Ray Gelato – The Green Room, Middle Eight Hotel, London

Reviewer: Mike Wells

Beneath the Middle Eight Hotel in Covent Garden lies the Green Room. A new live music venue, its aim is to offer fantastic music, food, and drink in a comfortable yet elegant atmosphere – and it manages all this in abundance.

Tonight, it is the turn of the “Godfather of Swing”, Ray Gelato and his Giants band to take to the stage, and they do not disappoint. Regularly selling out the likes of London’s Ronnie Scott’s and Milan’s The Blue Note, they are a class act, and a privilege to watch in such an intimate setting.

Their set is packed full of classics such as Mack the Knife, When You’re Smiling, and That’s Amore, along with a few of their originals which are undoubtedly audience favourites. Ray’s style has clearly been influenced by the likes of Cab Calloway and Louis Prima – the latter of which he pays tribute to with Should I / You Rascal You which is a highlight. In truth though, it’s difficult to choose a highlight from a setlist as slick as their suits.

Ray’s a charismatic front man who sings and plays the sax with such soul one gets the impression if you felt his pulse his heartbeat would swing too. There is a reason the likes of Paul McCartney, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Robbie Williams, to name just a few, have personally asked for him on several occasions – you don’t earn the nickname “The Godfather of Swing” for nothing.

Not to be outdone, the band beside him are packed full of some of the most talented jazz musicians you’re ever likely to see on the same stage. The seven piece includes Ray (vocals and sax), Tenor Sax, Trumpet, Trombone, Double Bass, Drums, and Piano, and in true swing style, each is given license to play – and boy do they play! Throughout the show it’s rare to find any of them without a smile on their face and they clearly love playing as much as the audience loves listening.

It’s a head-nodding, foot-tapping, thigh- slapping celebration of jazz, in a great venue to boot. If The Green Room keep inviting artists of this standard, accompanied by the great food, and service, they are onto a winner.

The great Fats Waller was once asked for a definition of swing to which he replied “Lady, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know”. If you watch Ray and his Giants in the Green Room, you won’t need to ask.

Ray and the Giants play again on 23 March 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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