Performers: Ali McGregor and band
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
London festivals are not known for being child-friendly and with places such as the Southbank’s Udderbelly or London Wonderground the immediate associations are with trendy 20 and 30-somethings drinking Pimms on a Friday night while watching alternative theatre. But events are happening more or less all day every day including early afternoon shows designed especially for families.
Ali McGregor’s Jazzamatazz! is a themed hour of songs and dance introducing children under 10 to the sounds and beat of Jazz music. McGregor performs classic jazz tunes, such as the opener ‘Swing, Swing, Swing’, as well as seamlessly integrating jazzy re-workings of children’s songs and modern pop tunes. Until you’ve heard ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ sung in a calypso rhythm in front of a baying crowd of mini-people providing the barking interludes, you haven’t lived.
It’s a fantastic family show which from the beginning cleverly integrates the audience into the performances, as Ali asks the children to make jungle-themed animal noises as a way into ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, before asking them to tell her what things make them happy as a lead into ‘The Ice-cream Man’. It’s a clever technique that helps to keep their focus on the show while letting them tear around the dance floor during the songs.
For a 50 minute set there are lots of changes of pace and style too, mixing classic tunes for the parents with children’s songs such as If You’re Happy and You Know It with modern pop anthems like Beyonce’s Put a Ring on It. Most impressive is the way McGregor and her band of drums, keyboard and double bass occasionally merge all three together giving the audience Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baa Baa Black Sheep and What a Wonderful World.
For the adults tothere is lots to enjoy, particularly in McGregor’s skilled vocals and by the end many are bopping away with their children. Although this is advertised as a family show for parents and friends you it’s not really one to attend without children; although listening to the excellent music is enjoyable this show is really for kids, and they are guaranteed to have a great time. It’s a 12pm or 2pm start, but perhaps the band could consider a follow-up show about 9 hours later for the grown-ups performing just the sultry old-school jazz tunes. Sitting at a cabaret table with a cocktail on the Southbank listening to McGregor’s incredible vocals really does sound like the perfect Friday night at a London festival.
Runs until: 19 July