Zena James and John Crawford
(Book and Kitchen Notting Hill, 5th November. Review by Brian Blain)
If you had been off on a short jazz jaunt to New York and had come across a comfortable, civilised bookshop in Greenwich Village with tasty food and wine and someone, say Sheila Jordan, performing, chances are that you would come back and wonder why the much touted culture capital of the world doesn’t seem to have such places. Well we’ve got one, and it’s a gem, Book and Kitchen in All Saints Rd, Notting Hill, and a lovely place to hear Zena James with pianist John Crawford last week.
The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, not recital room sterile at all, and James seized the moment with both hands, with introductory stories to the songs and a high level of communication that is much harder to achieve in a larger venue with a louder band. Far from simply giving a ‘domestic’ kind of performance, she relished the situation, creating a show full of energy, warmth and humour. A fine varied programme too; if not for the purists, with two of her favourites, Michael Jackson’s Human Nature and her original You Move Me as an encore, along with Ray Davies’s I Go To Sleep, but with enough straight ahead like Comes Love and That Old Black Magic , albeit with a funky little twist, and a reflective blues, Peace of Mind, written for troubled souls by her late father, Mike James.
Pianist John Crawford, far from his Latin American bag, was terrific, frequently drawing applause from an appreciative crowd-almost orchestral at times, so that at no time did you hanker for anyone else.
Clearly, Book and Kitchen isn’t a jazz venue and it puts on other kinds of low key pop/folky things and, as a bookshop, interesting book events too: it even presented a lecture discussion by heavyweight economics guru Ha Joon Ching recently . Three and a half years it has been serving the local community under the dynamic leadership of its founder Muna Khogali: try to check it out.