UK Soul Jam with CK Gospel Choir (Event Review)

The UK Soul Jam Christmas Special took place at London’s Jazz Cafe on December 6th. To tell the truth, I hadn’t heard of this event before and I was looking forward to this experience with excitement and anticipation. I really appreciate the fact that events like this, which proudly promote new and established talent, can happen.

The playful banter of co-hosts Harlano and Adeola Ranson [from the headlining CK Gospel Choir, pictured above] kept the audience’s attention as well as getting them involved in the concert, before getting this soulful showcase off to a cracking start with a tender, laid back rendition of Bill Withers‘ “Lovely Day”.  This set the mood for the entire gig.

We were treated to a beautiful array of new and established talent which included acoustic soul artist Louise Golbey, Soul/R&B star Elisha Laverne, Gospel/Soul act Jaz Ellington, the headline act CK Gospel Choir, and Nu Soul/R&B singing sensation Sharon Rose. Speaking about the songs in-between performances and motivating us all to dance or sing the lyrics along with them, each act played the audience to great effect.

The hosts, who motivated the audience with their jokes, dancing and singing, introduced each act with a quick Q&A with the performers. (Although this was not carried through after the second act, Elisha Laverne, which I felt was unfair to the rest of the performers and to the audience.)

My personal highlights of the evening were Jaz Ellington with his confident and refined R&B and Gospel set and the CK Gospel Choir’s set which combined contemporary four part harmonies with traditional solos to various music genres.  They blessed us with a dynamic and spirited set which featured some impressive highlights. One such highlight included a beautiful jazz influenced scat improvisation with each choir member adding their own scat to form a full composition. We were all in awe of what was created right in front of their eyes and the rapturous applause was rightly deserved.

Jaz Ellington treated us to a smooth and defined set talking to the audience and getting them to sing along to his songs. The best parts of his set included a different sound for Jaz in the form of his new song, “Light Up the Room”.  It showcased his strong vocals with some slinky R&B production to create a powerful club banger.
sharon rose
Yet there was one versatile and confident performer who came on stage and blew me and the audience away, and that was Sharon Rose [pictured above]. For those lucky enough to stay after the headline act, the audience were treated to a vivacious, energetic and lively four song set, which included a stirring rendition of Coldplay’s song “Yellow”. She had the audience in the palm of her hand clapping, singing and dancing along. They were cheering more than they did for the whole night.

However, what became really disappointing about the event was the inconsistency in the timing and the amount of breaks.  Other than the vibrant performance and talent of Sharon Rose and her set, these factors unfortunately became the main things that I’ll remember from this event.

Firstly, the first act’s keyboard player had to set up his equipment; therefore the band played two extra songs to cover, resulting in their set being longer than anticipated. This altogether made the event run behind schedule. Because of this, each act that came on stage afterwards (except for the headline act) had to reduce their set. In spite of this, we were made to endure at least four long intervals to “pay their bills”, and to set up for the next act. It would have been better to have had just one interval. As a result ,the overall flow of the show was disjointed.

Nonetheless, I felt this event was a success in that it brought new and established UK talent to the forefront and allowed them a platform to perform. It has a lot of potential to far beyond its current three year milestone – and become a mainstay as a showcase event. In order to make this a certainty, it has to become more consistent in its execution.

–Kamran Assadi

Heidi Vogel headlines the next UK Soul Jam, which takes place on Sunday 7th February at Jazz Cafe, London. Other performing acts include Jason Jermaine, Cecilia Stalin, Grace Obika, Greeds, Sherry Davis, Abi Gilchrist and Atlanta Smith. Click for more event information.