Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Steve Cole and Chuck Loeb at the Pizza Express; A Sunday kinda groove..

This was where we were heading - the Pizza Express on Dean Street, which has a Jazz venue downstairs in the basement.

I ought to love that; it's a basement in Soho and they play live Jazz - what's not to like for goodness sake?

Except that it's not really my scene - expensive, safe, risk free. It's a venue for expense account sharks and advertising executives.


We were there to see Steve Cole who was over from the States playing with Chuck Loeb.

Cole is Robyn's all time favourite sax player and whatever excuse I came up with, this was something I couldn't get out of!

Worst of all, this was dragging me (screaming and grumbling) into the world of 'Smooth Jazz', which is somewhere on the hazy border between Jazz and (Gulp!) 'Easy Listening'.

This is not my kind of music at all.

So, after some time spent grumbling over the outrageous prices in Pizza Express I settled back to listen and then I realised that the best thing I could do would be to get Robyn G. May write a guest review for me.

After all, Robyn spent time working on a (gulp!) 'Smooth Jazz' radio station in Philly.

Here's Robyn's take on the show;

It’s Friday, and you know what that means, free Smooth Jazz concert on the waterfront. This week’s artist is Steve Cole, never heard of him.

Well, the station promoted the concert all day and I realized he played a few songs I liked. After work I rushed to meet some friends and we went to the waterfront (Penn’s Landing – Philadelphia), Steve Cole had just been announced and the audience was singing “Happy Birthday” to him. We managed to get a good spot despite arriving late (a perk of being a station intern).

The music was jamming! Steve Cole is a very entertaining musician, not just talented but funny as well. He played a few playful tunes, then he told a story about going down south with some college friends and took us to church playing a very soulful tune with Gospel influences. Steve’s music put me in a daze for about 15 minutes. I was hooked! From that day forward I was a fan.

I was seriously ill the following year so I missed him, but I watched the performance on TV.

I saw him on Penn’s Landing one other time, a few years later. I rushed down there after work and what happened? It stormed so the show was cut short. But as he ran off stage and away from the electrical equipment the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him again.

Two years ago I got an email that he’d be performing in New York, Long Island to be exact. Now Long Island is five hours away from Philly, but I bought a ticket anyway. This time I took my mom along and we headed out on a road trip to Long Island. The concert was at a vineyard, I was in heaven! Steve Cole accompanied by guitarist Matt Marshak playing at a winery (if you know me you know I love wine). It was a lovely atmosphere, a bit of a crowd but both musicians were full of energy and we had great seats. And at the end I got his autograph!

So a few months ago I get an email that he would be coming to London.

I’m there!

Now, while I adore his music I know it’s not Neil’s cup of tea. I like to keep it mellow, and while a lot of Steve’s music is grooving, jamming, make you want to dance up tempo, there are some very smooth, sexy, get you in the mood songs as well.

And well Neil, he’s a rocker! He doesn’t like to be soothed. But he loves me so we went.

He played alongside Chuck Loeb and Oli Silk, names I know and songs I recognize but I was there for Steve. The stage was small, and I wondered how the heck he would manage. He’s quite an energetic musician, he bounces around, dances and grooves along to the music. You can tell he really loves what he does. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of him. He played songs from his last two albums (True and Pulse) and he played some covers with Chuck Loeb. I missed the older songs especially my favorites “When I Think of You” and “Where the Night Begins” (the latter I doubt he ever plays live, but it lives up to the title).

After an encore of Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, the pair left the stage to sign autographs. Unfortunately, I had to explain that I already had an autographed copy of the most recent CD so I got this instead;

Wow! I have to admit, this ranks up there with meeting my favorite actor (Alan Rickman), meeting my favorite baseball player (Andres Galarraga) and seeing my younger cousin play an NBA game. Great show, awesome experience. I was hoping I had converted Neil the rocker, but…….
 Well, I certainly went in there with plenty of prejudices and some of them turned out to be right!

It's an expensive venue and the audience were what you would expect at a place like that - prosperous middle aged people who didn't want to be threatened.

And before I went I'd have guessed that 'Smooth Jazz' would be the kind of music that wouldn't threaten a senior executive or a line manager on his day off.

Steve Cole was pretty good;
I see why Robyn rates him so highly - he's just class and for me? Well I could see the sheer quality of hearing a real live American saxophonist - there is a difference.

And for something called Smooth Jazz, it got quite hot up there at times;
 Chuck Loeb is a very fine guitarist;
And while Oli Silk was great on keyboards, Andrew Small (drums) Julian Crompton (bass) were fine, this really was the Steve and Chuck show.

I don't think I'll ever get carried away by 'Smooth Jazz' - I've got too many rough edges for that.

But there was some crossover - Steve Cole played his composition 'Curtis' which he introduced as 'a Sunday kinda groove'......which it was.

And Chuck Loeb talked about a recent meal with Cleethorpes very own Rod Temperten (Heatwave and writer for Michael Jackson) which got him playing 'Rock with me', and that certainly got through to me.

So yes, when they grooved I got it.

When they were smooth I wandered a bit.

And nothing is ever going to compare with watching Lang Galloway from the front row sitting with all the premier league footballers.

But I was glad I went.

Now I need something with just a bit more bite, a bit more danger!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

Home:  helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com

Contact me:  neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com


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