During the time I’ve been reviewing live acts for Jazz Journal it’s become increasingly obvious that pure jazz and cabaret have been drawing increasingly closer together until, in some cases, they have all but merged. I was delighted therefore to note one that this was jazz of the purest.
The Neal Richardson Quartet’s Not King Cole was precisely what it said on the tin – 24 numbers associated with the late pianist and vocalist but performed by pianist Neal Richardson. He makes no attempt to sound like Nat, which is just as well because he doesn’t even talk in the same key as Cole. Nevertheless he plays a great two-fisted piano and more than gets away with the vocals.
The clue that this really is not King Cole lies in the fact that there are four musicians on the stand here, including a drummer; the real McCoy was billed as The King Cole Trio, and celebrated for being drummerless.
Helping Neal Richardson keep time at Crazy Coqs were Alex Eberhard, drums, Miles Damo, bass, and Ciyo Brown, guitar, and they kicked off with a medium bounce take on L-O-V-E, a major hit for Cole around mid-career. The frenetic follow-up Orange Coloured Sky was also a huge hit for Cole circa 1950 but it was ephemeral and it’s doubtful if more than a handful of the SRO crowd – who would have to be in their 80s in order to be there first time around – knew it.
This is as good a time as any to mention the auditors; Crazy Coqs is a room that personifies intimacy, 60 punters and they have the rope up, 61 and we’re talking sardines. In this case the room was at capacity – at a matinee on a Sunday yet – and a mere two numbers in and they were screaming and yelling.
Neal laid all the usual suspects on us – Mona Lisa, Straighten Up And Fly Right, When I Fall In Love, Route 66, Sweet Lorraine, Let There Be Love and, of course, Unforgettable. It was a gas and every one of the punters, including me – average age 45 – lapped it up.
Neal Richardson: Not King Cole, Crazy Coqs, Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED, 17 November 2019 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival