YolanDa Brown made a brave attempt to fill the Connaught Theatre with her five-piece band last night, but sadly it didn’t quite come off. Full of schoolgirl enthusiasm, she hopped about the stage in four-inch heels wagging her booty, quelling or encouraging the rhythm section with back kicks and hand signals.
Sadly it feltlike someone was wearing a rather nice coat (durable material, good cut, handsome accessories) that was two sizes too big. No matter how sweet and flowing her solos on tenor, alto or soprano, the environment was just not her size, darling. Even the theatrical faux smoke didn’t produce an intimate jazz club ambiance, though she kept saying it did.
But was the gal defeated? No, sir! Brow glistening, she worked hard at the pace all evening even running out into the audience to serenade faintly embarrassed fans. YolanDa is Barking-born and really should know better. She deserved a whooping, screaming American audience but got us pale, damp Brits on a rainy night in Worthing.
Nonetheless, double Mobo-winner YolanDa showed her effortless musical talent with some rich numbers from her album including Dear John and Tokyo Sunset. She has a lovely sound on all her saxes, though the reverb was excessive at times, and wasreminiscent of David Sanborn (who she famously supported at the Barbican) and occasionally Kenny G, with sexy rhythms and filigree solos that run in and out of reggae, soul and pop with a lasting sweetness. No surprise that at the age of 32 she is regarded as the emerging voice of mainstream jazz.
She was at her best with ‘No Woman, No Cry’ from her hero Bob Marley with its sinuous but sympathetic reggae beat and a well-supported ‘Summertime’ and ‘In A Sentimental Mood’.
Manley O’Connor on keys, Simon Tellier on drums, Ed Riches on guitar and Nathan Bossoh on bass kept her spirited and warm company with worryingly radiant smiles and rather local concert band get-up – black trousers and very white shirts. The bass was occasionally under-represented, sometimes failing to make its point, but still setting off an untethered snare on the drum kit.
YolanDa bonded with us furiously throughout the show, getting the audience to shout and sing, telling us she was a new mum and how wonderful we were…but still the sleeves were too long and the shoulders too big. Her management should make sure she gets a more intimate setting worthy of her bright and dazzling talent.
Reviewed on: 10th October 2014