REVIEW: Jamie Safiruddin and guests (Alice Zawadzki, Emma Smith, Ian Shaw, Barb Jungr, Elle Cato) at Pizza Express

Jamie Safiruddin


Jamie Safiruddin and friends
(Pizza Express, Friday 15 July, 2016. Review by Peter Jones)

With just Adam King on bass and himself on piano, 24-year-old Jamie Safiruddin invited a bevy of singers to join him for his sold-out debut at Pizza Express. Despite his youth, the keyboardist, arranger and songwriter has already worked with Will Young, Ian Shaw, Tony Christie, Rebecca Ferguson, Claire Martin and Stan Sulzmann, and is musical director for the Ben Cox band. It says a very great deal for his growing reputation that he could muster a cast of such well-known singers for the gig.

However the sheer preponderance of them - Alice Zawadzki, Emma Smith, Ian Shaw, Barb Jungr, Elle Cato - rather deflected attention away from Safiruddin himself. Perhaps he feels more comfortable as an accompanist than as a pianist in his own right. He clearly has sensitivity and improvisational skill; it would have been nice to hear more of him.

The highlights of the evening were Cato’s spellbinding Miss Otis Regrets, Zawadzki’s magical Danish folk-tune (the title sounded like "Stroo-Noo" – she persuaded the audience to pronounce it along with her), and Ian Shaw’s Get Out Of Town, rendered with pleasing Mark Murphy-style yelps and leaps into the falsetto register. Smith’s version of the lovely Emily King ballad Georgia was another nice moment.

It was a varied evening, but by its nature somewhat lacking in focus. It ended with everyone except Cato (who had to get her young son home to bed) crowding on to the stage for a somewhat lumpen rendition of I Just Wanna Make Love To You.

LINK: Jamie Safiruddin's website

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