Curtis Stigers – Queen Elizabeth Hall (London)
“Using all of his performance know-how from over three decades as a singer, songwriter and saxophonist, Curtis Stigers, backed by the excellent Tri-Fi, brought verve and passion to an evening of lounge bar swing in the austere surroundings of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday.
Stigers has been through many musical phases throughout his long career, but has now cast aside his rock ballads for a return to his jazz roots. Matthew Fries (piano), Phil Palombi (double bass), Keith Hall (drums) and Stigers himself strolled onstage besuited in grey pin stripes, as though about to entertain a Las Vegas cocktail party crowd with some Rat Pack numbers, and then kicked off the set with Lennon and McCartney’s ‘I Feel Fine’.
Stigers’ latest album You Inspire Me, (voted Jazz Album of 2003 by the Sunday Times), is a compilation of covers blending jazz with an array of related styles. As the evening progressed we were treated to songs by such diverse artists as Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe, Willie Dixon and “famous jazz band” The Kinks.
In between songs, Stigers regaled the audience with lengthy, humorous anecdotes on the background of the numbers, and he explained that his ‘Swinging Down on 10th and Main’ was a tribute to his early days jamming with legendary pianist Gene Harris in the 1970s. “He taught Boise, Idaho to swing… and that wasn’t easy, believe me.”
As promised, the band came back after the interval fortified with a drink and “playing even better”. The solos became more frequent and intense, and the tempo slowed with a moving rendition of the love song, ‘I Wonder Why’.
Stigers himself was happy, when not singing or playing saxophone, to leave the limelight to his band, before rounding the evening off with an outstanding passage of scat singing and an air double bass solo that no one in the house will forget in a hurry.
All in all it was an exciting, enjoyable and very diverse evening of swinging jazz, performed by consummate masters of the art.”