I was pleased to be invited to a Caffe Nero-sponsored showcase by the impressive Pablo Ettinger. Pablo is an entrepreneur whose track record in setting up, from scratch, the chain Caffe Nero (and no I am not exaggerating) is matched by the commitment and hard work he and his entrepreneurial partners are now putting into promoting new music. It was great to meet one of those partners Ray Jones at the start of the evening too and to swap stories about attending the once-great 12-Bar Club where I played some memorable gigs in the nineteen nineties.
The gig was a showcase for the agency they have established to nurture and promote new music artists across a wide spectrum of genres and scenes. It is called Talentbanq and a visit to their website will give you a good insight into the work they are doing. Emphasis is on live new music and supporting unsigned talent (albeit the term unsigned in today’s post-digital independent music sector is a little hard to precisely define). The event took place at The Bedford in Balham, South West London, a beautiful and relatively recently refurbished music venue.
It was a pleasant surprise to walk in and discover my friend Richard Hunt is now the sound engineer and production manager for the venue. He was one of several friends I unexpectedly ran into. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see fellow independent music folk at an event like this one. In keeping with the cutting edge character of the venue, Richard engineered the gig from an iPad whilst wandering around the venue.
Joncan Kavlakoglu is a Turkish guitarist and writer whose music has a European semi-classical and folk edge mixed up with a funkier vibe that demonstrates his liking for classic US Funk. His style exudes a clear flamenco influence and his is very much a visual act. We are treated to body percussion, lots of tapping out rhythms on the guitar and some jaw-dropping playing skills.
Content-wise it would be interesting to hear him bring in some melodic elements (voice or other instruments possibly). At the moment his is an act tailor-made for the smallish venue where an appreciative crowd will swoon to his guitar-playing mastery. He cuts a likeable figure too and is certainly a true entertainer who instantly establishes a rapport with the audience. It will be interesting to see how his music develops in the next year or two.
Honey Mooncie is 18 years old and has grown up listening to a long lineage of great Jazz singers. She has put this rich tapestry of influences together with a contemporary pop and soul sensibility to create her own fresh style. Tonight she is aided and abetted by a fine trio of musicians. The guitarist plays technically demanding parts including an array of exquisite jazz-infused and extended chords and, like a true professional, he makes it all look very easy. The busy and inventive bass and effortlessly fluid but rock solid drums are impressive too. She is fortunate to be accompanied by such strong musicians. One of my accomplices remarked that they could do with a keyboardist to add some spine-tingling Rhodes piano and tasty Hammond Organ but my opinion was they don’t especially need one and it would just be another cost!
Honey may be young but she has worked out how to win over the crowd, joking that she recently turned eighteen so is now a ‘proper adult’ and charming the audience with her adorable personality. She explains that one track is about stuff that was going on when she was seventeen which was ‘not a lot really’! In another song she sings ‘My mum says I should give it up/My dad says boys just want to f***’. Quite!
Her command of the timbres, textures and dynamics in her vocal range is impressive too even though she could maybe work a little on her diction. Moreover she has the style and the songs to take this all the way. Her voice is sweet but strong too and her performance tonight was captivating. Star quality is the hardest facet to put ones finger on but she definitely has it and, with Rocket Management having signed her and good people around her, she is moving in very much the right direction.
Georgia & The Vintage Youth come from a tradition of punchy talented female Soul and Jazz influenced artists from Billie Holliday to Amy Winehouse and from Sharon Tandy to Paloma Faith. Georgia’s music mixes up the influences with elements of jazz, blues, ska, soul and pop. The vocal comparison with Amy is unavoidable though her style has a fair helping of pastiche from across a broader spectrum.
Georgia is a true entertainer. She has something of the music hall about her, from the flamboyant look and sassy dance moves to her easy camaraderie with the crowd. She observes age old live performance traditions like introducing each member of the band and giving them a solo. It is very democratic. Her musicians are of high calibre and when an audience member asks whether Tenor Saxophonist Mad Marco’s real name is Marco she retorts that his first name is Mad and his second name is Marco! Georgia herself is a decent pianist with a gutsy and powerful voice. We are amused when she explains that one song is about falling out with a friend and not really being all that bothered! And her song about falling for a gay guy goes down a storm too.
The performance is energetic, solidly professional and very enjoyable. Again this is tailor-made for the live arena and Georgia has the audience eating out of her hand. An extended cover of the Ray Charles classic Hit the road Jack mashed up with the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams provides a popular encore as well as that chance to introduce the musicians in show band style.
Between the acts we have verbal contributions from Ray and Pablo with welcome calls to support new music. The enthusiasm these guys have coupled with the expertise they bring to managing an operation like Talentbanq is certainly infectious. Their artists are in very good hands.