SUNDAY nights are sometimes gentle affairs at the 606 Club in London’s Chelsea. A meal, a bottle of wine (between two if you are lucky enough to have a partner) and some good music before the start of the week’s ardours.
But occasionally, Sunday night at 606 – a basement jazz club on the Lots Road – turns into something special, a little extra special. A night more in tune with the beginning rather the end of the weekend. Dancing rather than sitting. Singing along rather than observing in silence, fearful of incurring the wrath of owner Steve Rubie (a legend).
This is exactly what happened when Noel McCalla and Derek Nash (saxophones in tow) rocked up at 606 to pay homage to the breath-taking music of Stevie Wonder. Boy, did they deliver. By the end of the night (9 September), the audience (not necessarily in the first flush of youth) were up on their feet as one as McCalla belted out a roaring version of My Cherie Amour. Even Rubie was seen to do a little jig or three.
As Nash, a livewire on stage, was keen to point out from the start, this was no tribute band like gig. It was a night to hear some reinterpretations of Stevie Wonder’s vast bank of work – 23 studio albums and a lot more besides. On stage with him and McCalla were a bunch of top drawer musicians – Neil Angilley on keyboards, Jonathan Noyce on bass, Nic France on drums and special guest Tim Cansfield on acoustic guitar.
To get the audience in the mood – and groove – McCalla and Nash began by reeling out some classic Wonder hits. Signed, Sealed, Delivered; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life; and Sir Duke (They Can Feel It All Over).
But it is when Nash delved deeper into Wonder’s back book that the real fun began – playing tracks from Innervisions (Wonder’s 18th album), Another Star (used by the BBC for its World Cup coverage in 2014), For Your Love (taken from album Conversation Pieces) and a rip roaring version of Chaka Khan’s Tell Me Something Good (Wonder gave the song to her). At this point McCalla’s vocals climbed another level as they did on Higher Ground.
Revived by a short break, they launched into Jermaine Jackson’s Let’s Get Serious (a song Wonder wrote) with Cansfield (again) excelling. Nash’s sax on Isn’t She Lovely was sublime (and spine tingling) as was Angilley’s keyboards on Don’t You Worry About A Thing – a song that prompted the audience into spontaneous dancing. All shapes, all sizes and all ages.
Master Blaster was the opportunity for the under-stated Noyce to display his prowess on bass guitar. Superstition and My Cherie Amour brought the evening to a shuddering climax.
Nash is a masterful performer whose enthusiasm is infectious – spreading throughout the band and into the audience. He loves his saxophone (think Gilad Atzmon, think Steve Norman) and he loves being on stage.
McCalla’s voice does justice to Wonder, occasionally leaving himself exhausted as a result of the emotion he poured into some of the songs.
With superb musicians around them, this was a night that will remain long in the memory.
‘Tell me something good.
Tell me that you like it, yeah.’
Well Mr Nash, I like it.
For those who would like to be reminded of Stevie Wonder’s brilliance, Nash et al return to 606 on Sunday November 18. They are also appearing at Pizza Express Live Holborn on October 3.
Don’t forget your dancing shoes.