Slow-burner to a sudden storm at New York jazz gig

Singer-songwriter Vimala Rowe as Billie Holiday in Cafe Society Swing.  Photo supplied.
Singer-songwriter Vimala Rowe as Billie Holiday in Cafe Society Swing. Photo supplied.

Time and reality were suspended at Spalding’s South Holland Centre on Saturday night as Cafe Society Swing brought its own version of Doctor Who to town.

A celebration of what was America’s only authentically integrated music venue, host for the evening Alex Webb invited his audience “to imagine that you’ve never had a mobile phone as it’s December 1938”.

What followed was a 
whistle-stop tour through the US blues, jazz and swing scene which New York’s Cafe 
Society Swing pioneered from December 1938 and the end of 1949.

The show itself featured singer-songwriter Vimala Rowe take on the unenviable challenge of recreating such singing legends as Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Songs such as ‘Rocks in My Bed’, ‘It’s a Red Scare’, and ‘This Funny Thing Called Love’ gave the audience a glimpse of how pioneering songwriters rewrote the rules of music 75 years ago.

But a well-deserved encore for Alex, Vimala and the band, including electrifying trumpeter Sue Richardson, was declined in favour of the highly emotive number ‘Strange Fruit’, a protest song about racial murders.

Winston Brown