tue 25/06/2024

Urban Voices Collective, Pizza Express Jazz Club | reviews, news & interviews

Urban Voices Collective, Pizza Express Jazz Club

Urban Voices Collective, Pizza Express Jazz Club

An exhilarating night of R&B, gospel and more from the London-based collective

A natural high: Urban Voices Collective

When it comes to live performance, nothing quite socks it to the solar plexus like a choir singing their heart out. Last night, in the intimate space of Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club, Urban Voices Collective (UVC) gave it to us with both barrels.

Founded by Karl Willett in 2006, UVC’s most recent accolades include performing at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games – backing the likes of Take That, Elbow, George Michael, The Who and Muse – performing at the 2013 BAFTAS and recording on Paloma Faith’s latest album Fall To Grace.

Combining a refreshingly different vocal style with an unusually striking visual image – Willett's fellow founder member Adele Pentland wouldn't have looked out of place on the set of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge – at full strength UVC numbers a mind-boggling 50 singers. For this gig, 10 singers was enough to almost blow the roof off the club.

UVC should be made available on the NHS immediately

In a first set that centred on UVC's love of R&B – including Daniel Merriweather's “Red”, Mary J Blige's “No More Drama” and Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” – Roberto Angrisani's lovingly crafted arrangements packed in an enormous amount of ear-catching detail, from dramatic key changes and tempo shifts to sudden pianissimos and deliciously extended harmonies. The textural density was nicely varied by the backing trio of piano, bass and drums, with pianist Kenton Reid a key presence throughout.

A more varied second set kicked off with a brace of songs connected to UVC's Olympic gig, an entirely a cappella excerpt from The Beatles' “Because” followed by a crowd-pleasing “Freedom”. With vocal harmonies that sent a shiver down the spine (as did Janine Johnson's solo), Angrisani really outdid himself in his arrangement of Björk's “Jóga”. But the musical high-water mark came with “Total Praise”, penned by the Grammy-winning US gospel artist, composer and arranger, Richard Smallwood, and sung with such fervour and spirit it would have had Richard Dawkins throwing his hands up in the air.

Another gospel song, a high-energy blast through Micah Stampley's “War Cry”, raised the temperature a few more notches. The ensemble had locked us in to an impressively deep groove and we were floating on a UVC high without partaking in any recreational pharmaceuticals. By the time we got to Little Mix's “Wings” people were up and dancing in whatever space they could find. Having drawn us completely into their world, the encore, Take That's “Rule the World”, brought an exhilarating evening to a close. Uplifting and transporting, UVC should be made available on the NHS immediately.

Watch Urban Voices Collective perform with Paloma Faith at the 2013 BAFTAS

'Total Praise' was sung with such fervour and spirit it would have had Richard Dawkins throwing his hands up in the air


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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