Jazz breaking news: Ian Shaw Gets Stuck In At Pizza Express
Perhaps it was the throngs of fans who last night packed the cosy confines of the Dean Street Pizza Express jazz club or the sense of extravagance at having a stellar band of heavy hitters on hand, but Ian Shaw was positively fizzing with excitement. It must have also been the launch of his lushly arranged latest album The Abbey Road Sessionsthat initiated all this fuss, a stark contrast to Shaw's confessional voice-and-piano "credit crunch" (his words) album Somewhere Towards Love, that also helped intensify his, at times, mischievous humour and daring vocal acrobatics.
However Shaw's greatest skill is to bring razor sharp wit to bear on the most maudlin of standards, with off the cuff quips that prick the bleakly romantic themes, for example on opener 'Get Out Of Town' instructing the audience to "go to Croydon", which drew the first of many belly laughs from the crowd. But there was plenty of pathos too with some heart wrenching ballads like 'Skylark' and a breathtakingly sad 'Alfie' that Shaw sang with particular emphasis on the lyrics, letting lines poignantly hang in the air.
But such contemplative moments were balanced against a suitably surreal spoken word intro to Michael Jackson's Steve Porcaro penned hit 'Human Nature', Shaw reciting the lyrics as a poem, the resulting lines resonantly nonsensical, yet strangely beguiling once set to the iconic melody thereafter. The other ace up Shaw's sleeve tonight was the stellar band that united three generations of British jazz talents with 82-year old bass legend Peter Ind and hugely impressive alto ace Peter King both adding depth to the group's sound. While it was bombastic Partisans drummer Gene Calderazzo who tempered his stormy style to add rhythmic light and shade and pianist Phil Ware tastefully harmonising between horns and voice, also freeing Shaw to stand centre stage. The youthful contingent were no less able with Shaw's long time musical partner Dave Preston on guitar and the school boyish Miguel Gorodi on trumpet, both bringing hip modern ideas to the table. Preston also provided some distinctly Joni Mitchell-esque chords too, apt for their lovely take on her laconic tune 'Be Cool'.
Yet for all the brilliance of the band Shaw himself inevitably stole the show when seated once again at the piano, he unveiled his reworked take on the late great Gerry Rafferty's 'Stuck In The Middle With You' with crowd-pleasing results. This featured some stunning unison voice and piano re-harmonisations that revealed Shaw's fertile musical imagination at its sharpest, his fingers keeping pace with his voice's soaring top line melody.
Shaw admitted before the gig he'd rather be round the corner playing in a pub without all the fuss, but with a voice as all-encompassing and a wit as quick, incisive and funny as his, he's in danger of becoming a national treasure.