Review: Zoe Schwarz at Jazz on the Hill

Zoe Schwarz. Photo credit: Marcus Tate
Zoe Schwarz Blues Commotion
(Jazz On The Hill 31st August 2012. Review by Adam Tait

Herne Hill’s latest addition, the Jazz On The Hill jazz club, is a subtle and understated affair. A large, single room filled with dark wood chairs and small tables and a stage against he back wall. The lights are suitably dimmed, the atmosphere is suitably mellow.

As such it made the perfect setting for Zoe Schwarz and her Blues Commotion. The band provided an attractively varied set, mixing their pacey, swinging tunes with thoughtful, impressive improvisation. Rob Koral’s guitar drenched the music in a heavy, bluesy feeling as he twiddled up and down the fret board, but it was the voice of Zoe Schwarz that, quite rightly, gave the performance its personality.

The first thing that was apparent was the range of her voice, bursting from jazzy mumblings to hold soaring notes with a striking intensity. Her voice has an exhilarating quality that interacts wonderfully with the sultry bluesiness of the music.

The performance was regularly punctuated by stirring demonstrations of virtuosity by the band. Dazzingly bass runs by Steve Thompson made for enthralling builds while Bob Knight’s ricocheting cymbals added a crackling unpredictability to the music. It was Schwarz’s original numbers that proved to be the night’s highlights. The pacey If I Didn’t Care, and the upbeat Too Darn Rich To Be Happy, imbued the performance with some liveliness, while the bluesy, rocking, swing of Heartbreak Tears set feet and fingers tapping around the room.

The set in general was a well-balanced affair, providing a compelling spectacle for those there specifically to see the musicians while at the same time crafting the relaxed backing music for those there to enjoy a gentle Friday evening drink. A casual and relaxed atmosphere dominated the evening.

A classy performance no doubt, with the band drawing calls for an encore regardless of the 11pm noise curfew. But the evening was as much a triumph for the club as it was for the band. Considering it’s only six weeks old, Jazz On The Hill’s tables were impressively filled.

‘This is a great club,” Schwarz remarked, “long may it continue.” One can only hope that performances such as Friday’s create a buzz and word of mouth draws in the punters for what is a stylish, relaxed establishment that the area is better off for having. Laid back bars and clubs like this are great opportunities for young people to get to know jazz music, and the more of them the better.

Jazz on the Hill. 214 Railton Road. Opposite Herne Hill Station.

Categories: miscellaneous

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