Jazz Crusaders: Ronnie Scott’s

Time certainly flies by. About 40 years ago, on a visit to London, I discovered Dobell’s record shop on Charing Cross Road and bought two jazz albums. At that stage I was starting out and wasn’t digging back into the past. They were both contemporary releases and very much at the soul end of the spectrum. Hollywood by The Crusaders was one of my purchases and I enjoyed it very much. I still do.

Over the years I have probably had countless opportunities to see The Crusaders in various incarnations. One way or another it never happened and it was only on Thursday night that I saw them for the first time.

It would be extremely cheeky of me to expect the full classic lineup with Wilton Felder and Joe Sample in the intimate luxury of Ronnie Scott’s, so I was happy to settle for Wayne Henderson’s excellent touring band.

They were funky, very funky! They even made second song, Three Blind Mice sound funky!

Maybe it was because they were in the UK that they played a very sensitive version of Eleanor Rigby which showcased Brian Price on guitar. He’s a Londoner- from London, Canada and plays with a delicate touch, getting right down the fretboard and spinning an intricate solo.

Next we were told there was a special treat. Polly Gibbons, chanteuse with the support band was brought back to perform Street Life. She’s a good singer with a great vocal range and I got the idea that even Wayne Henderson, who must have played this thousands of times, thought that she brought something fresh to it. Well done Polly.

The hits continued with Always There, which always makes me think of an imagined night in an Essex soul mine (being honest imagined ones are the only Essex soul nights I’ve ever been to. They are based on poorly recalled but seemingly legendary depictions of The Goldmine in Canvey Island from those Blues and Soul magazines I used to read as a teenager. Perhaps those are the best ones though). This featured a masterful bass solo from Derek Murdoch.

Finally, it was time for Way Back Home aka ‘The Anthem’. There’s a great version of this on an earlier post on this site- make sure you take a look. This was the track that got me into jazz in the first place. I loved the Junior Walker covers (both the vocal and the instrumental) and it was seeing a version by the composer on Hollywood that led me to part with my two quid- or whatever the album cost. There are some tracks that dredge up deep and sweet feelings- not necessarily linked to finite memories and this is one that does it for me. A great tune.

Regulars will know about my dislike of bitter critical remarks in the style of Leonard Feather. As an ex-saxophonist, albeit one who couldn’t really blow his own way out of a paper bag, I am wary of criticising pro-players. I know what I like though. That is why my personal jury remains out on Paul Russo. However, he is a brave player who performed very expressively and freely at times and who wasn’t afraid of blowing a soprano sax in public, which few do with much credit. I will listen out for more from him.

Drummer Tony Ward was the baby of the band but was absolutely solid and the aptly named Bill Steinway was superb on keyboards.

All in all, another great night at Ronnie Scott’s: which is an essential stop if you enjoy music (although if you are entertaining on the company credit card and just want to chat to your clients, please go elsewhere on the nights I’m in).

I’m starting to rate gigs from here on and this one gets a strong 7/10. Thanks Wayne!

I’m aware that I’ve veered towards soul jazz in these early postings but I’ll not be neglecting other strands. So please come back often and leave your comments. If I don’t like what you have to say, I’ll set the monstrous reincarnation of Leonard Feather loose on you.

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