''You're the last bohemian, in some little dive, the cat who ran out of lives.''
Upstairs in Ronnie's not that long ago, it was Jumoké Fashola at the microphone doing the introductions. And, unannounced, David McAlmont, sang 'Someone to Watch Over Me' getting up to sing at the jam.
McAlmont was famous in the Britpop years going back to the 1990s for his duo with Bernard Butler of Suede (the first ever Britpop band, lest we forget. I think they were even managed by one Ricky Gervais. What happened to him is not completely unclear).
Fast forward. Here McAlmont is with his first record this side of the advent of streaming and what a beauty it is.
Alex Webb, the songwriter-pianist known for his work with Cafe Society Swing and for championing singers such as China Moses before she was famous, is a great part of the double act.
Who does McAlmont sound like? Well he sounds like David McAlmont. I would play Carmen McRae Portrait of Carmen before putting this record on. And then after? Falling in Love is Wonderful by Jimmy Scott. Yes the mood needs setting.
Produced by bassist Andy Cleyndert this is an understated plus-strings intimate affair nonetheless, recorded in a couple of studios back in July.
The Last Bohemians (Lateralize) is released in November.
Pick of the songs, well that is not easy. There is a good choice of tasty numbers. The faster 'Speed of Darkness' perhaps top of the list early listens suggest. Or how about the bluesy 'I'm So Tired' that soars up into the stratosphere; although better maybe is the creamy croon of 'The Loneliest Night' that you could imagine decorating a Stephen Poliakoff film.
There is a certain retro appeal overall. But that is not the complete story because Webb and McAlmont manage to inhabit a jazz landscape that exists more in the best jazz clubs in Soho today than in the records you might put on at home. It is curious how romantic jazz musicians are still in this cynical time even when they are playing music that does not rely on melody. Good example listen to Archie Shepp croon, the father of fire music after all who can do both.
REM song 'Find the River' begun by what sounds like soprano saxophone introduces one of McAlmont's most sensuous renditions. There is a concision here and wealth on the album of songs, some 16 in all. 'Our Affair' has a sunny robustness to it grounded in hard bop, horns blaring and then a swinging rhythm.
Hear McAlmont and Webb live this autumn at the Hampstead Jazz Club, where they play Mayank Patel's north London neighbourhood club on 19 November. updated 13/11/19