(Boulevard Theatre, Walker’s Court, Soho. 13 November 2019. Review by Lauren Bush)
The Boulevard Theatre is a newly reopened theatre in the heart of Soho with a sophisticated, art deco style bar and a unique, multi-use performance space that has only been open a few weeks. Their new venture, Soho Sounds: Jazz featured David McAlmont as their first guest and the word is spreading quickly.
China Moses and band. (iPhone snap by Lauren Bush)
Featuring specifically vocal jazz, this week’s guest was American-born, now London-based China Moses. She definitely comes to jazz honestly – with a mother like Dee Dee Bridgewater, it’s suspectedly in her blood, but she has carved her own path, including hip hop and blues in her other influences and areas of expertise.
Self-admittedly not a jazz musician, Moses still made herself at home and meaningfully welcomed everyone to join the experience. The venue is cosy with cabaret seating and allowed for the band to connect directly to the audience easily. Alex Webb’s role on piano is significant. He is in charge of the whole operation, but also has a great rapport with Moses. They joked back and forth and shared many stories from their shared history. Webb has written a show called Cafe Society Swing which features Moses singing many original tunes, of which they shared Too Hot for Words.
Moses undoubtedly enjoys singing the blues, but each of her picks had a story to go with it. She featured a favourite from her Dinah Washington tribute album, Fat Daddy, about one of Washington’s seven husbands; shared her commentary on the state of political affairs in the UK with Pearl Bailey’s song Tired and told a story about Laverne Baker’s gold-digging woes with her Money Blues.
Some of the more jazzy favourites included another Dinah Washington classic Mad About the Boy, the Cole Porter standard What Is This Thing Called Love and a lesser known Porter tune from Kiss Me Kate called So In Love.
Perhaps one of the highlights of the night were the delightful band on offer. Tony Kofi shared the spotlight on alto saxophone, growled and scooped his solos on the blues numbers and filled respectfully through Moses’ lyrics. Michele Montoli on bass had several features where he stood out, especially on Lover Where Can You Be, which Moses counted off at a dashing speed and he gave us a solo. Peter Adam Hill held the fort on drums and seemed comfortable even though Moses mentioned that they had never played together. They did a smashing job playing her arrangements.
This laid-back, late-night jazz gig is scheduled to be happening every Wednesday for the foreseeable future under the banner Soho Sounds: Jazz. There are quite a few good ones coming up between now and Christmas.
LINK: Soho Sounds Jazz at the Boulevard Theatre