JLR Review: Lucy Dixon Live at Zedel, July 2017

Here at Jazz London Radio we get to witness a variety of styles of music in different settings.  Last Tuesday, I was invited to Live At Zedel in Soho to see a new name in jazz called Lucy Dixon.  Lucy is British born but has been forging a career for herself in France where she has lived for the past fifteen years.

The term jazz singer / artist usually conjures up certain images or conceptions, however, Lucy is not a singer in the straight ahead vein, or cutting edge contemporary; Lucy is a cabaret performer who also has a few strings to her bow which won’t come to mind immediately.  Lucy sings, and tap dances!

So it was a case of being intrigued when I arrived at Zedel to see Lucy perform with her Gypsy jazz trio which comprised of David Gastine and Vincent Simonelli on acoustic guitars plus Sebastien Gastine on double bass, all arriving from France via Eurostar that evening. As the performance got underway, I was initially confused as the trio came on stage and started playing; I was wondering if I was there for the wrong night and started checking the brochure.  Then, about three minutes later, a tall lady came on stage wearing a striking white three piece suit, with tie, black waistcoat and a fedora hat. Ah, that must be Lucy I thought, she kind of appeared unannounced; which then made it into a quartet on stage.

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Lucy released a CD in 2016 entitled Lulu’s Back In Town on dStream records and most of the repertoire from Tuesday’s performance came from that CD, which are reworkings of classics from the Great American songbook and Blues singers done in a gypsy jazz style. Tunes such as Bye Bye Blackbird, Fascinating Rhythm and Lulu’s Back In Town by Fats Waller got the gypsy jazz treatment.  On stage there was no drummer or percussionist, that’s where Lucy’s uniqueness came to the fore, as her job was to provide percussion moments through tap dancing along with her singing; duelling with both guitarists and bassist, it was quite a sight to see a performer tap dancing. Not only that, Lucy also contributed other percussion by playing a tambourine and used a drum stick to bang on a teapot, that’s right, a teapot :-0 Lucy also managed to get musical sounds out of a plastic bag, interpreting the sounds of brushes you would see drummers use when playing ballads. Clearly Lucy is talented and innovative.

You might wonder why Lucy is so unusual in a jazz scene so occupied these days by “hipsters”; that would be partly explained in Lucy’s cabaret background, hence her being based in Paris for such a long period of time performing over there. Lucy has a voice that is very easy on the ear, but trained to a high standard, Lucy is a high quality singer in the idiom she performs.

If you want to see something a bit different from the more orthodox straight ahead jazz / fusion music that is so prevalent today, then Lucy Dixon is your girl.

Lucy returns to Live At Zedel on August 24.  Show starts 9.15pm   Tickets £20  www.LiveAtZedel.com 

JLR Album Review – Pussycat by Juliana Hatfield




2017 is turning out to be an interesting year for new music.  I feature the latest releases to arrive at Jazz London Radio on a weekly basis and some quality stuff has been coming through so far.

An album I received with great anticipation was the new release by singer songwriter & guitarist Juliana Hatfield called Pussycat on the wonderfully named American Laundromat record label.  This is Juliana’s second release on American Laundromat after “Whatever, My Love” by the Juliana Hatfield Three was released in 2015.

My first impression when the CD hits the deck is how live it is. From the first track “I Wanna Be Your Disease”, the record has a first take feel to it, which is a good thing because it means these tunes can easily be interpreted in a live performance.  This is the classic Juliana sound, her voice is in great shape, I would say slightly an octave lower from the early 1990s when I discovered her music; but with that lively bounce we’ve come to expect and love.

pussycat

The early 1990s was a great time for music.  There were two strands to the indie scene, over in England (Britain) we had groups like Blur, Oasis, Lightning Seeds, Cranberries coming through, and lesser known but interesting bands like Blueboy, Stereolab, Elastica and Inspiral Carpets.  Whilst in America they were ahead of the curve, Jane’s Addiction was already making waves by the late 1980s, followed quickly by Nirvana and R.E.M.

However, the indie scene was a varied one, which included bands like Don Caballero and Tortoise who made instrumental music which progressive jazz people could get into.  What made the indie scene was that whatever the style of music, it was raw and could be easily reproduced on stage; and melody was often paramount. That might sound contradictory to the term “raw” but go back and listen again and it becomes clear how much melodies were going on.

Juliana was instrumental in that scene; being part of The Lemonheads and Blake Babies; releasing her debut “Hey Babe” in 1992 then forming the Juliana Hatfield Three in 1993 releasing “Become What You Are” on Atlantic Records. Since then Juliana has released an incredible array of music both electric and acoustic but always with melody and great riffs at the heart of it. “Pussycat” definitely follows the trend of not only well produced tuneful rock, but with hard hitting subjects which Juliana is so good at writing; Juliana is not afraid to tackle issues or put the boot in if she feels it’s necessary! I have read that Pussycat is an angry album, even her “angriest ever”. I see it as a mix of social commentary on the state of the American political scene and some angst, something that has been disappearing from music in recent times in the mad scramble to sound conformist and make as much money as possible.

In the 1980s bands like Big Audio Dynamite turned social commentary into an art form, tackling complex issues with wit and humour, in the manner of the old great calypsonians from Trinidad. On the track Impossible Song Juliana asks “Why Can’t We Get Along?” That doesn’t sound angry to me, more of a plea for getting together and showing some unity in the world, acknowledging differences and overcoming them, being more tolerant of each other.

But for sure, it is a hard hitting record; “Short Fingered Man” a damming verdict on “vulgarians” who have come to prominence and power in recent times. “Everything is Forgiven” is perhaps the most hard hitting track, whilst Good Enough For Me and Kellyanne is classic Juliana, punchy lyrics and great guitar riffs.

One thing that always amazes me is Juliana’s gift for writing pretty dark lyrics with a verve and melody which is almost ironic in itself, Patti Smith and Suzanne Vega are two other prominent female icons who manage to pull off the same trick, Nina Simone was a great artist who brought intensity during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

There might not be as big an alternative or indie scene as there once was but there is still some great music and artists out there making something creative and of value for people who want to check that out.  “Pussycat” is definitely an album of calibre; independent of mind and thought, outside the mainstream but radio friendly.

Check out my chat with Juliana about her latest release.

By Laurie Burnette

JLR Interview – Juliana Hatfield




Jazz London Radio had the privilege to interview Juliana Hatfield, one of the greats of the alternative music scene in the last 25 years to discuss her new album Pussycat.  You can hear our chat with Juliana at these times:

Monday 19th June: 1pm

photo by David Dubinin
photo by David Doobinin

Tuesday 20th June: 1am

Thursday 22nd June: 1pm

Friday 23rd June: 1am