The Coalminers, The Spice of Life, Soho, EFG London Jazz Festival

Around 11 years, the band’s guitarist Rob Updegraff told marlbank before the gig, and clearly they have built up a following as the Spice was as full as I’ve ever seen it. The club’s promoter Paul Pace introduced the band who began instrumentally …

Published: 24 Nov 2019. Updated: 12 months.

Around 11 years, the band’s guitarist Rob Updegraff told marlbank before the gig, and clearly they have built up a following as the Spice was as full as I’ve ever seen it. The club’s promoter Paul Pace introduced the band who began instrumentally before vocalists Tommy Hare and Sumudu joined. Sumudu confined herself to tambourine initially and as the performance continued she and Hare each took songs to feature on while they also with saxophonist Ben Somers added did three-part harmony and that was a significant part of the overall sound.

Standouts were Sumudu’s take on ‘Break a Way’ synonymous with Irma Thomas and also ‘It’s Raining’.

The band kept the perennially popular Earl King tune synonymous with Professor Longhair ‘Big Chief’ towards the end and the two sets were packed with some great choices, mainly with a New Orleans, Dr John, Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint-type core.

The Zigaboo Modeliste-inspired drummer Pat Levett leads the band (taking its name from the Lee Dorsey associated Allen Toussaint song ‘Working in the Coal Mine’) and soloed early on in a chromatic harmonica feature. Pianist Arthur Lea playing an upright with a tiny Yamaha synth for organ effects on top also added some backing vocals and his comping had a bouncy alert quality throughout. Bass guitarist Spencer Brown unspectacular but steady as well as the aforementioned Updegraff completed the line-up, the guitarist delivering some well aimed bluesy bursts.

A fun and enjoyable show, the moustachioed neckerchief-wearing extremely tall Hare who has a grizzly voice that lands between Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker was hilarious at times in his theatricality getting into the crowd later for a bit of a walkabout even. The strikingly diminutive Sumudu by contrast standing next to Hare was tremendous. I’ve seen her at Hideaway in Streatham during a singers night oh nearly a decade ago when she blew everyone else away and in more recent years she has been a backing singer/guitarist along with Dana Masters for Van Morrison although I think she is no longer in the band at least currently. (Check Sumudu and Dana out on the stirring ‘Transformation’.)

Stephen Graham

Pic. marlbank

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2019 Highlight: Blue Brass feat. David Murray, Vortex, EFG London Jazz Festival

David Murray is one of the few living saxophonists who deserve the accolade ''a great''. This is not news. What is news is that going on the second house last night at Oliver Weindling’s Vortex jazz club in Dalston, Murray is still playing at the …

Published: 23 Nov 2019. Updated: 12 months.

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David Murray is one of the few living saxophonists who deserve the accolade ''a great''. This is not news.

What is news is that going on the second house last night at Oliver Weindling’s Vortex jazz club in Dalston, Murray is still playing at the top of his game, strong and expressive in the volatile altissimo part of the upper register of the tenor saxophone and nimble and raw further down as he went for the bigger statement and explored the saxophone in all its possibilities.

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David Murray above with the painter Aurelie Freoua at the Vortex. pic. marlbank

At speed he makes complete sense and he switched between ferociously avant and into the mainstream best of all on 'In a Sentimental Mood' in all its emotional grandeur and the passionate 'Afro Blue' towards the latter part of the set.

The final piece went back to intimations of early jazz on 'Down by the Riverside' and the rhythm section were a stalwart and steady support for Murray who is now living back in New York.

Austrian band leader trombonist Paul Zauner goes back decades with David Murray and in Blue Brass bassist Wolfram Derschmidt and drummer Dusan Novakov completed the line-up.

Lead photograph: Roger Thomas