Ian Shaw’s annual week of music at Pizza Express Jazz Club has always been a cause for celebration, and this year is no exception, with the singer inviting different guests to join him each night – including Liane Carroll (Tuesday), Sarah Jane Morris (Wednesday) and Guy Barker (Thursday), to name but three. And the music continues through Sunday night!
To kick things off, Shaw invited a friend he has known for over twenty years, the singer Claire Martin, who also co-produced his excellent last album, The Theory Of Joy.
There was an informal element to the proceedings from the beginning, with Shaw playing Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman, which had clearly been requested by friends. He even changed the lyrics to suggest he was performing this first in case the whisky kicked in later in the evening!
An uptempo version of Lullaby Of The Leaves followed, Shaw skipping through the lyrics at a fair pace, before a lovely reading of Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love, with Shaw reminding the audience that the song was written about the Holocaust. He then played Joni Mitchell’s Shine, one of her lesser-known tracks from her 2007 album of the same name, but which features lyrics which seem all the more topical today, following Trump’s recent election.
He then invited Claire Martin to join him on stage, and they sang a selection of old favourites, including Peggy Lee’s I Love Being Here With You and Nancy Wilson’s The Masquerade Is Over, both of which were well-suited to Martin’s slightly smoky voice. The first set ended with another Joni Mitchell tune, Big Yellow Taxi, which was sung almost be-bop style, including a short pause to leave room for the non-existent guitar solo. It was a fun way to end the first set!
Shaw began the second set alone at the piano, as he did the first. He began with the Rodgers and Hart standard, I Wish I Were in Love Again, but the two tunes that followed were amongst the highlights of the evening. First up was Bowie’s Where Are We Now, one of the highlights of Shaw’s most recent album, his singing just exquisite on the high notes. He followed this by playing Alfie, accompanied by special guest Jamie Safiruddin on piano – reminding the audience that it was Cher who sang the song in the original movie, not Cilla.
Claire Martin returned for a duet on Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered, before taking the lead on Old Devil Moon, which was superb. After that, the evening took a more soulful turn, with both singers displaying their broad range of influences. Stevie Wonder’s Knocks Me Off My Feet did just that, with Martin stealing the show – just – before they tackled Phoebe Snow’s underrated Something Real.
There was still time for an acapella read of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, before a rousing finale of I Say A Little Prayer, which sent the audience home in fine spirits – despite it being a cold, frosty Monday night.
There is plenty more to look forward to later in the week, and still a few tickets available if you’re quick.