(Lauderdale House, 14th May 2015. Review by Brian Blain)
From the opener, Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, to the heavily gospel-inflected encore on the Staples Singers’ Respect Yourself, with more overtly jazz material like the classic All Blues – beautiful rich-sounding bass vamp intro from Neville Malcolm – and the rarely heard standard I Cover the Waterfront along the way, the totally unique and impassioned singer Carol Grimes and her brilliant but unshowy band of Dorian Ford (pno) Roy Dodds (dms) Annie Whitehead (trombone) and the aforesaid Malcolm held an almost full house enthralled throughout her wonderfully eclectic show at Lauderdale House last Thursday.
Grimes has been a favourite, and with North London audiences in particular, for years. Her career spans so much, from the very first Glastonbury, two solo albums recorded in Memphis, world tours with contemporary ‘classical’ choir The Shout and, more recently ,strong reviews on a BBC assembled Soul package. At Lauderdale all these inflences melded together seamlessly, although nowadays her natural singing voice has a relatively subdued smoky quality, as on Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life, the ‘brainy’ singers’ ballad of choice, On her own dramatic Alexandria’s Dance, she let rip and demonstrated a range that few others on the circuit could match. Amid all her warm, friendly presentation, she wasn’t afraid to hit the crowd with some tough uncompromising material, as on the deceptively hedonistic groover I Believe in Us when the bitter line ‘when we eat, a million people starve’ cracked out like a pistol shot.
Such is the dramatic focus on the singer it might be easy to forget just how good her band is. Ensemble playing was tight,with well-oiled grooves when called for and a string of beautifully shaped solos from pianist Ford and trombonist Annie Whitehead a paradigm of deceptive simplicity and tonal variety frequently achieved with skilful use of the plunger mute: a wonderfully poised duet with with bassist Malcom on the rarely herd classic, Nat Cole’s Nature Boy drew a strong reaction from the crowd, proving yet again that frenetic overkill is not always the best way to get to the audience’s heart.
Carol Grimes and her band present such deceptively beautiful music often built on great grooves as on I Believe in Us or the delicacy of Nick Cave’s Into My Arms that I am always reminded as I was yet again last Thursday, that hers is a very special part of the UK music scene and that she deserves to be cherished as well as simply enjoyed.
LINKS: – Carol Grimes will be taking A Singer’s Tale to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh in August BOOKINGS