|Ian Shaw (foreground) with L-R: Barry Green, Mick Hutton and Dave Ohm|
(Nell’s Jazz and Blues, 7 April 2016. Review by Peter Jones.)
If you only listened to the Ian Shaw tunes they play on Jazz FM, you could be forgiven for expecting nothing but ballads, such as his version of David Bowie’s Where Are We Now?. But that’s not the whole Shaw…
He was here in West London to mark the release of his new album The Theory of Joy, and the band was the same band that recorded it, namely Dave Ohm on drums, Mick Hutton on bass and the ubiquitous Barry Green on piano (‘a shit rented piano’ joked Ian Shaw).
This was a frolicksome affair: the singer was in high spirits, quickly revealing his gift for comedy by playing You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two and dedicating it to our hapless prime minister. Halfway through an extended coda to Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love, he pretended to collapse, complaining about what hard work scat singing is. And during What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life (he does like these long titles) Shaw interrupted himself to observe ‘There’s a huge danger of me turning into Johnny Mathis!’ – upon which he did a hilariously accurate impression of the elderly crooner.
Asking the audience to sing along, as he did with the Joni Mitchell tune Come In From The Cold, is always a high-risk strategy; dividing said audience into three parts for the harmony even more so. Perhaps he shouldn’t have told us we sounded ‘a bit Welsh’ – it was surely intended as a compliment.
The gig began with another Mitchell song – In France They Kiss On Main Street, followed by Small Day Tomorrow, the Bob Dorough tune from Ian Shaw’s own Ghost In Every Bar album, with its typically hip and downbeat Fran Landesman lyric (‘All those big wheels / with all their big deals / They’re gonna need their eight hours sleep / But I’m a drop out / who’d rather cop out / than run with all the sheep’.) Shaw further enlivened it with a burst of Mark Murphyesque falsetto scat.
For me, the best vocal performance of the night was Born To Be Blue, dished up with great bluesy authority. And we were reminded of his debt to the jazz singing legends of yore with the self-penned All This And Betty Too, an uptempo number about the time he saw Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott’s, and again featuring that full-on scat soloing that’s so difficult to pull off, but which Shaw does with fantastic style.
A note about finding the venue: the website gives the address as 3 North End Crescent, which could lead the unwary into a nearby block of flats, but actually the club entrance is around the corner in North End Road.