Swiss-French Jazz guitarist Alex Scheuerer is joined by vocalist Najwa Ezzaher to perform material from their recent album together La Vie En Soul and more at Pizza Express Soho on Monday 10 July. Feature by Evie Hill:
Guitarist and composer Alex Scheuerer will be gracing the Jazz@PizzaExpress stage in Soho this summer, following the release of his second album. Featuring French-Moroccan vocalist, Najwa Ezzaher, La Vie En Soul moves away from the groove-based songwriting of Scheuerer’s first album, instead leaning into the Franco roots the duo share. As Scheuerer describes it, the album “pays tribute to la Chanson Française by rearranging some famous French tracks […] in a modern, trendy jazz/soul/fusion style.” The album features such well-known numbers as “Je l’aime à mourir” and “La bohème”, which the audience may get a chance to hear live during the set this July.
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With soulful vocals, subtle guitar comping, and a dazzling horn section, the album is firmly grounded in the sounds of the modern London jazz scene, whilst adding the beautiful twist of French lyrics and the more traditional soundscapes of chanson. The set in July will also feature five new original tracks in English, as well as some jazz fusion instrumentals from the band. There will be a wide variety of textures, grooves and genres, but all will have a touch of elegance to them. As Scheuerer says, “La Vie En Soul is an invitation to gentleness, elegance and beauty à la française.”
Although La Vie En Soul was released last year, it’s the perfect repertoire to be played on a summer’s evening. The horn section really adds a festival feel to the band, whilst the songwriting is perfect for an intimate jazz club. The album will transport audiences to Paris, London, and back again, synthesising different playing styles and genres. Although defying any narrow definition, listeners may detect a combination of the youthful funkiness of Tom Misch with the subtle maturity of Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Accompanying Scheuerer on 10 July is a stellar line up of musicians: Mike Horne on drums, Paul Michael on bass, Freddie Gavita on trumpet, Chris Rand on sax and Chris Jerome on keys. As a collective, the rhythm section has been described as the “engine room” of the band, holding down the grooves which continue to surprise expectations. As soloists, the band members really shine – La Vie En Soul allows each instrumentalist to reveal their individuality and take the listener on a journey. The cool electric piano sounds of Jerome meld well with the sensitivity of Scheuerer, whilst the soulfulness of Rand and Gavita rips through the more laidback pieces. And amidst all of this intense improvisation, Ezzaher’s warm vocals provide a grounding which lulls us back into a beautifully mellow mood.
On the night, audiences can expect all this album has to offer plus more, with a combination of established and new material allowing the band to take risks and “express themselves freely” whilst also retreading old ground. Mainly though, as Scheuerer puts it, this gig will be all about “sweeping the audience off their feet.” For a taste of what’s to come, check out the video below.
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