Karen Lane and Renato D'Aiello
(Ronnie Scott's Upstairs. October 24th 2016. Review by Brian Blain)
Hard to believe that it is now almost six years since that brilliant, lyrical tenor saxophonist, Renato D'Aiello launched his Monday night soirees in the Upstairs Room at Ronnie Scott's, and, seemingly as ever, the place was packed last Monday week to hear that fine Australian singer Karen Lane. Which was a bit hard on mein host's exquisite sound and subtlety of melodic line on It Could Happen to You, because the downside of his success is that so many of the crowd were there for the meeting place sociability as much as for the music. Still, by the time we got to Mercer Ellington's Things Ain't What They Used to Be and its loping bluesy pace giving way to post 'Trane harmonics and general mayhem - yes he can do that too - they were suitably softened up to 'give order'to Ms Lane and the main set of the evening.
Perhaps Softly As In A Morning Sunrise felt a tad uneasy ,and why wouldn't it, with an unfamiliar backing trio, however good. But Karen has not been booked on major Australian and Asian Festivals for nothing, and with the tight harmon muted trumpet support, of one of her regular collaborators Karl Charity (who projected an engrossing line in singing himself, in the later shank of the evening jam session part of the proceedings) she quite quickly got a grip on the set and never let go.
And what was this? Half way through the first tune the dance floor space was taken over by a group of elegant looking cast-offs from Strictly Come Dancing, and, apart from a furious 6/8 Only Have Eyes For You, which saw them off, they never left throughout the set. Quick...get the tabloids in; we might be in on the birth of a new dance craze.
Lane was really lovely on her Latin features, especially Jobim's Manha de Carnaval, which brought out the best in her sound as well as the later bossa-ish rhumba-ish Never Let Me Go which coaxed Renato back on stage; really a delight. Not that there wasn't fire as well. On the aforementioned Only Have Eyes... and Stanley Turrentine's Sugar, I could have sworn I detected just a hint of the great Dinah Washington, may be a spin-off from the far too infrequent Blues dates she does with Pete Whittaker's Organ Trio.... Whatever, these Monday sessions at Ronnie's are a real find,and not expensive. Last time I went, Renato's guest was a classical contemporary pianist from New York, so there is always an element of surprise. Even so, I must see Karen Lane performing with her own team, even if it does mean trekking over to The Bull's Head to do so.