 ‘Sway’, a Latin number everyone knows even if they can’t place it, was a classic with good vocals and again a great Sax.

The second set saw more standards than the first; ‘Fly me to the Moon’, ‘Valerie’ and ‘Moondance’ with Lonette growing in confidence at the end as ‘easy’ gave way to a little more lively.

If you are going to play this kind of music you have to start by being good musicians – and they were. Good guitar from Gavin Sparks who sings and composes too, bass from Terry Peake, drums from Pete Miles, with Phil Watch on keyboards and another fine guitarist whose name I’m afraid I missed.

The gripes? There’s nothing soft about this kind of music, or if there is you’ve missed the point.

Those Latin rhythms? They’ve come from the Favelas and the shanty towns and the rhythm carries with it the cries of the poor. It’s impossible to invent that pain, so artists find all kinds of ways to find that edge. For Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday it was drawing from their personal lives.

Sadé Adu, the voice of 1980’s good living and glamour?

Actually Sadé had a pretty tough time of it, struggling her way up to the top (‘When are we going to make a living?’). There was nothing easy about it for her and her songs are sharply double edged. The subjects are never safe ones; it’s a world of corrupt businessmen and gangsters and that’s why it came to sum up that desperate decade.

Without that edge, that bite; easy listening is just a lift door away. It's the difference between Cliff Richard and Duffy and comparing the ‘Pimp my Jazz’ video with Wednesday night I think they are moving in the right direction. Just a little more edge needed.
As usual you can find them on Lemonrock and facebook - catch them if you can.



Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)


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