(606 Club. 9th June 2015. Review by Brian Blain)
Our great good fortune that after touring Europe and the UK for three months with the great blues guitarist Albert Lee, keyboards player/singer/songwriter and legendary exponent of boogie woogie piano, Doña Oxford found enough time to get a fine British band together for a memorable night of music entertainment at the 606 a couple of weeks ago.
She is one of those US artists, steeped in show business and drama from an early age who discovered rock n’ roll, R ‘n B, soul and jazz in her teens so that despite the polymath nature of her talents (she is an actress and playwright as well) roots music is the core of what she is all about. She led the band who, not surprisingly, sounded a little tentative at first, with such enthusiasm, drive and generous humour, that long before the end of the first set, a riotous boogie number which included the trick of playing with her back to the keyboard, they had melded into a hard-swinging unit, far removed from so many of those stodgy, bog standard groups of the British blues boom.
After an early nod to Ray Charles, we were into Bill Haley territory on Comes To Me Naturally when I couldn’t help being reminded by guitarist Les Davidson, who produced a rich vocabulary of classic answering phrases to Doña’s voice all night, of the classic Danny Cedrone on Haley’s era defining hit. Much later, having clearly taken a grip on proceedings, on Oxford’s Drinking Tanqueray, an endlessly repeated mantra-like lyric over a bouncy backbeat shuffle, he really got the bit between his teeth over four choruses for which his classic semi acoustic Gibson was made - a perfect blend of blueswail and bebop harmonic colouration. 19 year old drummer Mikey Ciano and electric bassist Sophie Lord, a protégé of The Blockheads’s Norman Watt Roy were a revelation, setting up terrific grooves and beats for a wide range of Dona’s original material that had her turning round and beaming like a proud mother hen . Two backing singers Betty Belay and Stephanie Parnell sang great, and completed the authentic R’nB package perfectly. Let us hope that that the dynamic and charismatic Doña Oxford can return next year and is able to set up some dates – Festivals would be perfect – for this abundantly talented crew.