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Bebop Spoken There

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Monday, April 18, 2016

GIJF: Café Society Swing - Sage Gateshead April 17


Alex Webb (pno/MD); Vimala Rowe (vcl); Ciyo Brown (vcl/gtr); Sue Richardson (tpt); Winston Rollins (tmb); Nat Facey (alt); Denys Baptiste (ten/clt); Miles Danso (bs); Shaney Forbes (dms).
(Review by Lance).
What a show! I'd seen Alex Webb's brainchild a couple of years back in a little theatre just off Leicester Square so I knew what to expect - or did I?
It's the story of the legendary New York nightclubs Café Society and Café Society Uptown that flourished between December 28, 1938, and March 2, 1949.
The owner, Barney Josephson, had the outrageous idea, for the time, that black and white folks should be able to meet and eat, drink and dance - unsegregated.
Shock! Horror! cried the authorities and, eventually, they won. However, over the eleven years of its existence,some of the finest American jazz musicians played there including Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey, Ida Cox, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Meade Lux Lewis and many more.
Alex Webb narrates the story from the piano. The social aspects told with ironical humour.
Vimala Rowe (pictured visiting the Jazz Coop stall) was a new name to most of the audience - she won't be after this stunning performance!
Dressed and coiffured as befitted the period, Vimala gave exquisite renditions of, among others, such classics as All of Me; What a Little Moonlight Can do; Stormy Weather; Where or When; I Let a Song Go Out of my Heart; Ida Cox's Wild Women Don't Have the Blues; Hurry on Down to my House and the dramatic finale - Strange Fruit. 60/70 years on it's still an emotional experience and there were very few dry eyes in the near-full auditorium.
Ciyo Brown, dressed as sharp as any cat in 1940's New York, played guitar and also sang. I'd heard One Meat Ball years ago without digesting the meaning. Brown's delivery, inspired by the Josh White recording was, in its own way, as full of pathos as Strange Fruit. Lush Life, some Jimmy Rushing Blues and a great duet with Vimala on a barroom 2am song, the title of which I'm not sure, were just some of his other numbers. 
As well as narrating, Webb's piano was evocative of the era whether backing the singers or soloing. It could have been Eddie Heywood or, at times, Albert Ammons.
The horns were used in a mainly supportive role although when they did pop-up it was done effectively. Sue Richardson on trumpet had some outstanding moments, in particular, the muted intro to Stormy Weather. Facey shone brightly as did Baptiste and Rollins. Danso and Forbes kept it all well fuelled.
The Café Society slogan was "The wrong place for the right people".
Last night, Sage Two was "The right place for the right people".
Lance.

1 comment :

Jen said...

So disappointed I missed this Lance and even more after reading your comments. Thought it would be a great show. Had tickets for a couple of months and also missed Liane Carroll due to chest infection. Ah well there's next year!!

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