LJF: Gabrielle Ducomble at Crazy Coqs

The Belgian singer christened the 30th London Jazz Festival with flair, showing just how well These Boots Are Made For Walking swings in French

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Gabrielle Ducomble

It’s Friday 11 November, the first night of the 30th annual London Jazz Festival, and across the city venues large and small are welcoming performers and public to this year’s jamboree. It pleases me to imagine that my venue of choice, Crazy Coqs, one of the smallest on the circuit (60 is comfortable, 61, help!), is the one they all have to beat.

Gabrielle Ducomble has a lucrative habit of selling out any room she chooses to perform in and Crazy Coqs on Friday is no exception. She hasn’t come alone: four virtuosi, all out of the right bottle, have come along to share and/or be part of a unique experience, namely Nicholas Meier (guitar), Ben Hazleton (bass), Saleem Raman (drums) and Richard Jones (violin). All four are off the scale in terms of swinging.

Ducomble is a Belgian native and her first language is French. That 95 per cent of her programme was sung in French mattered not a whit or a jot to the audience, who savoured every note that came out of her mouth, as well they might. She has a set of pipes that Pan would kill for, and if you haven’t heard These Boots Are Made For Walking swung in French, then you haven’t lived.

She’s more than generous in sharing space with her musicians and all four are allotted tasty solos. Drummer Saleem Raman took one when Ducomble had already given us two complete choruses of Windmills Of Your Mind in English and theoretically the song was over; no matter, Saleem weighed in with two minutes of Buddy Rich-lite.

The undoubted instrumental highlight was Rick and Nick, their violin and guitar showing those duelling banjos how the big boys do it. They closed with the old Edith Piaf warhorse, Padam, Padam. I say “they” advisedly because all four members of the band had an equal voice with Gabrielle; it would be hard to think of a more a propos way to end a great set.

It’s only the first day of the festival and I have more gigs lined up, including Elaine Delmar, one of my all-time favourites, but I’ll be seriously surprised if anything eclipses this opening night at Crazy Coqs.

Gabrielle Ducomble at Crazy Coqs, 20, Sherwood Street, 11 November 2022.