LIANE Carroll is jazz’s answer to Berocca. Effervescent all night long. She is a marvellous walking, talking, breathing compendium of songs, all delivered with a panache and an earthiness to wipe away any thoughts of New Year blues. And to throw into the bargain, a mighty fine pianist.
Opening what is expected to be yet another year of thrilling live music at the magical 606 Club in London’s Chelsea – and not a spare seat in the house to be had – Carroll was on prime form as she weaved her way through a play list that embraced everything (and everyone) from Ray Charles, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Bessy Smith through to Hoagy Carmichael , Ella Fitzgerald and Tom Waits.
As if that was not enough to sate appetites, there was a bit of Lou Reed (Walk On The Wild Side), Cole Porter (Love For Sale), Nat King Cole (Almost Like Being In Love, a version of which appears on her album Seaside) and Laura Nyro (California Shoeshine Boys) thrown in for a good measure.
There were tributes to her departed mother (Shirley Horn’s Here’s To Life and Chet Baker’s I Get Along Without You) and to 606 owner Steve Rubie (very much alive) who takes the club into its sixth decade (dedication par excellence). At the end she was joined on stage by multi-talented Jay Rayner (on piano), Pat Gordon-Smith, Tracy Coleman, Esther Bennett (all on vocals) and Rubie (flute to the fore) in a rousing version of Centrepiece.
While Carroll’s song book is extensive, what stands her apart from the madding crowd is her inclusiveness. She’s naughty, a natural improviser, cheeky and occasionally (and amusingly) a little rude – especially to loving husband and bass guitarist Roger Carey, fresh from touring with Steeleye Span. As a result, you can’t help but love her. It’s as if you are watching her play from the front room of her home in Hastings. One moment, empathetic. The next, cheerily berating a few loose cannons in the 606’s bar for talking over her while she plays.
Although a night with Liane Carroll is rightly mostly all about her, Carey and drummer Russell Field (recently working with Midge Ure) were both on splendid form. They excelled on Simone’s Sinnerman and Day’s Secret Love while quietly exiting stage left and right whenever Carroll wanted to get mellow – delivering tender solo versions of If I Loved You (Carousel), Here’s To Life and I Get Along Without You Very Well. Soulful and occasionally spine-tinglingly so.
Carroll has been a key part of the UK’s jazz scene for more than 30 years. For those who missed out on this New Year treat, she’s appearing with Ian Shaw at Pizza Express Live in London’s Soho later this month. What a combination that will be.