(606 Club, 1st April 2016. Review by Peter Jones.)
Sporting an enormous crimson flower behind her right ear, Australian chanteuse Lily Dior wowed a packed house at the 606 on Friday, along with her six-piece band. The gig featured selections from her new album Let’s Talk About It, plus a well-chosen bunch of funk-soul standards.
Ms Dior has two personae – the straight-ahead jazz singer, and the one we witnessed here, the soul diva. But where she differs, thank the Lord, from so many of those who aspire to perform this genre of music, is in her ego-free approach. Others may indulge in melismatic histrionics; for Lily, the song is the thing, and it has to be shown some respect. The band knew this, and it made the whole gig an exercise in powerful restraint. Solos from guitarist Al Cherry, tenorman Jim Hunt, trumpeter Robbie Robson and keys player Jim Watson were kept tight and to the point, and meanwhile the backing was stripped down to the bare groove.
It’s invidious to single out individuals in such a hip unit, but special mention has to be made of drummer Rod Youngs and guitarist Cherry, both of them consummate stylists. Youngs, who cut his teeth on tour with Les McCann and went on to make albums with Gil Scott-Heron, can play it any way you want, from laid-back minimal to flat-out funky. He and bassist Neville Malcolm were a formidable engine-room for the band. Cherry, meanwhile, is both a fluid, tasty soloist and a sideman who really listens, slotting his little chops and runs in the cracks exactly where you want to hear them.
Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues, People Make The World Go Round (The Stylistics), the McCann/Harris Compared To What… these were excellent choices alongside the greasy funk (Dior’s words, not mine) of self-penned tunes like Don’t Say A Thing, a song protesting against the clampdown on free expression in Australia. And I particularly enjoyed her arrangement of that old jalopy Sweet Georgia Brown, re-tooled into a sleek, purring funked-up Ferrari.
Lily Dior also provided an object lesson for singers in how to direct a band, with clear, discreet signals for bridges and improvised codas. The guys were enjoying themselves as much as the audience, and it showed.