Artist: Alex Webb & The Copasetics Feat: Liane Carrol, China Moses, Alexander Stewart, David McAlmont, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Alexander Stewart & more
Album: ‘Call Me Lucky’
Released: 3rd June 2016
Live: 7th June 2016 , Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Call Me Lucky is a collection of outstanding songs sung by a cast of guest vocalists who represents a who’s who of today’s jazz vocal scene. It’s also one man’s stand for the continuing role of the song in jazz. The Great American Songbook has, over the decades, been thoroughly mined and few of today’s pop composers offer the harmonic or lyrical sophistication which jazz vocalists cherish.
Pianist, arranger, composer and musical director Alex Webb presents a collection of extraordinarily well-crafted original songs, which, though varied in style, have at their heart an acoustic jazz sensibility that combine hints of bebop, twists of Billy Strayhorn-ish melancholia, a shake of pop and a whole heap of sass and swing! It does of course help that Webb has gathered eleven of today’s most talented jazz vocalists to interpret his compositions, drawing on artists from both sides of the pond, from rising stars and established headliners. Indeed, Call Me Lucky is one of very, very few albums where a composer has assembled so many guest artists to perform his work on one collection.
Alex Webb is, in his quiet way, a significant presence on the UK jazz scene, but most likely you’ve never heard of him. His resumé makes exhaustive reading. Aside from an early career in music programming and journalism, plus performing in numerous jazz and pop groups, he has directed and performed in a number of musical stage productions including Strayhorn the Songwriter , Charlie Parker on Dial and Cafe Society Swing which has enjoyed three UK runs and a spell on Broadway to rave reviews. He has worked as a songwriter with many musicians and vocalists, with his songs recorded by the likes of Liane Carroll, China Moses (the daughter of acclaimed jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater), Mina Agossi, and Alexander Stewart, to name a few. Acknowledging that many of the songs and arrangements he had written were for live performance and not preserved, Webb put out the feelers amongst his vocalist contacts to see if they were willing to contribute to his own project. To his delight, they all said yes!
In addition to gathering such vocal talent, Webb was also able to call on some of the most notable instrumentalists on the scene – Denys Baptiste, Nathaniel Facey, Sue Richardson, Freddie Gavita and Winston Rollins make up a heavyweight horn section by anyone’s standards. Drummers Sophie Alloway and Andy Chapman, bassists Alex David, Miles Danso and Andy Cleyndert and guitarist Jo Caleb provide powerful and varied grooves.
Vimala Rowe is one of the most significant recent arrivals on the UK jazz scene. She has released an award-winning EP and performs with such luminaries as John Etheridge and Bobby Wellins, yet it was her star turn in Alex Webb’s Café Society Swing that bought her astonishing soul-filled voice to the attention of critics. Vimala contributes two tracks to the album; the sassy, Betty Carter inspired It’s Your Move and the sumptuous ballad, ‘Low Low Places’.
The daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater, China Moses has a “similar incisive voice, powerful swing and high voltage personality” (Evening Standard) all of which is displayed here. She too starred in Webb’s original Cafe Society Swing and contributes vocals to two songs; the finger-snappin’ Bad Girls which she entirely makes her own, alongside the haunting Nothing but a Blues.
Ayanna Witter-Johnson is a MOBO-nominated soul singer, songwriter, cellist and performer of extraordinary versatility. Winters (a co-write with Webb) was finished off in a few hours at Manhattan School of Music when she was studying there and features both her voice and cello which answers Jo Caleb’s stinging guitar.
One of the true originals of contemporary popular music, David McAlmont is one half of acclaimed 90’s Britpop double-act McAlmont & Butler. Here he offers here his classy, soulful voice to Me and My Crazy Ideas, one of Webb’s favourite lyrics.
Cementing Webb’s talent for spotlighting tomorrow’s stars, Paris-based Cameroonian singer-songwriter and actress Sandra Nkaké first appeared in his Strayorn show and went on to appear in London’s celebration of voice, Re:Voice. She creates a striking mood of sorrow on the Chet Baker-ish As If, alongside bluesy trombone from Winston Rollins
UK-born Alexia Gardner, now based in New York, is rooted in the traditions of Sarah, Ella and Nancy with her own uniqueness. She sings the album’s title track, a number designed to evoke the easy swing of the 40s and 50s with Freddie Gavita contributing some spot-on trumpet.
Still in his mid-twenties, Alexander Stewart is one of the most precociously talented vocalists of the new generation. With a voice rooted in Connick and Sinatra – and with a touch of the Kurt Elling rasp, he is a star in the making. Webb has worked with Stewart since the start of his career and Infatuation was specifically written for his honeyed voice, with Sue Richardson’s trumpet evoking Chet Baker.
The young Cherise Coryna has an extraordinary voice and presence for such a young age. She made a great impression in Café Society Swing, with one critic announcing “certainly a name to watch out for in the future”. She applies her signature voice here to the sunny Open The Windows
Award-winning Allan Harris has recorded two critically acclaimed albums and was voted Down Beat Rising Star shortly before this recording. He too starred in Café Cafe Society Swing in his home town of New York and he brings here a world of sass and swing heritage to Enough.
Jo Harrop is the professional’s professional and her creamy voice is perfect for End Of The Affair – the inspiration for which is part Brazilian Bossa, part 60s nouvelle vague.
One of the UK’s greatest musical treasures, the doyenne of British jazz singers Liane Carroll closes the album. Acclaimed as a soulful, emotive singer, Liane is able to inhabit a lyric with her breath-taking vocal virtuosity. What really makes her stand out however, is the way that she delivers every song as though she wrote it, just as she does here on Words I Never Spoke.
‘Call Me Lucky’ is released on 3rd June 2016 on Splash Point Records
Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho, 7th June
10 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 3RW
Tickets: pizzaexpresslive.com | Tel: 0845 6027 017