Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes live at Ronnie Scott’s, London | Review

lonnie liston

Many a jazz legend has passed through Ronnie Scott’s down the years, few however can say they’ve remained relevant to younger and older audiences alike throughout their long careers. Lonnie Liston Smith has had no such problems due to his ability to adapt his music to the times plus hip-hop’s love of sampling his funky yet melodic virtuoso piano/keyboard licks has kept those publishing cheques rolling in at a steady rate.

The show of February 2nd was the penultimate performance of his three-night stand and a sold out Ronnie Scott’s was in boisterous form as witnessed by the rapturous reception that greets Smith and his backing band, The Cosmic Echoes. During this 75-minute set, Smith lead his band through seamless blends of Jazz-Funk fusion and more traditional Jazz, moving between his front of stage dual level keyboards and a grand piano with consummate ease.

Alongside Smith, it was somewhat a family affair with Tabitha Pearson on lead vocals and her brother, the incredibly talented Lee Pearson on drums. Although Tabitha’s lyrics were a little on the generic side, her impressive range complimented the band’s sound nicely after her voice was made more audible in the mix, having been overpowered by the band during her first song.

One of the sets highlights came in the form of the much-sampled, beautifully melancholic piano-led “Garden Of Peace.” Before hitting those spin tingling minor keys, Smith acknowledges Mary J.Blige, Jay-Z and a slew of others for their re-interpretations and admits it’s only on this tour that he’s given it frequent airings. Another highpoint was Lee Pearson’s drumming and his especially devastating drum solo, displaying an array of tricks including playing with his bare hands and drumming with one stick balanced on his head – all whilst not missing a beat makes for quite a spectacle.

Following that was always going to be a tough act but with a back catalogue as thick with classics as Smith’s is, this didn’t prove problematic. Closing the set with a triumphant rendition of crowd favourite “Expansions” had everyone in the room grooving to the sublime uplifting rhythms and put the cherry on top of an exquisitely baked music cake. Best advised to catch this living legend whenever and however you can.