Lady Blackbird, 100 Club

Making her London debut in front of a very full mask-wearing 100 Club audience deep below Oxford Street, Los Angeles-based singer Lady Blackbird Marley Munroe as she was before the revelation of her empathy with Nina Simone song 'Blackbird' birthed …

Published: 26 Aug 2021. Updated: 22 days.

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Making her London debut in front of a very full mask-wearing 100 Club audience deep below Oxford Street, Los Angeles-based singer Lady Blackbird Marley Munroe as she was before the revelation of her empathy with Nina Simone song 'Blackbird' birthed the singer's new stage name. This was simply fantastic.

How to describe her voice? You can hear a little of Tina Turner in her sound perhaps washed down with the swagger of Bettye LaVette and a touch or two of Amy Winehouse. Sam Beste who played with Amy was on Wurlitzer, with on electric guitar Chris Seefried producer of Black Acid Soul musically directing the whole project and from which this performance was largely based. Anthony Braxton and Pulled by Magnets bassist Neil Charles (here on bass guitar) and Dan See (known for his work with Lianne La Havas) on drums completed the band. A tribute in the first encore to the late Charlie Watts with the Glimmer twins' Beggars Banquet song 'Salt of the Earth' was fitting, Blackbird hoisting a glass aloft.

Backstage

Everything worked. Picking the highlights is difficult. 'Blackbird' itself was a real moment. As too, drawing on Bill Evans' 'Peace Piece', was the luminous Blackbird-Seefried song 'Fix It'. 'Five Feet Tall' was poignant and thought-provoking. Flamboyant on stage Lady Blackbird can tell a story and yet the ace costumery did not distract. There is a lot of power in Lady B's voice and also the skill to expose intimate moments, the ache and the heartbreak of it all that is just as inspiring.

Lady Blackbird, top left at the 100 Club with Chris Seefried (main photo and in their dressing room earlier) and with bass guitarist Neil Charles. In the audio above you will also hear the voice of photographer Christine Solomon where there's interesting discussion of songs that could have made the album, for instance Curtis Mayfield's 'So in Love' and Tony Joe White's 'Did Somebody Make a Fool Out of You?' Seefried also mentions playing with Pokey LaFarge with some of the players on Black Acid Soul. Lady B at the crux of it all discusses what Nina Simone means most to her.

Review, pics, and interview: Stephen Graham

Tags: Top gigs in 2021

Live: George Crowley, Rob Luft, Tim Giles, Vortex

Dipping into the second set saxist George Crowley, a scenester back in the day in Kentish Town at the Oxford Tavern and excellent on the springtime's Crisis and Opportunity, here with guitar hero Rob Luft, who played so well with Byron Wallen last …

Published: 25 Aug 2021. Updated: 21 days.

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Dipping into the second set saxist George Crowley, a scenester back in the day in Kentish Town at the Oxford Tavern and excellent on the springtime's Crisis and Opportunity, here with guitar hero Rob Luft, who played so well with Byron Wallen last year over in the Pizza in Holborn before the Pandemic struck and Tim Giles (he of the Hungry Ants mentored by the great Iain ''All Men Amen'' Ballamy) now a grown-up, hirsute, chap. Thankfully for the hardcore pensioner fan demographic and others prices have come down a little since last month so more should filter back with any luck given their reluctance to venture forth over Covid stuff and gigs that are frankly too pricey, regulars tell me. Anyway this was a good one, Crowley sounded very Andy Sheppard-like (a huge compliment if you're wondering) although his touch on electronics didn't always work. He told us that he hadn't played with Luft and Giles as a threesome since 2019 so that made this special. What we got was a long dreamy start and Luft added atmospheric colour and it took oh 15 minutes or so to get to a juncture.

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Luft was Gábor Szabó-like at times (again a very good thing) and came into his own when he developed his bass, lower string, lines so it was like a baritone guitar effect and he became his own bassist. The evening began with 'Intro' in a seque then a touch of Paul Motian and a nod to Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman among other input. Crowley's shaggy dog story tribute to dear old 'Oscar' worked well as did getting his bile together on the anti-Brexit number, I do like it when jazzers get properly political (but don't confess that they are Tories and get the Union Jack tea towels out as some hint at occasionally when going all spang-a-lang down the new Wetherspoon's flagship the Rommel and Monty). Richard Turner homage 'Tea Leaf' was a great way to finish.

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Giles was best when he juggled stick and mallet and when he steered the band away from their comfort zone and went a bit funky. This splendid gig also marked club inspiration and guiding light Oliver Weindling's return to Blighty after some heavy festival-going over the last few months in Italy, Austria and Slovakia, and had excellent sound thanks to a newcomer engineer who hopefully returns soon as the balance and life in the room was excellent throughout.

George Crowley and Rob Luft, top; and with Tim Giles above