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Review : Jazz Verse Jukebox/ Soweto Kinch

Soweto Kinch
Photo from Oxford Jazz Festival by Barker Evans. All Rights Reserved

Jazz Verse Jukebox featuring Soweto Kinch.
(Ronnie Scott’s. Part of 2011 Britjazz Festival. Review by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

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

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