Greeting the crowd with a joyful rendition of Brenda Russel’s soul classic, So Good, So Right, To Be With You Tonight, the Missouri native straightaway commanded the attention of the entire venue with her wonderfully warm and magnificent stage presence. Animated and elegant in song; candid and bubbly in chat, you really felt her sincere gratitude and happiness to share the evening with you. A feeling that couldn’t help but be returned.
Each song was introduced with a little anecdote, some amusing, some touching, all pointing to an uplifting and guiding moral within. Taken from her new album, Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women, the set was dynamic in style and period while consistent in quality, a welcome fulfilment of Alicia’s desire to “champion and celebrate women composers”. Well-known classics were taken up with glee, like Tracy Chapman’s Gimme One Reason, while more alternative songs, such as Imogen Heap’s Hide And Seek, were inventively reworked in the performance’s large and lush palette of soulful jazz.
Possessing astounding levels of both control and power, her [Alicia Olatuja's] vocals were at once velvety smooth and gloriously full. Whether delicately serenading or joyfully scat singing, she was non-stop flawless...
The band were of world-class calibre. Piano, guitar, bass, and drums synced together so tightly, so splendidly, so funkily; it was a treat to sit back and hear these tunes come to life on such a grand scale. A highlight was the cover of Sade’s heart throbbing disco burner No Ordinary Love, made all the more delicious with the band slowly riding in on a smooth caramel funk. While a fantastic Brazilian boogie was picked up and spun around in the latter half, giving Alicia a chance to showcase her impressive Portuguese chops.
Though marvellous in their own right, the musicians were most adept at supporting the show’s centre-piece, Alicia’s incredible voice. Possessing astounding levels of both control and power, her vocals were at once velvety smooth and gloriously full. Whether delicately serenading or joyfully scat singing, she was non-stop flawless. Given the full spotlight on a stripped back cover of Joni Mitchell’s Cherokee Louis, Alicia rose up over the brooding instrumental in an unwavering beauty, drawing out the song’s final high note with a crystal clear perfection, and leaving the entire venue in total rapture.
From the outset, this wouldn’t be my first pick when it comes to a gig, but Alicia Olatuja’s uplifting presence and the music’s undisguised loveliness was undeniable and wholly infectious, providing a delightful and memorable Saturday night for this year’s Jazz Festival.