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China Moses: Completely Electrifying
Review by Sebastian Scotney (London Jazz)
LA-born, Paris-raised China Moses is a completely electrifying live performer. I would urge anyone who is unwillingly facing the prospect of a quiet Tuesday evening indoors this week, to head straight for Ronnies at 7.30pm, to catch Moses, fresh off Eurostar for her first outing here, for the second of two dates.
My pre-gig homework had informed me that Moses, the daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater, has a day-job as a presenter for MTV France. And my rapid glance at the earnest, left-leaning Nouvel Observateur had let me know that, after previous outings as an R & B/hiphop singer, her decision to concentrate her energies now on a Dinah Washington tribute had been a "surprise très agréable" and that she has "une voix idéale" for jazz and blues.
But that is only part of the story. She was straight down to business from the very first number, "Fine, fine daddy." She attacked the song with energy and precision. Then, during the instrumental solos, she strutted, danced, her hips swaying with the backbeat on four-inch heels.
Her trio tonight consisted of her regular accompanist from Paris Raphael Lemonnier, impeccably suited, yet well matched, plus two carefully-chosen Brits capable of swinging hard: Mark Hodgson on bass and Rod Youngs on drums.
I remember videos of Ella Fitzgerald slapping her left hip on the backbeat. Moses has an acute sense of time too, but her method is to hold on to her right hip, and to bandlead or hold the microphone with the left. It seemed nothing short of a miracle that while the rest of her body was gyrating incessantly and forcibly in time, she could keep her head at a more or less constant distance from the microphone. Her voice delivered muscularity, drive, punch and real character throughout the heavier numbers. Yet in quieter songs such as "Blue Gardenia" she proved capable of an affecting lightness, concentration and musicality.
Between numbers she wisecracked raunchily with the band, and also, separately with the men and with the women in the audience, particularly in her preamble to Dinah Washington's anthem to love handles, "Fat Daddy." With this number, and in an even lower-down and dirtier "Teach me Tonight" she completely won over an audience, who started whooping and cheering and baying for more.
Children of singers can be cowed by the example of their parents. Steve Torme, son of Mel, admits on a Youtube clip that he can only ever hope to be half as good as his dad. Jacqui Dankworth, a wonderful singer, often seems to feel a need to validate her credentials as a musician. Moses has none of this uncertainty, and just delivers. She told me that her mother's live albums, particularly "Live at Yoshi's" are her favourites.
Moses has imbibed her mother's platform-craft. She can sock it to the audience. Tonight she did, with complete conviction. And with professionalism and stature which can only grow. (04/13/2009)