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  • Miles Hedley


What could be musically more exciting than a live jazz-funk gig? One featuring James Taylor on Hammond organ, that’s what. His show at Blackheath Halls had it all – great tunes, propulsive rhythms, virtuoso skills, fascinating genre-hopping and boundless energy.

Taylor took to the stage with his regular quartet of guitarist Mark Cox, bassist Andrew McKinney and drummer Pat Illingworth who were later joined by Tom Ridout on tenor sax, Nick Smart on trumpet and flugelhorn and singer Yvonne Yanney.

Over the course of two hours they played a programme that covered some of the most thrilling developments of 20th century popular music – jazz, soul, R&B, gospel, blues and, of course, funk. And they did it with real panache.

Illingworth drove the band with his thunderous kick-drum and dazzling stickwork which were in turn enhanced by McKinney’s fabulous bass riffs, Cox’s ringing chords and Taylor’s mesmerising keyboard skills, perfectly demonstrated in the first-half closer, a stunning cover of Booker T’s Green Onions.

Yanney’s sultry vocals brought a soulful quality to the band,

beautifully exemplified in Love Will Keep Us Together and Love TKO. And the horn section made the ensemble seem more like an orchestra, especially in their version of Henry Mancini’s iconic Peter Gunn theme.

Ever the showman, Taylor ended the gig with the band blasting out his arrangement of the theme from TV cop bromance Starsky & Hutch. McKinney, who had been fighting illness throughout the evening, had to dash off before they took their bows – but not before he had

laid down another stonking funk solo. What a trouper.

Taylor, who left the stage urging the audience to vote Labour in Thursday’s election, is no stranger to Blackheath Halls. I hope it won’t be too long before we see him there again because in times of trouble like these, his music can raise even the lowest spirits.


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