Review: Roger Beaujolais & Soundcellar at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club

A the end of a hectic month of gigs and fringe shows at Brighton – this year in the audience, last week I happily just managed to fit in an evening’s incredible jazz at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.

As usual the evening kicked off with a charming warm-up from the One Night Only musicians – John playing the sweetest sounding guitar, Pat on trumpet and flugel – showing his vocals (and his jokes!) to good effect a la Chet Baker on tunes like ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and a passionate ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’.  They were joined by Ian Ellis on a gorgeous husky tenor saxophone, getting nicely into the swing for his turn in the headline act to follow.

Swing Unlimited Jazz Club has a knack for booking the finest jazz bands.  The programme for this year is a roll-call of the top acts from the UK and around the world.  Comparisons with Ronnie Scott’s and New York’s Jazz Cafe are constantly being made as time and time again world class jazz comes to the hidden gem in Westbourne.  It was tight double-bill from vibes king Roger Beaujolais, supported by the Soundcellar Quintet (featuring Anglo-French chansonniere Veronique Joly).  What a treat we were in for – it truly doesn’t get any better than this.

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Two sets chock-a-block with superb funky jazz, led on vibes by Roger Beaujolais.  Loads of his own tunes, echoing the cool jazz retro sounds so familiar to fans of Lionel Hampton, with key nods to other musical heros like Jimmy Smith and one of my own personal favourites Antônio Carlos Jobim in Beaujolais’s homage, ‘Jo Bean’, an uptempo Latin bossa.  These uptempo swing and jazz tunes abounded, and were driven along by drums ace Lee Miller, simply cracking through these tunes with bold snare and riding his cymbals.  The rhythm pulsed along, with Rod Palmer playing a phenomonal guitar – even throwing his instrument’s voice at times to a damned near Hammond organ sound in Beaujolais’s wonderful ‘Admission Impossible’ - incredible!  Pat Davy on stealthy bass kept a stomping rhythm and lent the evening it’s funky backdrop, like in the gorgeous ‘Cool Menthe’.

The two highlight sounds of vibes and Ian Ellis’s tenor sax were simply perfect to match the rest of the band.  Beaujolais’s playing is as marvellous and humourous as his brilliant writing, his double-handed sticks sweeping up and down his vibraphones to superb effect, sharing his solos with the other instruments.  So well suited they all were that they melded into one, including the opener ‘Less Said’.  It’s a dreamy Ant Law-esque tune, highlighted with incredible double toned sounds being wrought from the sax by Ellis.

The two sets were gently balanced by introducing the fifth of the quintet – Veronique on vocals.   Veronique swooped through well-worn standards such as Summertime and East of the Sun with aplomb.  Her voice was an original joy for the audience, especially on the funky ‘In the Wine’ with Rob Palmer channelling Jimi Hendrix in his solo.  It was a delight to hear a sweet Brazilian tune ‘Gentle Rain’ sung in French as ‘Sous La Pluie’, and the well-deserved encore ‘Je Descendrai la Rivière’.

So glad I made it back from Brighton to catch Roger Beaujolais and Soundcellar at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.  Once again, the lucky audience wending their way home after another night of incredible world class jazz.

 

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