Just another Sunday night in London?
Two great gigs happening in the world of Soul / R&B / Jazz / Blues.
First at the Jazz Cafe, Camden Town – Music Connex Live!
A global mix of independent singers and musicians on the latest leg of a whirlwind tour of England and France.
Gwendolyn Collins, Algebra Blessett, Sulpacio Jones and Eliah from USA.
Dolla Lova from Finland; and from the UK – Imaani.
On the same night just across town at The 100 Club, Oxford Street, a screening of the brand new feature documentary about the music from Memphis Tennessee – “Take Me to the River” – followed by a concert by some of the artists featured in the movie.
We couldn’t possibly make both gigs, could we? They both started around the same time and would continue to around 11.30 pm.
Well, to be honest, I had chosen to go to the Jazz Cafe event thanks to Gwendolyn Collins very kindly letting me have two Free VIP tickets. So I was looking forward to seeing the Connex Live show and was resigned to missing the 100 Club gig.
First surprise of the evening – Ms Collins was the first act; I had naturally assumed, thanks to the high quality of Gwen’s recordings, and the fact that her album was riding high in the UK Soul Charts, that she would be the headline act and would go on later.
Despite opening the show, Gwendolyn did not disappoint. She was amazing! My favourite track from the Album, Storytelling – Side 1, “The Simple Things, was flanked by a call to action, “Be A Man” that actually doesn’t feature on the album and “Be A Happy Smooth Soul” followed by my son Graeme’s favourite, “Take A Walk With Me”.
Graeme had accompanied me to London for the evening because we share similar tastes in music and we enjoy the odd social occasion together (generally flavoured with a drop or two of ale).
Gwendolyn finished her set at around 8.30 and was followed by the excellent Sulpacio Jones from California, USA. I confess we didn’t hear much of Suplacio’s set because I had this crazy idea buzzing around in my head.
I felt that we would probably make the concert that was following the movie screening at the 100 Club. Graeme reluctantly joined me as we left the Jazz Cafe, explaining to the doorman that everything was fine but we had to get to another gig.
Northern Line from Camden Town to Tottenham Court Road in a few minutes, and it wasn’t long before we were queuing to get in the 100 Club. Evidently, we had missed the movie but the concert was about to start.
Much to our relief they allowed us in for the obligatory £25 each; money that would turn out to be more than well spent.
The first live act was three young men who are the first graduates of the Stax Music Academy. They performed with the high level you would expect from such a rich legacy. Their songs included Soul Man, Hold On I’m Coming and Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay played in a very contemporary fashion.
Next up were the legendary Hi Rhythm Section. So much history here: The Reverend Charles Hodges on keyboard, one of the founder members of this world famous collective. Two sons of famous brothers were present: Lou Mitchell, son of Producer and owner of the Royal Studios, Willie Mitchell, along with his cousin, whose name I didn’t catch, son of arranger, James Mitchell.
I’m afraid I didn’t get many more of the names but they are all wonderful musicians, including the sole surviving original member of Otis Redding’s backing band, The Bar Kays.
The band also included in their line up three sassy lady backing singers, one of whom was also a very soulful lead singer, covering Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain and Tired Of Being Alone, Al Green’s first major hit.
Second Surprise of the Evening:
A Blues / Soul singer was brought on stage. It turned out to be legendary (this word gets used a lot in this blog post!) OTIS CLAY!
Otis rocked the joint with classics such as “Precious, Precious” and “Trying To Live My Life Without You”, among others.
Surprise # 3:
A dapper gent in a very sharp light suit (no not me) joined Otis Clay on Stage. None other than BOBBY RUSH! Wow! I was overwhelmed. We were witnessing something very important and historic in Oxford Street. Bobby has been recording for 60 years (my age!) and is 80 years of age. I started thinking “I hope I can move around like he does when I get to his age”. On reflection, I’d like to be able to move like Bobby Rush right now!
Then the icing on the cake: Stax recording legend – Mr WILLIAM BELL!
Very sharply dressed in shiny grey suit, black hat and shades, William kicked off with “Knock On Wood”.
Mr Bell sounds as clear and as cool as back in the 1960s. He finished his act with the classic “I Forgot To Be Your Lover” including the rap interlude as featured in the movie.
Messrs Rush, Clay and Bell brought the show to a climax with “Take Me To The River”, accompanied by every member of the company plus some audience participation on the chorus.
A spectacular evening was brought to a convivial close as singers and musicians, including the aforementioned giants of the music mingled with the punters at the bar and seating areas. No “Green Room” for these legends. They joined the rest of us for a drink and numerous photos.