GoGo Penguin, Royal Albert Hall, London

From 2018. The gig turned out to be a spectacular affair. Spot lights strafed the stage as a brutal bar of horizontal glare acted as a frame behind the band. Set standouts included the pensive ‘Prayer’, rippling patterns of ‘Bardo’ during which …

Published: 13 Nov 2019. Updated: 4 months.

From 2018. The gig turned out to be a spectacular affair. Spot lights strafed the stage as a brutal bar of horizontal glare acted as a frame behind the band. Set standouts included the pensive ‘Prayer’, rippling patterns of ‘Bardo’ during which Turner’s frantic drum ’n’ bass-like scampering reached a frenzy of engagement, the rustling atavism of ‘A Hundred Moons’, and ravey Davey ‘Reactor’ from current Blue Note album A Humdrum Star and ‘Ocean in a Drop’ from the Live at Abbey Road EP. Double bassist Nick Blacka’s matador-like machismo thrived on a compelling Miroslav Vitouš-recalling command of the instrument stripped back to an essence, Blacka opening his account at the beginning of the evening with a tender arco ostinato that seared into the arteries of the vast hall. As for Chris Illingworth on piano always an introvert, a sense of hush he swaps for the detailed sweep of release and a dream of musical escape that eclipses even what his heroes e.s.t achieved given the heights the band have now conquered in such a vast UK concert hall space that he vividly explores.

First support was provided by the head bobbing duo Sunda Arc (aka the keyboard/electronics of Nick Smart and soprano sax/bass clarinet/electronics of Jordan Smart from Mammal Hands). In main support in a second slot was assured soul singer Andreya Triana wearing a bright pink trench coat, jumpsuit and statement necklace whose set included current single ‘Woman’ and a switch on her final number to strap on a bass guitar. Kerstan Mackness, GoGo Penguin manager pictured above left, with Rob Turner, the Mancunian trio’s drummer, pictured outside the Royal Albert Hall taken post-soundcheck shortly before the jazz-electronica band’s biggest UK gig.

Tags: Live reviews

Juliet Kelly, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

From 2015. Part erudite book group, part unselfconscious singalong, singer Juliet Kelly launched Spellbound Stories, her new literary-themed album here at the Soho club. Fronting her trio from the album, that’s pianist/keyboardist Nick Ramm, double …

Published: 13 Nov 2019. Updated: 7 months.

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From 2015. Part erudite book group, part unselfconscious singalong, singer Juliet Kelly launched Spellbound Stories, her new literary-themed album here at the Soho club.

Fronting her trio from the album, that’s pianist/keyboardist Nick Ramm, double bassist Oli Hayhurst and the extravagantly bearded drummer Eddie Hick, who first came up via the South Trio and used to be the drummer in Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble, Kelly was bubbly and on form, introducing each song by supplying the relevant connection to each book, mainly critical faves (50 Shades of Grey did not make the cut). She quizzed audience members on whether they had read the book… or not, and unlike real book groups the attentive audience didn’t begin to chat among themselves ignoring the book preferring to swerve off to talk about pressing issues like scandalous house prices, litter, and how crap their partners might or might not happen to be.

There were certain songs here that impressed more than the album, and with the help of a light use of electronics from both Kelly, altering the timbre of her voice sometimes via the use of an iPad-controlled gizmo (she looked down a little too much at it) and the odd Space Invaders-type effect from Ramm’s plentiful supply of perky keyboard samples, there was a surprising amount of vocals experimentation particularly on the Toni Morrison-inspired song ‘Ghosts’ with its eerie worldless vocalisations and highly effective atmosphere.

There was a fair amount of improvisation from the singer and interplay with the band on the largely original material of Kelly’s, Ramm’s darting keyboard runs injecting a certain amount of retro electro exotica that tapped acid jazz and hinted even at reggae, his more bravura runs switching to the Pizza’s fine Steinway a leap into the dark that kept us guessing aided by Hayhurst’s deftly unobtrusive sense of pulse. The Color Purple-inspired ‘Forbidden Fruit’ was one of the evening’s highlights for me, again it’s good on the album, while there was even more electronic trickery with pitch bends and distortion on ‘Magic and Mystery’, different, but no less effective, than the Spellbound Stories version, which featured the addition of a tabla player.

Kelly kept the album’s only cover, a version of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, to the end and it really worked well, the singer peeling away the layers of the song to reveal its intimacy although perhaps it could have been introduced at the beginning of the second set as it’s not typical encore fare. As on the album ‘Little Things,’ which got the audience singing along earlier after a little coaxing from Juliet, was appealing, and maybe it will become her signature song in time. Who knows. But this, in any case, was a very vivacious performance by an imaginative singer-songwriter moving into her prime who takes calculated risks and deserves to be better known. SG

Juliet Kelly, above, at the Pizza Express Jazz Club as she sang songs from Spellbound Stories. Nick Ramm is just visible on piano