Kit Packham’s One Jump Ahead jiving at the Hideaway

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The ultra-stylish Kit Packham’s One Jump Ahead band is now 30 years old. For this Sunday afternoon gig at the award-winning Hideaway, they performed a rollicking set of songs ranging from 1940s and 1950s jump/jive, R&B and classic rock ‘n’ roll, to jazz standards and originals, featuring the band’s core seven-piece line-up: Bandleader and composer, Kit Packham on saxophones and lead vocal, Steve Knight on guitar, Perry White on piano, Alex Keen on double bass, Kenrick Rowe on drums, Tracey Mendham on saxophones and vocals, and Simon Da Silva on trumpet and flugelhorn. Striking in a blue pinstripe suit and fedora, Packham resembled Frank Sinatra, and he introduced numbers in a clear and informative way. They opened with one of the band’s original tunes, ‘Swing It’, which immediately propelled people to the dance floor.

Endearingly, many of Packham’s songs are inspired by people close to him, such as jump-jive number, ‘When I Was In France With Frances’ with its infectious energy heightened by White’s standout twirly fills on piano. The gemstone stood at the centre of the band was the very entertaining sole female, Mendham. Her tenor saxophone solo during swinging jazz standard, ‘Alright, Okay, You Win’, had a stirring, unshowy ease about it, supported by the ramped-up attack of Keen’s walking bass. Knight’s electric guitar sounded unusual played on a jazz standard, but it worked. In their seriously cool dance shoes and fascinating ties, the band demonstrated their neat dance moves throughout Fats Domino rock ‘n’ roll number, ‘My Girl Josephine’, with its brass riffs and White’s bluesy piano singing over the top.

They slowed things down with popular song, ‘Manhattan’ by Rodgers and Hart, for which Packham had written some alternative lyrics and based it closer to home, in South London. The audience belly laughed at comic lines such as, “At Crystal Palace, we’ll spray a phallus on the wall,” offset by the sophistication of Da Silva’s flugelhorn solo, and were startled by a realistically simulated gunshot by otherwise quietly professional Rowe on drums. The happiness emanating from the whole room was palpable during Louis Jordan song, ‘Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby’, to which ardent fans danced in ballroom formation.

The band’s perky theme tune, ‘One Jump Ahead’, contained one of Packham’s signature, impactful abrupt endings and deadpan Knight added even more colour to the act by performing a nose flute solo on The Blues Brothers classic, ‘Minnie the Moocher’. White nailed a stunning boogie-woogie piano solo punctuated by thrillingly deep bass notes from Mendham on baritone saxophone on ‘Choo Choo Ch’Boogie’, and they even managed to squeeze in a world premiere featuring Vera Lynn’s World War II song, ‘We’ll Meet Again’: Loosely named ‘The Last Song Of The Set’, it cleverly welded an old song onto a new one. Eventually the two tunes overlapped, bringing the gig to an impressive end. The time flew; a sure sign that Kit Packham’s One Jump Ahead with its thoroughly well-written arrangements and heartfelt blend of comedy and music, had done a fine job of bringing this classy joint to life.

– Gemma Boyd (story and photo)