Blues Matters Magazine, Issue 77, April/May 2014Live Review, Great British Rock & Blues Festival 24th-26th Jan 2014
Closing Friday night in the packed JAKs bar was ZOE SCHWARZ BLUE COMMOTION, new to the Blues Matters stage. Zoe and the band take pride in filling their live sets and albums with vibrant and very distinct original numbers. Fronting the band, Zoe oozed class; she commanded the stage demonstrating her vocal versatility as a charismatic "blues shouter" on 'The Blues Don't Scare Me', through to the lyrical control of 'I Believe In You'. Her vocal virtuosity and range are testament to her classical background and her "heart-on-the-sleve" delivery can be sometimes full-bodied, sometimes achingly tender. Providing a sweet and stylish guitar foil was rob Koral, co-compser with Zoe of most of tonight's set and I especially like the way Zoe stepped out of the spotlight to focus attention on her musicians. Shifting effortlessly between grooves, the band rocked on, carrying the enthusiastic Jaks crowd with them for every step of the way. Drummer Paul Robinson, (drummer with Nina Simone for the last 19 years of her career) glued the rhythm section with the all the authority of his massive CV and Hammond maestro Pete Whittaker was outstanding on 'Say It Isn't So'. The set closer, the funky 'Buck', let the band wild card Si Genaro off the leash, starting with rhythmic and virtuosic harp solo which then dissolved into one of his trademark raps which had the audience mesmerised. Summoned, unsurprisingly, for two encore number, the band closed with the great Ella James' ' Somethings Got A Hold On Me', which sent the Jaks crowd dancing into the chilly night air.
Sunday afternoon in Jaks is a mellow place... and no mellower than during the fabulous, classy and intimate set offered up by Zoe Schwarz and rob Koral who transferred this rather pub-style venue into a bluesy jazz cafe, Zoe was able to exploit the relaxed ambiance of the gig to introduce and talk a little about the songs in their set list, many of which delved into the 32 bar blues form such as Billie Holiday's Baby I Don't Cry Over You. Blues standards included W.C Handy's St. Louis Blues, plus Going Down Slow and You Shook Me. Her voice control and vocal quality was beautifully complimented by Rob's intricate improvised guitar work, delivering a perfectly crafted and well-received set. For the encore, Zoe delved into the jazz repertoire for a moving Cry Me A River, which sent chills up the spine.
- Words by: Clive and Barbara Rawlings