tue 23/07/2024

Emma Smith, Pizza Express Jazz Club review - Christmas spirited | reviews, news & interviews

Emma Smith, Pizza Express Jazz Club review - Christmas spirited

Emma Smith, Pizza Express Jazz Club review - Christmas spirited

A night of seasonal cheer to banish the winter blues

Photo by @Ian9972

There’s much fun to be had with snow, and fun things go with it, too, such as album launches in Soho on a freezing Saturday night in December, when the rest of the country is watching England depart the World Cup in the quarter finals.

Downstairs at Pizza Express Jazz Dean Street, missed-penalty misery was banished, the snowfall was metaphorical, and the fun to be had was centred around singer Emma Smith, launching her Snowbound record to a full house with a fine quartet behind her, of Hammond organist Ross Stanley, the tasteful licks of guitarist Nick Costly-White, Leo RIchardson’s supple sax, and drummer Jason Brown.

Christmas may not be a Jewish holiday, but in many ways it’s Jewish songwriters and performers who have created the Christmas in song that we all know and love, and as a Jewish jazz singer Emma Smith is very much a part of that tradition. Her album Meshuga Baby appeared earlier this year, she’s a close-harmony singing veteran of the Puppini Sisters, and she recently starred in a 21st century big-band-and bigger-songs revival of the Swing era that was The Big Swing.

Her five-song Christmas record was reviewed here earlier this week, and on Saturday it was time to blow off the  tinsel and give those songs some air with a pair of strong lungs. Snowbound’s opener, Billie Holiday's “I Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” raised the energy levels to a hot bebop setting before a delicate coupling of guitar and brushes introduced “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”, a deep-midwinter torch song that Smith wears like a luxurious coat close to the skin.

Sultry, assured, very funny and in full command of her audience, her stage, her players and her material, Emma Smith is a star singer with a fine-tuned sense of drama. She all but straddles Diana Krall’s “Frim Fram Sauce” extracting more food/sex innuendos than you may have thought possible, while even Santa looks set to get a booty call by the tone of Snowbound’s one original, written with sax player Alex Garland, “Blues for Santa”. Well, if you’re looking for a big fella with a big sack to fill your chimney…

On the likes of “Cheek to Cheek” – the Ella and Louis version – the band swung hard around drummer Jason Brown’s hi-hat, but the highlights were the quieter songs – the lyrical blues of “A Time for Love”, featuring Smith duetting with Ross Stanley’s Hammond – or the set’s closing numbers, a lovely, slow ballad in Sarah Vaughan’s “Snowbound”, and the funky “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” with a mean bass riff on the sax that could make those venerable Three Wise Men get up and dance.

All in all, the seasonal message rings loud and clear – get into the Christmas spirit, get Snowbound, and get someone nice to keep you warm. Christmas sorted.

@CummingTim

Smith is a star singer with a fine-tuned sense of drama

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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