Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Yolanda Charles Project Funk, The Get Up, Brother Strut + Jay Phelps: The Hippodrome London 9/5/2014

Yolanda Charles: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14
Yolanda Charles: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14 Yolanda Charles: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14 Yolanda Charles: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14 Holly Petrie: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14 Yolanda Charles, Rashaan Patterson and Lizzie Deane: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14 The Get Up: Hippodrome (backstage), London 9/5/14 Jay Phelps: Hippodrome, London 9/5/2014 The Get Up: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14 The Get Up: Hippodrome, London 9/5/14

There seems to be a ruddy great vacuous whole in the life of session musicians these days…Funk & Soul music is now deemed 'a labour of love' as computer generated dance music (often made by as little as two people) continues to dominate the airwaves and the music biz in general. So what are the top bone-fide musos meant to do, twiddle their thumbs and wait til Peter Andre goes out as a 10 piece! Or tempt Tinie Tempeh to form an orchestra perhaps? No, they get on with it, getting back to their roots forming shit hot bands playing the music and style they like, keeping their weapons polished just in case (but definitely not because) Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga calls them in or some other loaded pop star hell bent on a global touring rampage

Yolanda Charles is your archetypal sideman (err side girl?) journeyman (journey girl? No that sounds ridiculous!) suffice to say there are no words to describe her phenomenal talent. This bass girl groovemeister (that 'll do!) has worked extensively with; Paul Weller, Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), BB King, Eric Clapton, Roger Daltry and Van Morrison - pretty impressive stuff, but tonight you could see she was happy to stand away from the 'twenty feet from stardom syndrome' and kick-ass on her own terms…and she did have the boots on to suggest so. Project Funk projected and fuelled the flames of funk furiously and it's not surprising either considering the credentials of her crack ace band.

Singer Holly Petrie, a flaming red headed beauty who could sing the phonebook and make it seem musical, was in fine fettle and clearly enjoying the vibe the band mustered. Gareth Brown's smoking grooves, bolstered by Yolanda's thunderous bass, drove the show imperiously with funky slashes of choppy guitar courtesy of Rob Harris (Jamiroquai remember them?) Also the double keyboard work of the both sensational sounding Nikki Yeoh and Alex Bennett (sans red beard) completed the picture. In short, what a line up what a band!

Their choice of covers sent ripples of delight that quickly filtered out to the impressed crowd. I for one, was playing I'll name that tune in one, which was fun as Roy Ayer's "We Come From Brooklyn Baby" (replete with Yeoh's jazzy vibe musings) tickled my taste buds, as did Sly Stone's "In Time" - with Bennett nailing that obtuse intro from the seminal "Fresh" album of 1973. Sheer quality and energy, this was gearing up to being a great night! Props must go to promoters DW Music and Geoff Todd for staging this ambitious night…

Organ fuelled mayhem was next, in the form of The Get Up. Get up and go more like! As they plied their filthy trade on us with their exceptional single "What If?" Lead singer, the lovely Sasha Patterson was clearly relishing the moment, coming across like a young Chaka Khan. I've watched this girl develop over the past few years with Bamba City Strut and the great Funkshone, and she has just come on leaps and bounds, garnishing a whole heap of stage presence along the way and an understated authority in everything she touches. Glad I got see these guys, and I think I spotted a few of the Fantastics lurking in the shadows, certainly sax player Mark Norton blowing up a storm as per usual and possibly the drummer disguised under a flat cap, or was that Neil Spice! Nice one chaps bang on!

Brother Strut completed the triple bill with an absolutely barnstorming set. You will wait a very longtime indeed to see anything better, I can't think who could top this! Band Leader Steve Jones returned to the casino not in lure of ill gotten gains (their first album was funding by his skill at Black Jack FFS!) but to complete the cycle and take the house not by money but shit hot music. Boy did this band rock! This sterling line-up has collectively performed on records that have sold over half-a-billion copies, how is that for an opening gambit! So how would you describe their music? 'Cockney blue eyed soul' mate, yes Chas & Dave meet Michael McDonald! Frontman Sam Tanner is simply top flight, rich soulful vocal tones and a fierce piano technique gives this guy the edge. I was spellbound by his performance - a tired hack brought to his knees and raised again by the sanctity of music with my faith fully restored, short of it being a religious experience, I don't know what else to effing say!

Tune after tune the notch went up a little, as the blistering musicianship and their irrepressible force of nature took its grip on us. Billy Preston's "Nothing From Nothing" was an absolute crowd pleaser, as was their groovetastic Grover Washington Jr's "Mr Magic" and Carol King's "You've Got A Friend" - complete with gospel chops sent the crowd home ecstatic and fully satiated, yes the first strut is the deepest, a band that made me weepeth, my blood and soul does seepeth into the ether of the night…. so be it, joyous sounds knows no bounds!

So with sweet solace about me, what better than to have jazzman and stylish trumpeter Jay Phelps take the remaining audience into the small wee hours with his sumptuous sounds soothing the soul, as the mellow jazz filled the room like sweet perfume - oh he's so well groomed! It was a pretty fine night and I for one don't take these things for granted. Londoners go and see for yourself …top music at a top venue, viola!

Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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