Sunday 20th September 2015
What a weekend of singers!
Alice Grace, in the audience tonight, basking in the glory of her stupendous gig at les jazz café on Friday. Paul Skerritt, one of our top swingmen and occasional frontline crooner with this band was also on hand to give a standing ovation to the man of the match Anthony Strong. But, first things first.
Needless to say ‘The Smokers’ were on fire despite, or maybe because of, having a few deps in the line-up. They played the opening set which had vocals by Lindsay (her Daydream was something else) and Freez (ItHad to be You/Way You Look Tonight), a tremendous take on Chico O’Farrell’s Pianitis by Graham Don. Paul Gowland, Keith Robinson and Chris Kurgi-Smith also had 32 bars here and there.
The scene was set. Strong, a cool, light suited dude, took his place at the strategically placed centre stage piano and we were off down Broadway.
Whatever Lola Wants Lola Gets (from, if memory serves me right, The Pyjama Game) revealed the guest to be, not only a fine singer but no mean pianoman either. Luck be a Lady Tonight (Guys and Dolls) had an exceptional trumpet solo from leader Lamb. Pete Tanton shouldered the trumpet chores on Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, Elvis Costello’s Baby Plays Around was done just with the rhythm section and Stepping Out With my Baby had more stunning piano work to complement the vocal. Anthony informed us that this latter tune was the title of his latest CD. Throughout the evening the CD plugs reached the overkill stage and would perhaps be more effective if the references had been made more sparingly. A minor quibble.
No quibbles about his own Gambling Man Blues. With a Guy Madison lyric and a Paul Gowland tenor blast this was quite something. A rapid Cheek to Cheek brought the set to a close.
The crowded room applauded, the bar was stormed and still another set to go – Heaven, I’m in Heaven…
Recharged, They Can’t Take That Away From me had some booting tenor from Jamie Toms. More Stevie Wonder with Overjoyed a couple with the rhythm section: Whole Lotta Shakin’ à la Jerry Lee L, and another original – Learning to Unlove You.
That Kind of Guy (original); On a Clear Day; Too Darn Hot (Kiss me Kate) and, finally, Hallelujah I Just Love Her So brought the show to a close. Great singer, great band, great audience. – Lance Liddle, Be Bop Spoken Here