Monday, May 26, 2014

Joe Stilgoe at the Cadogan Hall


I was an “early adopter” where Joe Stilgoe is concerned – I first saw him at a small charity event about (I think) eight years ago and thought he was a truly original artist. The singer/ songwriter is an attractive musical genre ranging from the unashamedly pop of Elton John through to the crossover style of the late great Richard Rodney Bennett (with Jamie Cullum somewhere in-between !). Stilgoe is hard to characterise. He is a fine jazz piano player, the writer of original songs and the brilliant and sometime surprising interpreter of the work of others – from standards to lost gems alike. His album from 2008 “I Like this One”   included a bit of all this – my favourite track was the Flanders and Swann “Slow Train” – but his own songs are also excellent and intriguing.

His new show was at the Cadogan Hall last Friday and this large venue was packed out. The word has certainly got around! Joe is obviously a lover of the cinema and most of the songs were from the movies. He sat at the piano for most of the time but also stood and sang once or twice just to the accompaniment of drums and Bass. The first set opened with a virtuoso instrumental riff through I would guess about ten (maybe more) cinema classics. It was an astonishingly jazz –influenced experience and the audience was quickly rocking. I looked around me and by half-way through the first half there was hardly a face without a smile!

My own favourites of the evening were firstly a truly brilliant interpretation of the Lerner and Loewe classic “Almost like being in love”. I have always loved this song – the Andy Williams version still give me a tingle! Well Joe expanded it - by which I mean he revealed its melody and did jazz variations on it to give it enormous depth. There were also bass and drum solos and clever and occasional subtle key changes. “High Hopes” the Frank Sinatra hit from the late sixties was also great fun with Joe frequently taking a segue away from the melody for a bit of piano “improvisation” and some audience participation. I would also mention the utterly captivating “Gold on Silver” a nostalgic Stilgoe original with a lovely melody and great lyrics. Finally there was an interpretation of “La Vie en Rose in the Louis Armstrong arrangement (sort of) with Joe on trumpet – except that he made the trumpet voice just with his mouth and no instrument!

This was the biggest gig of Joe Stilgoe’s career. Since I last heard him live I think his voice has deepened a bit and that it now has a more velvety quality. His piano playing has always been exceptional but I think that he is now an original and very musical vocalist as well.  The DNA mix of his father’s light vocal style and his mother’s operatic talent have created a truly unusual voice!

Joe’s concert is available on CD and he also has another album in the shops at the moment.


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