Club focus: The Spice of Life

The room's sightlines are a factor to the Spice of Life, a basement room under a pub in Soho, close to Cambridge Circus and the Charing Cross Road, that is especially likeable. Do they matter? Yes, in some places like Ronnie's they come at a …

Published: 1 Dec 2021. Updated: 57 days.

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The room's sightlines are a factor to the Spice of Life, a basement room under a pub in Soho, close to Cambridge Circus and the Charing Cross Road, that is especially likeable. Do they matter? Yes, in some places like Ronnie's they come at a premium. When they are snuck in as standard that's even better. The place which puts on jazz a few times each week also sports the best neon stage-signage of any London club. It's a spot that also sounds very lived-in again the nearby Ronnie's springs to mind rather than new and sticky as fresh paint or worse clinical and as if a lot of music has been played here over the years. And a lot has. There's a surplus of character here and a certain bustle in the aura probably because it is located in an historic entertainment district. Inexpensive to get in, the bands however aren't always top quality here although all heard in the place over the years have been very decent. And you often get lucky having a punt at some band or other that may not have seemed the likeliest in the past but prove the mustard. Certainly it's also a good place to check out newcomers making their first steps on the live scene. Unusually the spot runs a gig on Monday lunchtimes tending to the swinging mainstream and even more daddio verging even positively antediluvian tradwise. Coming up next is the Simon Woolf Quintet on 6 December. Greg Abate above left at the Spice last month. Photo: marlbank. Info

Tags: Club, scenes, focus

Miquel Álvarez, La Base (EP), Own label ***

With the added flamenco-like hand-claps on the opener there is a distinctly Spanish flavour added in the mix. Yet for repertoire and in the detailed hard bop lapidary lines from altoist Perico Sambeat especially, one of Europe's greatest players …

Published: 1 Dec 2021. Updated: 57 days.

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With the added flamenco-like hand-claps on the opener there is a distinctly Spanish flavour added in the mix. Yet for repertoire and in the detailed hard bop lapidary lines from altoist Perico Sambeat especially, one of Europe's greatest players for many years who used to play regularly at Ronnie Scott's going back to Pete King's time in the club, it does not stray too far from US jazz with one notable detour. The record is actually led by bassist Miquel Álvarez who provides a stately reverberant underpinning throughout. Flavoured with the trumpet playing of Will Mallard who comes into his own on classic Kenny Dorham opener 'Lotus Blossom' (also known as 'Asiatic Raes' to distinguish it better from the very different Billy Strayhorn classic of the same name) La Base is really only an EP given the lengths of the five pieces but there's plenty to get stuck in to here. Indulge yourself especially in the band's likeable version of Horace Silver's 'The Jody Grind' and its perennially feelgoodness.

Covering Charles Trenet 1940s song 'I Wish You Love' (eg 'Que reste-t-il de nos amours?') first covered in the 1940s in the silky croon of Roland Gerbeau is the detour referred to above and big bass feature, lovable of course, it says it on the tin, but the least essential of the tracks. SG