The Jazz Verse Jukebox is a feast of jazz, spoken word and creative poetry which has a monthly residency upstairs in Ronnie’s Bar. For the third Brit Jazz Festival, this eclectic and original evening was invited downstairs for one of the most diverse and entertaining nights I have had the pleasure of appreciating at Ronnie Scott’s.
The hostess for the Jukebox is the charismatic Jumoké Fashola – charming, entertaining, and a little bit nuts! Her excitement of being “downstairs at Ronnie’s” could hardly be contained, as she opened the evening with her trio – Simon Wallace on the piano, Winston Clifford on drums and Davide Mantovani on bass. They performed a sublime I’m A Stranger, and a low-down and dirty Colour Purple which stylistically suited Fashola to a T, getting the crowd whooping and stamping – and this was only the second number!
Appropriately, this gig featured a couple of tunes written by Simon Wallace and Fran Landesman, which Fashola performed as a tribute to the late lyricist and poet, who had performed at Jazz Verse a number of times over the last two years. The beaming smile disappeared for a moment for a wonderfully moving Scars – a gorgeous but little-known Landesman creation. The idea of the Jukebox is to host a melange of poets, backed or not by the Jukebox trio. Highlights included a rather superb young poet called Holly McNish who took to the stage solo and performed a brilliantly clever poem in French and English, the whole room in the palm of her hand. Zena Edwards was a delight too, preferring to offer her poetry over the backing of the trio which elevated it to a higher level, allowing her to feed off rhythms and melody. She also performed deftly on the kalimba (thumb piano) and sang in Zulu, with a voice reminiscent of Lizz Wright and Lauryn Hill. It was inspiring.
I felt refreshed by listening to the poets and their verses. Somehow, the spoken word grabs you with its relevance and rhyme, parts of which I found to be moving and hilarious in equal measure. The honesty and transparency of the poets’ words was quite something, and I didn’t expect to feel as uplifted as I did.
Soweto Kinch finished the night off with a bit of freestyle, incorporating the audience’s offerings of words beginning with the letters of JUKEBOX. How you fit the words jazz, utopia, kinetic, existentialism, Boris, onomatopoeia and Xanadu into a rap I’ve no idea! But somehow he managed it. And in style too. I’ll be tuning into the Jazz Verse jukebox again.
www.sarahellenhughes.co.uk / www.ronniescotts.co.uk