Omar Keeping The South London Vibe Alive


As was evident from various overheard conversations, there are many who revere Hideaway in Streatham as a musical oasis in south London. "It's great not having to traipse all the way to the West End to get a decent meal and hear great music" said one punter, avowing his credentials as a devoted Omar fan since the first 1990 album, There's Nothing Like This, and appearances were that this mature capacity audience had come out in force possibly to re-live a youth nurtured on the music of neo-soul master Omar Lye-Fook.

What could also be better than to catch him with a band of equally seasoned musicianship; the QC/BA Quartet comprising Quentin Collins (trumpet), Brandon Allen (saxophone/flute), Ross Stanley (keyboard organ) and Enzo Zirilli (drums). They effortlessly crafted a sophisto-funk backdrop where Omar weaved silken vocals on soul classics such as Roy Ayres' 'Sunshine' and William DeVaughn's 'Be Thankful for What You Got', with the audience also taking every opportunity to exercise their own vocal abilities.

With a career spanning almost three decades, mainly in the Soul/R&B arena, Omar's musical skills have attracted many and has seen him collaborate/contribute across many genres, such as his work with the Kairos 4tet and more recently the German Hidden Jazz Quartet who greatly feature on his latest album The Man. So it comes as no surprise the versatility displayed when the band performs a jazzy rendition of eponymous track 'The Man'.

'High Heels’, from the same album, tested the chops of Brandon Allen as he delivered an abrasive sax-led melody and gutsy solo over Ross Stanley's lush Hammond B3 sounds. With funky trumpet and sax stabs coupled with equally funky drumming from Zirilli, imaginations could run wild as Omar lyrically conveyed the image of a raunchy woman strutting her stuff through the night. His banter with the band and engagement of the audience showed true showmanship particularly his play on London’s supposed North/South divide creating a jovial relaxed atmosphere.

The Quartet shone on 'Fuerteventura', a Collins composition that saw him deliver a fluid happy-go-lucky solo juxtaposed by some animated drum work from Zirilli before Omar returned with another crowd pleaser 'This Is Not a Love Song' where he doubles up on synth, but the ultimate and most anticipated pleaser, came at the finale with 'There's Nothing Like This'. Written over 23 years ago "just down the road in Thornton Heath" he informs us, Omar expressed how glad he is to know that the south is being truly represented by a venue like Hideaway with their choice of programming.

– Roger Thomas – review and pictures