POLLY Gibbons has been making a big impression on the jazz scene for the past decade and more. Albums have been acclaimed – none more so than Is It Me? (2017) – and she has successfully opened shows for the likes of George Benson, Gladys Knight and Bozz Scaggs.
What Gibbons possesses – and drives her ever forward – is a desire to experiment and a raging thirst for knowledge, a point proved on Sunday night (July 21) when she performed Randy Crawford’s 1979 album Raw Silk, an LP riven with the bitterness and trauma resulting from broken relationships. Melancholic one moment, angry the next. An album best listened to late at night with a large brandy by your side, the lights out and a candle burning in the background. It cuts to the soul.
Gibbons, with her big and sultry voice, did mighty justice to Crawford’s work, helped in no small part by the support of the wonderful Small World Band, led with panache by Bobby Quigley on guitar – and all given a little glitter by Pete Eckford’s endless array of percussion instruments. Completing the band were a tremendous Richard Bailey on drums, Chris Dodd on bass and Ros Stanley on keys.
Although this was a first for Gibbons and the Small World Band, it worked a treat with Gibbons seamlessly moving from the tenderness of Declaration Of Love, the bitterness of I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me – through to the upbeat tempo of I Got Myself A Happy Song.
Her voice soared on Someone To Believe In, Where There Was Darkness and the album’s finale Blue Mood (with Quigley excelling). One moment, the hope of Love Is Like A Newborn Child (sprinkled with particles of Eckford’s magical percussion dust), the next the hurt of I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me – ‘I can’t be your friend if this is the end.’ And if there was more bitterness required, Just To Keep You Satisfied topped it all up quite nicely – ‘it’s time for us to say farewell.’
Having performed Crawford’s 40-year-old album, Gibbons did not say farewell. Far from it. After a short break, she stylishly delivered a number of Nina Simone classics (Do I Move You and I’ve Put a Spell On You) and a powerful version of Dionne Warwick classic Walk On By. Songs interspersed by a number of Small World Band instrumentals, showcasing among others the music of Charlie Hunter.
A good Sunday night at the friendly 606 Club in London’s Chelsea, confirming Gibbons’ endless and boundless talent and Small World Band’s dedication to making good music.