Lydia Garrow takes flight at Pizza Express Jazz Club

A Sunday lunchtime slot can mean many things in terms of jazz programming: a nervy new singer being given their first break, a tired-but-safe pair of hands playing a predictable crowd-pleasing set, or an unwieldy big band performing a challenging bunch of five-page charts.

This gig was none of the above, in fact it was a bit of an enigma; vocalist Lydia Garrow is more than meets the eye. She has already packed out the Bull’s Head, yet her new album Little Bird was only released the day before this gig, and if her audience was anything to go by, she clearly has an avid following. And, two songs in, you could see why: Garrow has a refreshingly clear, sparkly kind of voice that lends itself to a wide range of material, from up-tempo Cole Porter, deeply moving ballads like ‘In the Wee Small Hours’, and catchy latin numbers like ‘Besame Mucho’ and ‘Jardin d’Hiver’ (for which she sang the original Spanish and French lyrics).

But this wasn't showing off - far from it: Garrow’s appeal is shy but assured, drawing you in with her warm tone that has a whiff of Edith Piaf at times, or even Kate Bush. With Richard Sadler on bass and Chris Nickolls on drums, the vibe was relaxed and positive with nothing over-stated. The arrangements by pianist Terence Collie and guitarist Guille Hill were tastefully restrained, the soloing secure and inventive, with the odd touch of humour such as the song Garrow co-wrote with Collie entitled ‘Gypsies Call’.

By the close of the second set, which featured a moving but unsentimental rendition of ‘Moon River’ (bet you thought that wasn’t possible!), followed by perhaps one of the loveliest originals I’ve heard in ages – the title song of Lydia’s album, Little Bird – you felt sure you were in the presence of someone who will steer a path through all the young up-and-coming college graduates to emerge as a mature and engaging British jazz vocalist.

Sarah Chaplin

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