Red wine, candlelight and the shimmer of cymbals. All par for the course at Dalston’s compact but atmospheric Vortex jazz bar.
Despite the size of the space, the line-up is consistently interesting (the Mercury prize-nominated Portico Quartet will be there next week) and the entrance fee is half of what you’d stump up at somewhere like Ronnie Scott’s, making one far more inclined to take a chance on an unfamiliar artist.
Which is just what we did last night, turning off the Kingsland Road in order to see a set by Mishka Adams, a young vocalist who, though based in London, is originally from the Philippines.
Adams is due to begin a monthly residency at the Vortex in October, Laro Nights, but tonight it was just her and her band. Wearing a red wrap dress and with hair elegantly upswept, Adams played a smooth two part set, leaning heavily on original material from her album Space.
Backed by a five-piece band (including a double-bass player who appeared to be sporting Julian Rhind Tutt’s hair for the evening) the first half of her set was pleasant enough. Adams has a clear yet sweetly soulful voice and is an amiable performer.
But the second half of the night was by far the more satisfying, altogether more texturally interesting, and allowing both Adams and her band to better show what they were capable of. Highlights included Snow Queens, a song drawn from her father’s poetry and an instrumental piece with the title No Words, to which Adams had added lyrics of her own. A evocative encore, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, provided a fitting finish.
While Adams occasionally veered a little too close to Norah Jones territory for comfort, a little too sweet and inoffensive, she has an engaging, likeable stage presence and a strong voice. This together with the warm intimacy of the venue, made for a memorable evening. If you’re slightly outside your musical comfort zone when it comes to jazz, and are unsure of the vocabulary that goes with the territory, panic not – you’ll know when you’re enjoying yourself. We did tonight.