|Kai Hoffman at the Do It While You Can CD Launch
Photo credit: Chris Huning
Bandleader RAY GELATO reports from the lauch of Kai Hoffman’s CD ‘Do It While You Can’, held at Ronnie Scott’s bar on March 20th. Ray writes:
From beat one, the intimate upstairs bar at Ronnie’s had a terrific atmosphere. DJ ‘Kool Kitten’ , Petra Shallert was playing some really nice Rockin’ sounds from the late 40’s early 50’s. That really helped everybody get into the mood of what was about to come. It’s important at an event like this to set the mood right, as so many CD launch parties seem to fall flat and lack any kind of vibe. I know, I’ve done a few myself where the atmosphere was totally cold! This makes it hard for the listener and also, tough for the artist, as one can feel very exposed and maybe try too hard to impress.
Happily, Kai Hoffman had given this a lot of thought, and on this evening, even before the band played a note, the place was buzzing! After a nice introduction by Walter Love from BBC Jazz Club, Kai and the band came onto the stage and immediately, her warm personality was apparent. Starting off with ‘Some Boys’, Kai had full attention and command of the room. The rhythm section of Gunther Kurmayr, piano, Sebastiaan De Krom, drums and Geoff Gascoyne, bass, provided the rock solid and swinging support that a high-energy performer like Kai thrives on!
What I found very encouraging was the fact that there were many young people in the audience digging jazz. I believe that’s what the music needs and also lacks at this time. What’s more, the crowd was pretty diverse, ranging from Swing dancers, tattooed , Burlesque type girls and just general music fans. Kai seems to realize this too and presents her show and her songs with this very much in mind.
Next up came the pretty tune ‘Pure Imagination’ where Kai was joined on the French horn by one of the West End’s finest horn players, Richard Bayliss. The testimony to how good Kai is was the fact that there were other singers there checking her out. I chatted with Nina Ferro, a very fine singer, and we both agreed that Miss Hoffman has much individuality in her approach. She did a lovely job on Pure Imagination using the richness of her voice to great effect, and also displaying fine pitch and great phrasing. I detected a touch of Sarah Vaughn in Kai’s timbre, but there are also many other vocal influences in her singing too, a little June Christy maybe? Nevertheless, she has her own sound and is far away from the copying stage. I like too the way she brings the R&B influence to her singing. By this I mean real R&B as I can also hear Kai has listened to artists such as Ruth Brown and Dinah Washington .
A lot of the material on the new CD I had not heard before, so it was nice also to then be treated to fresh workings of Sweet Georgia Brown and What a Little Moonlight Can Do. These classics featured the strong, melodic piano of Gunther Kurmayr who played impressive solos. Kai showed on these songs her versatility and ability to scat convincingly. This was all kept bubbling and swinging by the big sounding bass of Geoff Gascoyne and the marvelous Seb De Krom to whom driving a band is second nature.
People by this stage were up dancing and were having a great time! Which after all, is what music should be about. Kai has a great ability to sell whatever song she is singing, and put it across with bags of personality. Her time leading the Jump combo, Kai’s Kats has served her well. But this particular night, we were being treated to a different side of Kai Hoffman, a jazzy, smoky side!
One of the last numbers played was the title track of the CD, ‘Do it while You Can’ ( an original composition by Kai and Simon Whiteside) . ( Mr Whiteside also plays piano and writes arrangements for Kai’s Kat’s). For this song the band were joined by Sam Bullard, alto sax, and Simon Finch, trumpet , filling out the sound nicely. I also noticed that most of the songs performed that evening were not familiar territory, which was so refreshing! The material was well thought out and not at all clichéd. One example being the hip Blossom Dearie tune, ‘Long Daddy Green’ which Kai sang in an intimate style.
All in all the launch of ‘ Do it while you Can’ was a memorable evening and I hope that the CD will put Kai on the map as one of the finest vocalists and performers around on the scene today.