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Review: Kyle Eastwood plus Yolanda Brown at Imperial Wharf

Kyle Eastwood Band & Yolanda Brown,
Imperial Wharf Jazz Festival, 17 September 2009
Review by Rob Mallows of London Jazz Meetup

Digby Fairweather was MC’ing last night, and he was working his socks off. He spent about ten minutes extolling the virtues of the restaurants, pubs, gymnasiums, creche facilities and dance studies in the modern – if soulless – Imperial Wharf complex. A new career might easily be beckoning on the strength of a performance like this: as presenter on shopping channel QVC?

Once these elaborate necessities were over, Digby MC’ed a great evening of jazz, and did it well. Kyle Eastwood ’s band has carved out noted success across Europe with their brand of bass-led contemporary jazz. I enjoy the way Eastwood stresses the incremental development and evolution of his insistent bass melodies, giving this preference over expression through complex chord progressions and key changes and in so doing really ensuring that the bass earns its place centre stage.

Playing tracks off the new album Metropolitain (CandidRecords – above) – my choice for album of the year so far – he showed his range, moving from the haunting souk-inspired lyricism of Marrakesh superbly balanced by Graeme Blevins ‘ swirling alto sax – like a muezzin giving the call to prayer – to the hard funk of Hot Box. Precise, focused and serenely meticulous up and down the fretboard, Eastwood is a picture of concentration when losing himself in the groove. He still plugs into the old-school of bassists like Ron Carter and Paul Chambers on classic cuts like Big Noise from Winnetka, but his sound gives them a definite 21st century oomph. For me, he was without question the evening’s headline act.

YolanDa Brown, MOBO award-winner, combines classic jazz sensibilities with soul and funk mixed to taste…or not, depending on your viewpoint. She is definitely at the outer reaches of ‘smooth’ on the jazz spectrum – at points, I swore she was channelling Kenny G – and the soulful undertones to tunes like Surfin’ and Misty cloyed at times. I found I gradually warmed to her , in particular to up-tempo tracks like Stay Little Valentine and Summertime, which got the crowd bopping along. On the last track, Lady, she took a musical journey via the rhythms of Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Brazil and London – reflecting the musical homelands of her band – before making her own excursion into the crowd, playing her heart out while wandering nonchalantly through the crowd.

Great free entertainment in south west London, slickly produced and pulling in a fair-sized audience for a Thursday. The Festival continues on Saturday- Stan Tracey, Sarah Gillespie with Gilad Atzmon, Ian Shaw, building up to Ska Cubano ( for more info FOLLOW THIS LINK

It can get quite breezy down there by the river, and if it looks like rain, take a brolly- there’s no cover!

(There is also a profile of Kyle Eastwood in this morning’s Times- FOLLOW THIS LINK)

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