Live Music + Gig Reviews

Jazz Cafe Picnic @ Marble Hill, Twickenham

13 August 2006

Champagne corks and king prawn shells were left littering the lawns of Twickenham’s Marble Hill House after Sunday’s Jazz Caf Picnic in the Park. There was hardly a Carling can or a fag butt in sight.

Decadence, not debauchery, was definitely the h’ors d’oeuvre of the day and neither torrential cloud bursts or last minute changes to the bill could dampen the enthusiasm of the drenched creatives and trendy mummies and daddies who flocked to this imposing stately home to satisfy their appetite for jazz al fresco.

First act of the afternoon was Snowboy and the Latin Section who had to draft in an emergency replacement when their bass player was held up at Luton airport, enduring a three hour filter through customs. And while they banged out their seductive Afro Cuban rhythms, which promised the climate of another hemisphere, the crowd got totally pissed on from a great height and made ad-hoc ponchos out of big bags.

It was only the daring and the very drunk dancing at this point. The rest were huddled under golf umbrellas and not even cheeky Normski, darting into the crowd to grab free drinks, and working his socks off as MC, could get the crowd to tap into their inner Cuban.

Stockholm wonders Koop followed, flexing everything from traditional jazz, right the way through to bee-bop and acid jazz. They let their smooth edged sounds ripple over the picnicing crowds getting tipsy on free wine being handed out by Kendermann’s.

Loud-mouthed hip hop bad boys Foreign Beggars followed, unleashing their fury onto a mellow audience that was just not ready for rowdy politicized hip-hop or mid afternoon moshing – we were in Twickenham, and that’s borderline Surrey. Explosive and aggressive, this five-man UK collective may have blown the roof off the Jazz Caf’s Camden residence but they were altogether too much for the trendy young parents with their M&S cool bags, who just frowned on the MC’s exhortations to “wave your babies in the air.”

French sensations Nouvelle Vague‘s kookie quirky cover versions dragged the lacklustre crowd out of a grizzly rainy day, and put the feel good buzz back into this afternoon al fresco. Wicked reworkings of Joy Division and Depeche Mode classics plus the Dead Kennedys‘ Too Drunk and Dancing With Myself struck a chord with the soaked revelers as did the playful and coquettish performances of the female vocalists. The troupe’s covers of Blondie‘s Heart of Glass and Teenage Kicks, reintroducing something magical and heart rending to the world.

Femi Kuti‘s emergency hospitalisation meant that his band the Positive Force had to go on without him, but any disappointment at not seeing the man himself vanished as soon as the Amazonian-like women began gyrating on stage in a flurry of thighs, butts and beads, all moving at a truly awesome pace. High energy, high octane, this was a stage show of the flamboyant Moulin Rouge variety, set to Afro beats and coupled with affecting lyrics spreading a humanitarian message of love, peace and acceptance.

The day was closed by the totally electric Zero 7, featuring Sia Furler who lit up the stage with her hyper dancing and plunging turquoise dress. The enigmatic Jos Gonzlez‘s considered guitar solos were the perfect contrast to Furler’s recklessness and bashful kazoo playing. Labelled as the British Air Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, the men behind Zero 7 have crafted something totally magnetizing and the swirling electronica and pulsing dance beats ensured that Marble Hill’s rolling lawns were churned up by thousands of dancing feet, before the lights went down on this totally invigorating party in the park.

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