WHAT a super music venue The Boulevard is, situated in the beating heart of London’s Soho.
Full of glass and towering stairs, it is becoming a come-to place for lovers of jazz. Moody. Groovy.
The fact that it is housed in an old Paul Raymond strip joint adds to the ambience. The sleaze has of course long gone, but The Boulevard is as cool a jazz venue as you will currently find in central London. It’s sexy and it serves a selection of wicked cocktails and sharp wines. No olives to soak up the Negronis and Riesling, but they might well come in the fullness of time.
The venue comprises the informal (The Shed) where people can rock up and listen to live jazz (the Django Hot Club much to the fore) while enjoying the odd drink or three – and the more formal (The Boulevard) where people sit round tables and watch established artists. A mini amphitheatre with seating on two levels.
On Wednesday night, it hosted exciting jazz musician Jo Harrop with a new album to show off to the world – When Winter Turns To Spring. An album put together with Paul and Kate Edis – and the songs very much built around the themes of love and the changing seasons. A mellower sound than on Harrop’s previous album The Heart Wants, but still one that showcases her extraordinary vocal range and her ability to hold notes. Her voice lingers like a comforting dream.
Her new music has already received acclaim with BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley recently proclaiming track Winter Love Affair (One Day Soon) as one of her ‘infatuation’ songs – music she likes a lot.
Winter Love Affair was one of numerous songs that Harrop performed at the Boulevard which were taken from the new album. Others included Umbrellas In The Rain, based on her personal observations in Soho (‘just can’t let you go’), A Perfect Winter’s Day (infused with the flute of Emma Rawicz) and Spring Put The Swing In My Step (played live for the first time, although we wouldn’t have guessed so). Emma Rawicz, a talented and young saxophonist, very much brought When Winter Turns To Spring to life. Watch out for this new exciting force in the world of saxophony.
There were also a number of songs from Harrop’s lockdown album The Heart Wants – songs ranging from the jaunty Red Mary Janes and A Brand New Hat through to Wise Words (a therapy song according to Harrop), the beautiful Everything’s Changing and the opening track on the album – The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants.
With Harrop closing the set with a thrilling version of Billy Holiday’s Fine And Mellow, the night reconfirmed her emergence as a major force on the jazz scene. A soothing, velvety voice that makes you feel warm and cosy. A bit like the comfort drinking hot chocolate at night brings when the temperature outside is down below zero. Rawicz, Paul Edis on piano, Jihad Darwish on double bass, and Peter Adam Hill on drums, all provided thrilling support.
Harrop is touring through to February so grab the chance to see her.
And if you’re in London looking for some night-time fun, pay The Boulevard Soho a visit. You will not be disappointed. Try out the Negroni – but only one!