Elaine Delmar Commanding and Cool at Crazy Coqs

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You just know when a performer and a venue are meant for each other. The vivacious jazz singer Elaine Delmar came into London’s Crazy Coqs on Tuesday and took charge right away, successfully kicking off a return five-night run. It may be a truism, indeed a cliché, but Ms Delmar is a class act and Crazy Coqs is a classy room – see what I mean about the right artist in the right place? And that’s not just my view for this packed audience loved every stylish minute of Elaine’s 90-minute set. Unflagging yet intimate, heartfelt but humorous, every song given its due, theatrical when necessary, subtle or brazen, she held us rapt, a veteran whose stagecraft and sheer vocal fizz are unique and wonderful.

Her ‘songs gathered along the way’, 21 in all, many time-honoured, came together in a deftly constructed programme, balancing drama with playful innocence. Elaine’s jazz feel came good on ‘Sunny Side of the Street’, taken at pace, her variations on the melody starting softly like a tenor saxophone solo, the vocal tone billowing and building to a storming finish before she signed off with a whisper. Later, it was a version of ‘Summertime’, with just Simon Thorpe’s bass for company, each note like a gem ahead of Thorpe’s impressive solo, that stayed in the mind. And that’s another facet of this lady’s talent, the ability to move seamlessly, say, from an understated, delicate version of ‘Killing Me Softly’ into a roaring ‘Mad Dogs and Englishman’, Coward’s tricky lyrics carried off with aplomb, as pianist-MD Brian Dee cut and pasted a nifty accompaniment.  

Never knowingly monochrome, Elaine’s interpretations have an almost painterly quality, deep chrome notes followed by piercingly bright flourishes, and sudden Sarah Vaughan-like swoops into that honeyed, low cello register. Yes, Elaine Delmar has it all, her peerless vocal quality matched by carefully-honed interpretative skills. To use an overworked phrase yet again, she’s a national treasure and deserves to be heard. Get down to the Crazy Coqs and prepare for a feast of vocal pleasure.

– Peter Vacher

An evening with Elaine Delmar continues nightly at the Crazy Coqs until Saturday 21 June