TOM Seals always had a craving ambition to make it big as a musician.
At age 10, he decided he wanted to play on the same stage as Jools Holland. Box ticked. On Sunday (July 21), he ticked off another box on his boyhood wish-list when he made his debut in the main room at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.
And what a thrilling entrance he made as he entertained a sold-out house with his breath-taking mastery of the piano, cool vocals and big juicy doses of wit – all intertwined with lots of self-deprecation and musical improvisation. Boogie-Woogie on acid. Not bad for a 24-year-old fat boy from Crewe, and a ginger one at that (his words, not mine).
There is no doubt that Seals was born to entertain. No one, especially band members, knows where he is heading next. He doesn’t believe in playlists and keeps all his musicians firmly on their toes, suddenly and sometimes unexpectantly asking them to perform brief solos. It is fun and great to watch, but no doubt nerve wracking for band members to experience, although they seemed to enjoy it all judging by the smiles on their faces.
Seals’ repertoire is far and wide, embracing Billy Joel covers (the exquisite She’s Always A Woman and New York State Of Mind), Gregory Porter’s Hey Laura, a rip-roaring version of Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely (with guest violinist Jakub Trasak), new recordings Invisible and Black & Gold (coming out soon on EP) – and a joyous cover of Jamie Cullen’s These Are The Days, infused with waves of music. Climatic, crescendo reaching.
There was plenty more – Frank Sinatra’s The Lady Is A Tramp (with Bjorn Woodhall excelling on guitar), Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, an upbeat Sweet Home Chicago, and a quite brilliant When You Get Back.
While it’s very much Tom Seals’ show, he does allow his musicians to express themselves, even if they are brought in at the last moment because of illness (saxophonist Alexander Bone). Seals’ backbone is bass Nick Bayes although the guitar work of Woodhall is at times near genius. Jack Tinker on trumpet, Matt Carter on Hammond organ and Joel Barford on drums (subject to much loving ridicule from Seals) complete the band. An exciting and eclectic mix of experience and youth.
Seals’ musical talent is exceptional. A fact confirmed by his popularity – one day performing in Alaska, a few days later in Las Vegas and a trip to Italy in between. What makes him special is his inclusiveness and warmth – his ability to connect to an audience. Nigel Kennedy like. His performance, quite rightly, received a standing ovation.
Outside Ronnie Scott’s, someone said that Tom Seals was musically a dead ringer for Jools Holland, but with one noticeable difference. Seals can sing.
A great future awaits for this sublime ginger (downstairs as well as upstairs – his words) performer. Catch him if you can. He’ll make your night or day depending on when you see him. He made mine (day).