REVIEW: Joy Ellis - Life on Land album launch at Pizza Express

The Life on Land album launch


Joy Ellis Life on Land album launch
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 5 November 2017. Review by Leah Williams)


It’s a beautiful, blue-sky Sunday in London and yet a whole host of us are gladly descending into the cosy autumnal warmth offered by Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho. What would tempt us away from the final throes of this year’s sunshine? The chance to hear London-based pianist, singer and composer Joy Ellis marking the launch of her new album.

Ellis’s album Life on Land will officially launch on 11 November and is her first album of fully original compositions, which have been inspired in part by the “colourful, hectic and sometimes lonely nature of the capital”. The line up was slightly different for the launch from the recording itself, with Joy Ellis on vocals and piano, Adam Osmianski on drums, Gene Taylor on double bass (instead of Henrik Jensen) and Billy Adamson on guitar (in place of Rob Luft). There were also special guests Rachael Cohen on alto sax (more than capably stepping into Binker Golding’s tenor sax shoes) and James Copus on flugelhorn.

Before starting the gig, Ellis mentioned — whilst clinging for dear life to a hot drink in the way that only singers would empathise with — that she’s been battling a sore throat. She needn’t have worried, any slight loss of vocal strength or in-between-tunes coughing certainly didn’t detract from the performance. Her immediately-recognisable rich tones shone through from the opening notes of From Dusk Till Dawn, which is also the opening track of the album.

The whole was nicely tied together by a distinctive sound, which very much explored traditional jazz harmonies whilst offering something fresh and contemporary. There was also a pleasing variety of styles and energies within that, ranging from the powerful and rhythmic The Jazz Man (in which Cohen played a fantastic solo) to — a personal favourite — the beautifully soft and calm Here in the Quiet.

Not to be overlooked, as can sometimes happen with singers who are also instrumentalists, was Ellis’s accomplished playing. The piano was by no means a simple accompaniment, with some excellent soloing and interesting chord and harmony choices throughout. All musicians were quite faultless and special mention should perhaps go to Adamson on guitar who, along with the piano, was really given space to shine.

There were a couple of purely instrumental tunes, the standout being the album’s title track Life on Land, which gave another layer to the variety of the gig and also the opportunity to fully appreciate the talents of James Copus on flugelhorn, whose playing was effortless and energetic.

Ellis’s presence on stage is also easy, with a musical energy and intensity that is interspersed with comfortable chat and her trademark grin. This natural and unassuming character makes the level of talent and musicianship all the more welcome and enjoyable. A great gig and album that is sure to mark just the beginning of a new phase in Joy Ellis’s career.

LINKS: Joy Ellis website
Interview with Joy Ellis

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