Perhaps it was the singer’s setlist, which ranged from ‘O Pato’, a light-footed samba about a dancing duck, to Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’, or her left-field introductions to tunes like ‘Love for Sale’ and ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’, but there was something charmingly quirky about this late night appearance from Lauren Bush and her quartet. A young Canadian vocalist now resident in London, Bush’s claim to fame is a performance of ‘Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise’ which has racked up over 100,000 views on YouTube, enough to land her a gig at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room and a supremely talented new band comprising pianist Liam Dunachie, double bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado (winner of the 2014 Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize from the Royal Academy of Music) and drummer David Ingamells (a 2013 Yamaha Jazz Scholar).
Opening with a straightforward rendition of ‘The Song is You’, Bush sounded less assured that she does on her YouTube hit, but she found her stride on ‘The Frim-Fram Sauce’, a raunchy blues through which she scatted and growled to the delight of the audience. ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’ and ‘O Pato’ were further highlights and it was clear from the confidence of her delivery and the neatly resolving lines in her improvisations, that Bush knew the changes inside out.
More confident still were the rhythm section, who played with sensitivity and skill throughout, each player offering something different when it came to the solos. Ingamells kept things short and sweet, trading fours with the singer and livening up a rendition of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ with drum breaks and a New Orleans-style street beat. Dunachie contributed twisting lines and Simcock-like harmonic exploration, while Mullov-Abbado took inspiration from the tunes themselves, referencing and reworking their familiar melodies on the worn fingerboard of his bass.
It was when the group tried to experiment that they came a little unstuck. A version of ‘My Romance’ re-imagined as a waltz took a while to settle down while a ‘funk’ rendition of ‘Love for Sale’ was something of a stylistic no man’s land until the head out. But, with ‘You’re Nearer’, a wistful ballad on which Bush’s voice was at its fullest, they recovered admirably, before closing with a cheery rendition of ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’. Described by Bush in another of her musings as being an antidote to British weather, it was a strong finish and a welcome one on a cold, drizzly night in west London.
– Thomas Rees