SITUATED just the thickness of a pork chop away from the famous Smithfield Market in central London, a new jazz club has emerged. A venue that I would urge you to visit if you like your jazz in intimate surroundings. It’s cool. Damned cool.
Lying between the meat market and the Barbican Centre, the Piano Smithfield opened this month. It’s cosy, it’s welcoming, it’s dark, and you can indulge in a cocktail fest if you so desire. It’s rather fun to hear cocktails bring vigorously mixed while the music plays. Pizzas – minimum 12 inches – can also be ordered if hunger pains kick in.
If the first show is anything to go by, Piano Smithfield has a bright future ahead of it. A packed audience sat in awe as James Hudson – a jazz singer whose star is very much in the ascendancy – belted out a posse of Nat King Cole songs. For the most part, delicious love songs – deliciously delivered – that were hits for the great man in the 1950s and 1960s. Great music never ages.
Tall and dapper, Hudson has a commanding presence on stage. But it’s his voice that demands attention. It’s as crystal clear as ice and does full justice to the string of songs that made Nat King Cole a living legend despite dying at the tender age of 45. Uncomplicated, yes, but Hudson Is magical on the ear. Nat would be proud of the young songster who is an alumni of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Autumn Leaves – a glorious love song – was as beautiful as Straighten Up And Fly Right (a song about a monkey and buzzard) was quirky. Unforgettable was simply unforgettable (tenderly delivered) while Mona Lisa was rapturously received. Let There Be Love was sung from the heart – and pulled massively at heart strings. Tears formed even if they did not drop. Passions surged.
A mash up of two songs – Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps and Nature Boy – was delightfully delivered. It was then followed by an epic version of When I Fall In Love. There was also a track from his debut album Tomorrow – It Had To Be You – which confirms Hudson’s love of the timeless jazz standards of The Great American Songbook.
While it was Hudson’s night – Hudson’s homage to Nat – it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly without the sublime Nick Fitch on guitar and Rob Barron on piano.
With Hit That Jive providing an upbeat finale, this was a night that put Piano Smithfield firmly on the London jazz map.
With Hudson the first of a number of performers to appear at this new jazz venue in the coming weeks (the magnificent and unmissable Liane Carroll is up next on October 20), it’s a venue that is worth checking out. Others performing are Joanna Eden (sold out), Chris Ingham and Georgina Jackson. Hats off to JBGB Events for its role in putting together such a strong and compelling show list.
Hudson? Yes, unforgettable. And by the way, he is back at the club on November 16 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival (Swinging Songs From Broadway). Put it in the diary.
James Hudson’s next London Jazz Festival show is at Piano Smithfield on Nov 16th James Hudson – Swinging Songs from Broadway – JBGB Events