Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Lalah Hathaway: Ronnie Scott's London 15/05/2015

Lalah Hathaway: Ronnie Scott's, London 15/05/15
Lalah Hathaway: Ronnie Scott's, London 15/05/15

I have to say, I am quite astounded that this is her first ever visit to the world's No.1 jazz club, because quite frankly they are perfect match for each other. The intimate surroundings of this most esteemed venue allowed Lalah to weave her magic, as she quickly put her spell on an eager audience, who were waiting to be bathed in her presence.

To say Ms. Hathaway has a seductive, highly measured way about her would be an understatement - she literally began the seduction from the off. The first thing I noticed (which was quite a revelation, especially for a musician like me) was how quiet the band played, you could hear a pin drop! But don't be fooled, the energy Lalah and her band effuse is still electrifying.

The first number was a gloriously laid back affair, with some gorgeous slices of rhodes style piano, playing courtesy of Jake Edwards, as Lalah's vocals sat perfectly in the mix, there was almost a feeling of hushed reverence until the whistling coda broke our concentration... What a start!

Bass man Eric Smith took over proceedings next with his lovely muted sounding instrument, as he setup a relaxed groove with the metronomic drummer, Dexter Hercules. Quotes from; "The Love Of Money," "I Want You Back" and "Billie Jean" teased and thrilled the audience. I was praying he'd go into Donny's "The Ghetto" but alas that was not to be. However a beautifully reharmonised version of Gershwin's "Summertime" made it all worthwhile, as the first daughter of soul started one her many scatting periods. This beguiling singer has a thickly textured, honey-throated voice unlike no other in soul music. With her precise diction and slippery jazz-influenced phrasing, she transforms strings of words into slipstreams of consciousness - coupled with her half-strangulated style of scatting all, adding up to the perfect blend and full of sheer emotional weight.

If Ms. Hathaway's uber-ripe timbre envokes the same luscious sensuality that say, Sarah Vaughan brought to jazz, her music definately displayed a whole heap of interlocking traditions. Her vocal embellishments, scoops and dips suggest a slow-burning brand of pop, jazz funk gospel that keeps the emotional lid on but let's out the magic. Her songs, with their sleek modern harmonies courtesy of Vula Malinga and Jason Morales and ever present side stick drum beats, belong to a brand of sophisticated pop-soul in which jazz fusion, rhythm-and-blues, gospel and pop traditions converge and entwine themselves into one another.

Medley time was next, with Anita Baker's "Angel," its lush chords revolving round the joint like crushed velvet morphing into EWF's "Love's Holiday," proving that love had found itself in my heart tonight, especially with this lady who ramps it up bit further with the Gap Band's "Yearning For Your Love." Talk about being LOVE BOMBED!

Next up, the dreamlike "I'm Coming Back" changes tack, the soporific intimacy of just drums plus vocal really bring home Hathaway's individual style...there are many colours to her music and this song exemplifies her eclectic tastes (sounding like the twangy guitar of Bill Frisell had gatecrashed this tune too!) and as we reach the peak of this tune, the effervescent jazz-funk of "Shine" is introduced to the set in a timely manner. It sounds ten times better played live, rather than the programmed effect of the original, let's hope this enlivened belter is on her "Live At The Troubadour" (following of course in her daddy's footsteps) which is planned for later in the year.

The last few years has really catapulted her into the top flight, since winning the 2014 Grammy award for 'Best R&B Performance' on Snarky Puppy’s "Something." This track alone amassed over 2 million views on YouTube, thanks to Hathaway’s remarkable ability to ‘sing chords.’ Alas, no chord singing tonight, but lots of warmth eminating from this incredible woman who trained at Berklee.

Hathaway’s musical prowess is plainly evident in her work, operating as performer, musician, writer and producer. Revered by some of the greatest musicians of the last century, a myriad of collaborations and international performances signpost Hathaway’s 25-year success. A true bridge between masters of the Jazz and Soul traditions and new generations of Popular Music innovators. Hathaway has performed with greats such as Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Prince, Mary J. Blige, Metropole Orkest, Esperanza Spalding, David Foster, Snoop Dogg, Natalie Cole, Robert Glasper Experiment, Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Miller, Dianne Reeves, Dizzy Gillespie, David Sanborn, Rachelle Ferrell, Take 6, The Winans, Me'Shell NdegeOcello, Kirk Whalum, Donald Lawrence, Christian McBride and many more besides.

Another interesting point about Lalah is her terrific sense of humour, she justs loves to josh and her scat battle with Malinga was hilarious - whom sensing defeat - brought on British soul singer Natalie Williams to take over, much to the merriment of Lalah who spouted, "surround yourself with greatness and you'll be great!" Never a true word spoken there! Ms. Hathaway exudes sophistication and her exemplary band do her much credit. A top night in Soho thank you missy!

Photos for this event were withdrawn.
Words Emrys Baird

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