One day, it shouldn’t be long, maybe only be three to five years from now, Emma Smith will ( I dream, I hope, I wish…) be singing in supper clubs to audiences which will appreciate her, and her singing. Diners in the Oak Room at the Algonquin in New York, in the Regatta Bar of the Charles Hotel in Boston, in Yoshi’s in Oakland, in Demetriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle… will recognize, understand and like what they hear, and will greet her with loud applause.
Because Emma Smith has the heritage, and is developing the skills to ascend to these temples of the art, and to conquer them. American audiences will hear a singer who has absorbed Billie, Ella, Ernestine Anderson, looks the part, carries the phrase, inhabits the song and communicates it to the manner born.
But back to reality. Boisdale Canary Wharf is a different proposition from these venues. While I salute the management of Boisdale CW for loving and supporting the music, the sound from the stage last night was swamped by the ambient thrum of diners loudly tucking into their one pound (in weight) steaks. Emma Smith was making heroic efforts to connect with those of us who had come along to listen to the music, but found herself working against insuperable odds.
Even the the humble craft of reviewing felt like an extreme sport at this noise level. I found my mind was getting inhabited by less and less rational and constructive thoughts: as a waiter brought in yet another tray of the vast steaks, I was starting to plan a Boisdale celebration of the centenary next May of the birth of Georg Borgstrom. (he of “it takes 2400 gallons of water to make a pound of steak” fame). Thinking that to spend too much time with such thoughts was unhealthy, I baled out at the intermission.
Emma Smith has clearly progressed and gained in confidence in the past couple of years. But these are early days: she has only just passed the half-way mark in the Royal Academy’s jazz course. She had an excellent trio who knew the arrangements well, and landed every time on the dime – Matt Robinson, nimble and expressive on the Boisdale’s electronic grand piano, Tim Thornton supportive and strong on bass, and Andy Ball crisp, clear and inventive on drums. A highlight of the first set was an up tempo, hard-swung but touching (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade is Over.
It will be fascinating to hear the radio version of this performance, or rather act of heroism, in JazzFM’s Discovery Show next Tuesday evening.
Going down in the lift I overheard the line, spoken in typical Wall Street grey-hair white-shoe monotone drawl: “the real oppor-tooonities are in emerging markets. We need to re-visit that” No mate. The real opportunities were right there in front of your nose. And you’ve just talked right through them.