Carleen Anderson closed this year's ReVoice festival last night at Soho's Pizza Express with a stunning set, ably supported by a very tight band, featuring Tom Cawley on piano, Al Cherry on electric guitar, Laurence Cottle on bass guitar and Simon Lea on drums.
Born in Texas into a musical family including mother Vicki Anderson and with James Brown as her godfather and Bobby Byrd as her stepfather, the young Carleen followed the route of singing in church from a very early age. As well as the family influences she has worked with artists ranging from John Dankworth and Dr. John to Jocelyn Brown, Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney. She came to the UK 23 years ago and had early success as one of the Young Disciples, whose hit Apparently Nothing was a showstopper at Pizza Express. She has also worked with the likes of the Brand New Heavies and Incognito.
Last night she treated us to a lengthy work out of her 1990's pop hit, Mama Said (I still have the CD single from back then - you can enjoy this song by clicking on the musical link at the top of this post), the aforesaid Apparently Nothing and a tremendous version of the Deneice Williams hit Free, which brought to mind the much missed Minnie Riperton as Carleen effortlessly reached the song's super high notes. She also treated us to three songs from what she hopes will eventually be a musical based on the story of he grandparents, the first family members born free in the United States, their struggles, successes and enduring love. The influence of her pastor grandfather was especially clear in the third of the songs, a rip roaring gospel number which included Ms Anderson giving a virtuoso performance on tambourine. This is a project still in preparation - more soon please Carleen!
A word about the band. Tight throughout, there were especially outstanding performances from Al Cherry on electric guitar (on Free in particular) and Simon Lea on drums. And kudos to Carleen for being generous with her musicians - all of whom were showcased with a series of solos throughout the evening. During the encore she demonstrated her own talents by accompanying herself on piano, performing Don't Look Back in Anger. A great performance from a great vocalist that was over all to soon. Oh yes, and a very big "thanks" to my friend and neighbour Bev for inviting me!