Monday 2 June 2014

Polly Gibbons Quartet - Jazz at JW3

Polly Gibbons played two excellent sets earlier this evening at JW3 on London's Finchley Road. Elegant with hair up, hooped earrings, sophisticated black and white stripes and impossibly high healed silver shoes her deep, slightly rough edged voice was ideally suited to this intimate venue. 

Her choice of material for the evening included straight forward jazz standards as well as more bluesy numbers. Scorching hot on the blues, she treated us to (I'd rather drink) Muddy Waters and Basin Street Blues interspersed with extremely cool renditions of Almost Like Being In Love, Comes LoveBye Bye Blackbird (brilliant bass from Mark Lewandowski) and the jazz standard ballad  For All We Know.  Not only can Ms Gibbons sing, she also recognises the best versions of these standards - citing Aretha Franklin's classic version of Muddy Waters and Ella's recording of Basin Street Blues as her favourites. Amen.  The talented Ms Barber also writes and performed a couple of her own compositions - My Own Company and Midnight Prayer co-penned with tonight's pianist and Ronnie Scott's musical director - James Pearson. Both songs feature on her album My Own Company which is now in my possession!

This rising star of British jazz was accompanied by some tight playing from the afore mentioned James Pearson on piano, Mark Lewandowski on bass and Ian Thomas on drums. The trio opened each set before being joined on stage by Polly - Falling in Love With Love for the first set and Lullaby of Birdland for the second - giving both pieces good long workouts showcasing each of the musicians.

Polly Gibbons is a rising star of British jazz, has been nominated for a British jazz award and performed several times with the much loved Ian Shaw. She cites Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone as influences, reinforcing that bluesy feel to her singing. A great evening and a performer I'd very much like to hear again.

Jazz at JW3 on the first Sunday of every month is becoming a bit of a must for London jazz fans. The new Jewish community centre for London on Finchley Road is a great venue with a programme that includes theatre, cinema, classes in a range of subjects, activities for children and families and of course music! No kidding, the programme is so interesting, this is a venue I check alongside the South Bank and the Barbican when looking for somewhere to go. Although the main audience for JW3 is London's Jewish community - everyone is welcome and the crowd is often surprisingly diverse. Just to add to the experience, JW3 also has a great cafe and restaurant - Zest where you can dine before or after performances - but be careful to book for the restaurant wing - it's very popular. Oh and by the way Zest, the sweet potato gnocchi was spot on!

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