The fabulous Elaine Delmar took the stage to applause last night at JW3, gave a big smile and treated the full house to two excellent sets of jazz standards taking us on a tour of some of the best songs ever written.
Supremely elegant in black layered gown and diamond jewellery and ably supported by the Brian Dee quartet the first set included Jobim's No More Blues, Gershwin's There's A Boat That's Leaving Soon and I Love's You Porgy, and rousing, swinging versions of Cole Porter's I've Got You Under My Skin and It's Alright With Me. Ms. Delmar's voice is perfectly suited to these classics - ranging from silk to velvet and if necessary gravel, reminding me more than a little bit of the late Carmen Mcrae and a touch of Sarah Vaughan especially on those lovely deep velvety notes. Now that's praise. And that wasn't all. She gave us a haunting version of Michel Legrand's Windmills of Your Mind, Paul Williams' I Won't Last a Day (made famous by the Carpenters) and Honeysuckle Rose from the pen of Fats Waller. The latter song has a story attached to it. Elaine performed it on stage in the 1970's in the London version of stage show Bubbling Brown Sugar and not only that, Miquel Brown one of the other stars of that show was in the audience. Some of us remember her as a disco artist in the 1980's!
The second set was equally impressive with a great bossa nova version of Porter's Begin the Beguine, Rogers and Hart's Little Girl Blue and Who Knows Where or When before Edith Piaf's Hymn d'amour. The jazz audience at JW3 is informed and discerning, but Elaine Delmar had them in the palm of her hand, even managing a little audience participation to Fats Waller's Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter with the crowd more than happy to sing along. If that was a risk so was doing Summer Time. Not because she can't sing it beautifully but because it's perhaps a little overdone. However, performing it to only the accompaniment of Simon Thorpe on bass was a stroke of genius. It was a tense, intimate performance. Just great. Thorpe shone on Summer Time whilst quartet leader Brian Dee on piano and Jim Mullen on guitar were both excellent, providing some very cool support to Elaine and giving us some cracking' solos particularly on the more bossa nova influenced numbers. Some of remember Mr. Mullen from playing with the Average White Band in the 1970's and later in the jazz-funk outfit Morrissey-Mullen. Those were the days.
The show finished with a good workout of another Porter song - Let's Do It and that closed another great evening of jazz at JW3. As well as giving a great vocal performance, Ms. Delmar came out between sets to talk to the audience and to sign CD's…including mine! She was also very engaging on stage, knowledgable about the songs and the songwriters and sharing a few memories from days gone by, including performing nearby in the 1950's at a place called the El Toro club. If any readers have memories of the El Toro please share them in the comments box. A quick google reveals that Barbara Windsor performed there in the late 50's. Cor blimey. And by the way, another google shows that Elaine Delmar is in her early 70's (I hope she doesn't mind my saying so if she ever reads this). She looks a whole lot younger than that and sounds better than ever.
Elaine Delmar - they don't make them like her anymore. Thanks JW3.