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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bill Charlap & Stephen Keogh – ‘Here’s to Louis’ Tribute @ Pizza Express Soho - November 9

(Review/photos courtesy of Melody McLaren)
I had been looking forward to the Bill Charlap/Stephen Keogh ‘Here’s to Louis’ tribute concert to legendary Irish guitarist Louis Stewart at Pizza Express last Thursday (9 November 2017), having been a Louis fan since accompanying him, with my husband Ian, on his 2007 tour with the Frank Harrison Trio to launch their ‘You’ve Changed’ CD.  I’d heard Bill Charlap once before in a Ronnie Scott’s duo piano concert with partner Renee Rosnes but was keen to enjoy him in European Jazz Trio format (with bassist Mark Hodgson and drummer Stephen Keogh), to be joined by guitarist Colin Oxley.  I wondered if they might perform tracks from Artfully (2002) or Gift, which featured the EJT and Louis together.
However, I almost didn’t get to the gig at all because Ian took an accidental tumble down our stairs the night before the event, suffering a traumatic head wound.  Chasing the blue lights of the ambulance up the A1(M) to Lister Hospital in Stevenage, I put Gift on our Volvo car stereo and was immediately calmed by the playful interplay between Louis and Bill in Line for Lyons.  The music stood me in good stead to manage the journey to, and through, the rigours of Ian’s hospital scans and trauma unit treatment until he could be stabilized overnight.

I went to the live gig in the end, more for stress relief than anything else, and was heartened to see so many friends from the jazz community – London Jazz News editor Sebastian Scotney, Basho Music entrepreneur Christine Allen and Global Music Foundation co-founder Marney O’Sullivan among them, as well as the musicians on stage – who together reminded me that, whatever the trials of so-called real life, great music can make it bearable, even joyful.

To persuade me to come along, Stephen had told me that “you cannot miss the chance to hear Bill live” and, from the opening moments of the concert, it was obvious why:  as a classically-trained pianist, what I heard first was Bill’s exquisite articulation, particularly in the pianissimo sections played in the upper register of the Pizza Express Steinway.  But then I was swept away by the wonderful energy emerging from the entire ensemble as they rolled out a series of standards that Louis had loved – not only Line for Lyons but others including I’ll Remember April, What’s New?, Prelude to a Kiss in the first set and then 'S Wonderful, Darn That Dream, My Funny Valentine, In Your Own Sweet Way, Isfahan, Body and Soul in the second.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  I like to think Louis would have loved it.
Melody  

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