ZOE SCHWARZ BLUES COMMOTION I’ll Be Yours Tonight
Following three excellent studio albums in successive years, a live CD representing the best of these is undoubtedly the only way in which Zoe and her band could have exceeded expectations for 2015. This is because all 12 tracks are extended versions recorded at an intimate village venue in Surrey in front of their most devoted fans. Every member of the 7-piece band was on fire that night with Zoe once again proving that there is not a better female blues and jazz singer in the UK and probably far beyond.
The scene is set with the gut wrenching Your Sun Shines Rain from Blues Don’t Scare Me with its mesmeric chants, hypnotic guitar solo and powerful rhythm section. The spontaneity, energy and throat shredding vocals make this live performance of the song even more memorable than the original. Similarly, Fine And Mellow reaches heights of emotional intensity far beyond the Billie Holliday cover on Good Times, Pete Whittaker delivering a superb Hammond organ interpolation complemented by Rob Koral’s intricate guitar.
On the up-tempo Let Me Sing The Blues, Zoe sings with honesty and intensity and Rob’s guitar solos are compelling, tasteful and interspersed with memorable blues and rock grooves in tribute to Jimmy Page and other blues greats. Also from Exposed, Smile benefits from the superb backing of trumpeter Andy Urquhart and Ian Ellis on tenor sax. This leads triumphantly into the breathtaking Angel Of Mercy with its clever tempo and mood changes as it reaches one crescendo after another. The up tempo blues, Liberated Woman like the other 10 Schwarz-Koral compositions showcases the immense talents of this songwriting duo which sets the band apart from others on the contemporary scene. We’ll Find A Way finds Schwarz relentless in her pursuit of communicating feelings with utmost integrity, sincerity and emotional depth. It takes a singer of immense versatility to switch from sultry to sassy but Zoe achieves this as she struts her way through Say It Isn’t So.
Drummer Paul Robinson skillfully maintains the meticulous pace and rhythm of I’ll Do Anything, his long time backing of Nina Simone having prepared him well for his current role. Beatitudes, a single release by the band, remains an inspiration whatever the personal faith, or none, of the listener. The finale is the captivating Take Me Back, yet another great story to tell and further interludes of sublime, melodic, technical virtuosity from Koral, Whittaker and harpist/backing vocalist Si Genaro.