The Christmas Cabaret season in London saw some fabulous performances. Already sold out a couple of days ahead, the Pizza Express Jazz Club filled up rapidly on Thursday 6th December night. Somehow, this Soho jazz club always feels like home from home, the ‘jazz base’ in central London. And her Pizza debut at last offered an opportunity to catch up in the flesh with the joint-winner of 2011’s Rainlore Jazz Albums of the Year Best Debut Album for J’ai Deux Amours, Gabrielle Ducomble.
With a band line-up that included guitar ace Nicolas Meier and violin ace Julian Ferraretto, certainly much was to be expected from Gabrielle Ducomble Live At The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho on Thursday night. Thus, the anticipation was palpable, and a hush went through the crowd as Ms. Ducomble mounted the stage for the first set, before a raucous round of applause welcomed her and the band.
Ms. Ducomble’s excellent vocals were generously, sometimes perhaps just a touch over-generously, interspersed with superb solos by the various band members, with Meier’s and Ferraretto’s the most notable and prominent during the first set. Ducomble went into overdrive with a superlative, darker than on the album, interpretation of the Grace Jones lyrics I’ve Seen That Face Before to Astor Piazzolla’s immortal classic Tango Nuevo, Libertango. Short of the Grace Jones original rendition, I have yet to hear one that is more spine-tingling and chilling than Ducomble’s, while at the same time the latter arrangement also stayed more faithfully with Piazzolla’s unforgettable music. Dan Teper added authenticity on accordion.
More than justly so, this first set closer practically brought the house down! With this, the promise of ‘from Parisian-style Jazz to smoldering Tango’ was already richly fulfilled, with the material, as in the following second set, coming principally from the worlds of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astor Piazzolla, in a distinct jazz setting.
Some of this material was already familiar from Ducomble’s debut album, some of it new.
For the second set, the exquisite Ms. Ducomble seemed to have found a magical extra gear as it were. Hers is a voice that connects back with the past, indeed, often seems to come straight out of the classic age of great jazz singers, yet also is anchored in the present while pointing to the future. Ms. Ducomble undoubtedly has a great future ahead of her.
Again going into overdrive, Gabrielle Ducomble made the Pizza boil over and had the house completely coming down with her closing explosive rendition of the Contet / Glanzberg classic Padam, Padam, ending the evening in style.
Despite a lengthy and most raucous ovation, an encore was sadly not forthcoming. But the evening was already running late as it was, so this was perhaps understandable.
Gabrielle Ducomble Live At The Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho was an enchanting, sophisticated and delightful evening of superb vocal jazz with equally superb instrumental solos all round.
Hopefully, the new material heard might point to a soon to be forthcoming second album from Ms. Ducomble.