REVIEW: Liane Carroll & Friends at Pizza Express Dean Street


Liane Carroll & Friends.
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 15th June 2016. Third and final night of residency. Review by Naoise Murphy.)

Liane Carroll’s warmth and charisma make you feel like you have known her all your life. Her good humour is infectious. The final night of her 3 night residency at the Pizza Express Soho Jazz Club, a celebration of the blues, was infused with passion and playfulness.

Her wit and the sincere camaraderie of the band elevated this brilliant performance to something really special. They seemed to be working out the arrangements of the numbers just before playing them, or even halfway through – Carroll frequently gesturing to the sound desk for adjustments to be made – yet everything flowed perfectly. It was a paradoxical display of the complete professionalism of this group of musicians, who are totally at ease on stage. The informality of their set was a perfect fit for the relaxed atmosphere of the Pizza Express Jazz Club and Carroll’s tendency to veer off on comic tangents between songs was part of the fun.

Carroll’s powerful soulful voice filled the room effortlessly. Every song seemed to showcase the incredible range of her vocal capabilities. From the nostalgic mood of Seaside, the title track from her new album, to the stunning vocal control on show in Tom Waits’s The Sun Come Up, it seems she can do just about anything. And she’s also a talented pianist. Her opening number, I Can Let Go Now, performed solo, gave a real insight into her deep musicality, which formed the bedrock of the whole set.

Joined by Roger Carey on bass, Ian Thomas on drums and special guest John Etheridge on guitar, the ‘blues extravaganza’ began with an exuberant rendition of Live The Life I Love. Although the focus was on blues, the evening was an expansive blend of jazz and soul music, with Etheridge’s virtuosic guitar solos bringing a rock sound. Their interpretation of Billie Holiday’s Fine and Mellow featured some brilliant vocal improvisation and Ian Thomas’s powerful drumming.

Their rendition of Laura Nyro’s And When I Die seemed to capture the essence of the evening. Leading in with an amusing story, the performance was upbeat and full of soul. Like many of the numbers, it featured superb solos from each member of the band in turn, and a stunning a cappella vocal section.

With performances like this, Liane Carroll’s status as one of the UK’s favourite - and best - jazz singers is secure.

LINKS: Review - Liane Carroll and Claire Martin at Crazy Coqs
Liane Carroll with the Guildhall Jazz Band at Milton Court

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