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Jazz fusion as venues team up for gigs

Jazz Cafe to host five nights of ‘Ronnie Scott’s Presents’, featuring acts such as the Brand New Heavies, Zara McFarlane and Natalie Williams’ Soul Family

13 December, 2018 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Brand New Heavies are set to play at the Jazz Cafe on December 19 and 20

TWO giants of the London jazz scene have teamed up for a very special series of gigs this month.

Starting on Sunday, Jazz Cafe hosts five nights of Ronnie Scott’s Presents… running for five nights next week. Between December 16 and Thursday (December 20), the crossover brings a taste of Ronnie Scott’s to Camden where fans of the legendary Soho club’s picks will have the opportunity to take in the classic sounds while making the most of the Jazz Café’s dance floor.

Nick Lewis, head of music and promotions at Ronnie Scott’s, said: “We started doing external promotions at Ronnie Scott’s about two-and-a-half years ago because we’re full all the time, which is a nice problem to have, but with our rents going up all the time we were looking for ways to expand and get our brand out there more. So I suggested to the owners that we should get out there, and Jazz Café was the first venue that came to mind being a jazz-related venue which has the advantage of having a dance floor.”

In selecting acts, he says, he always takes the approach of asking “which are some of our favourite artists and which would be better in nightclub/dance environment?”.

Nick added: “We do it for fun, it’s something else to do at Christmas, we like the team down at the Jazz Café.”

This year’s series has attracted a selection of Jazz Café’s favourites including long-time residents Natalie Williams and Laurence Cottle, and acid-jazz heavyweights the Brand New Heavies. First on the line-up on Sunday (December 16) is influential jazz vocalist Zara McFarlane who is joined by Binker Golding (tenor sax), Pete Edwards (piano), Max Luthert (bass), and Sam Jones (drums).

Zara McFarlane. Photo Ben Ridolfi

Nick said: “Zara’s a very hip singer signed to Brownswood, Gilles Petersen’s label. She’s a Jazz FM award winner, has won various other awards and is the foremost black British jazz singer in this country. Her records are very in tune with her Jamaican identity and are a mix of Caribbean, jazz, reggae and soul. Her band is full of the young big things in jazz.”

Zara is supported by Invariance.

“They are one of the bands that are being talked about in this new wave of jazz at the moment,” said Nick.

Mobo-nominated soul-jazz singer Natalie Williams’ Soul Family take over on Monday, December 17 with a line-up comprising some of the best R&B, soul and jazz musicians on the UK scene.

“Natalie’s fans will be able to come down and dance in a different nightclub environment rather than a jazz club,” said Nick.

“She will be doing more original material which is quiet neo-soul. We do a monthly residency with Natalie, we’ve been doing these for 12 years, they don’t happen anymore, we’re just so in awe of Natalie and what she brings to the place, she does a great job introducing people to the venue then they can delve straight into the more jazz stuff we do.”

Tower of Power

Natalie will be followed on December 18 by another Ronnie Scott’s regular, Laurence Cottle and his big band, for Soul Vaccination! 50 Years of Tower of Power.

“There will be 15 or 16 people on that stage. It’s going to be tough but we’re leaving that to the tech guys,” said Nick.

“It will really be a wall of sound, a physical assault. They’ll be playing music of legendary soul-funk band Tower of Power, who’ll be 50 years going this year. Laurence Cottle, the band leader, is probably the foremost virtuoso in bass guitar in jazz in the UK, we’re very lucky to have him leading it. We had him earlier this year and sold out straight away and I thought, I need him on a dance floor.”

Then, to close the series, acid jazz pioneers The Brand New Heavies play two dates (December 19 and 20), returning to Jazz Cafe where they originally played back in the day.

“They are synonymous with Jazz Cafe. When Jazz Cafe started you went there to see Incognito, Jamiroquai, The Brand New Heavies, it’s a match made in heaven for old-school Jazz Café fans,” said Nick.

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