Hailed as one of the world’s leading male jazz singers, Ian Shaw hit London’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club with a frenetic energy that refused to abate on Saturday night. The award-winning artist from Wales, the ‘land of song’ – and something of a stand-up comedian to boot – he was unafraid to entertain. The packed audience was hanging on his every note and word from the moment he set foot on stage.
The legendary jazz club was the perfect intimate setting for a charismatic Shaw who had the untamed vigour of an exuberant puppy. He showcased an impressively extensive vocal range and unique musical arrangements paying homage to greats including Joni Mitchell (In France They Kiss On Main Street), Leonard Cohen (Dance Me To The End Of Love), Peggy Lee (I Don’t Know Enough About You), Hal David and Burt Bacharach (A House Is Not A Home) and Stevie Wonder (All In Love Is Fair).
His self-deprecating humour at times may lead the uninitiated to question whether he takes himself seriously despite being the recipient of two BBC jazz awards for Best Vocalist. "I’m a wet shabby old Labrador reaching for notes that don’t belong in my range," he confessed at one stage to the audience. But this was all part of his charm. A seasoned performer but with a sweet humility that suggests he’s still pinching himself as to the reasons why he has an audience eating out of the palm of his hand!
His voice is an instrument that deserves to be heard, complemented by Barry Green’s masterful piano with its broad range of style, while Mick Hutton expertly kept the tempo on the double bass allowing drummer Dave Ohm solo flourishes infused with seductive pitter-patter rhythms.
At times it was fun to witness the friendly sparring between drummer and bassist, only made possible by the familiarity of their relationship. Shaw and his band are a tight unit, having performed all over Europe following their appearance in 2014 at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival and Hamburg’s Elbjazz in 2015 where they showcased Shaw’s new work. They are indeed a formidable team with an easy, natural rapport that adapts well to Shaw’s random flights of fancy as he interrupts his own vocals to heckle the audience! No doubt it will soon become common parlance in the best jazz salons across Europe to talk about a good night out in the vernacular of being ‘Ian Shawed!’
But this man isn’t to be under estimated. Not only did a flamboyant Shaw pay homage to past artists, he also offered up a few of his own compositions – 42, My Brother and Shine Sister Shine, written with Tanita Tikaram – that revealed his original talent.
Grab any opportunity to be ‘Ian Shawed!’ His most recent album, Shine Sister Shine, is internationally released this month.
Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.