Sunday 20th October 2019
Hoochie Coochie

I’ve stopped using plaudits like ‘Gig of the Month’, ‘Gig of the Year’ etc. There are just too many to realistically even shortlist them. However, if I had still been going down that road then last night would certainly have been a front runner.

Strictly Smokin' Big Band Claire Martin

Opening up with Fever I thought, not again, but by the time it morphed into Kansas City I, like everyone else, had also ‘got the fever’.

The standards rolled out. The voice, full and round, the pitch perfect, the phrasing impeccable. This was one of those, if I’m going to die let it be now moments. Fortunately it wasn’t and we wallowed in the magic of Kern, Porter, Gershwin, Harold Arlen and co. I’m Old Fashioned; Our Love is Here to Stay; When the Sun Comes Out; I’ve Got the World on a String and Too Darn Hot – too darn right it was – musically if not weatherwise!

Interval and it was time to top up the London Pride before our OBE was back on stage. Order of the British Empire? It should be Order of the World!

Strictly Smokin' Big Band Claire Martin

I Love Being Here With You, with a reference to Hoochie Coochie cleverly inserted, I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues; That Old Black Magic; Save Your Love For me; Pat Metheny’s Timeline arranged by Michael Lamb with an added lyric by Claire followed by a blistering Hard Hearted Hannah and the grand finale an uptempo St. Louis Blues.

This had been quite a session but let’s not forget that it wouldn’t have been quite the same without the rip roaring presence of the SSBB. Claire paid tribute, not only to our own super singer Alice Grace but also bandleader Michael Lamb reminding us that he led his first big band at school when he was 15! He also played a lyrical flugel solo on the Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley classic Save Your Love For me.

Strictly Smokin' Big Band Claire Martin

Prior to Claire Martin’s appearance the band played an impressive set that included vocals by Alice – Can’t Buy Me LoveAvalon and Comes Love – serving as a reminder to Claire that she had better be in good voice which, of course, she was.

Lester Young’s Tickletoe had the saxes playing the tricky head standing up and without faltering.

All the usual suspects soloed over the course of the evening and, once again, we acknowledged how lucky we were to have such a band on tap as well as a guy like Warren for presenting them so regularly at Hoochie Coochie. – Lance Liddle, Be Bop Spoken Here