Kate Dimbleby and Keith Warmington are a new musical pairing; this gig at the Tropicana is only their third together and, although you do get the sense that they have to nurture their onstage synchronicity a little, they have a keen rapport and an obvious passion for what they do (and have both been doing for quite some time).
The Trop has been turned into a spontaneous jazz club for the night. Lit just enough to imagine cigarette smoke snaking around you, tables are arranged for intimacy and the bar is within easy reach. In fact, this pop-up club is convincingly cavernous and the only future improvement might be to have a curtain behind us to increase snug-ability. But it certainly works for this type of gig.
Greedily, I have two dates tonight. My mum and my dad. They’ve seen Kate Dimbleby before, when she did a ‘standards’ solo set at Curzon Clevedon last May. A lover of Sinatra, Bennett, London et al, Dad is disappointed, I sense, that this performance seems to be headed towards folk and blues rather than jazz. But, having listened to a lifetime of the ‘easy’ stuff, Mum is relieved and, honestly, so am I.
Despite covering songs written and/or sung by legends – Bonnie Raitt, Kirsty MacColl, John Mayall, Leonard Cohen, Etta James, Richard Thompson – I’ve never heard most of them before but love the richness and diversity of this collection. Dimbleby most certainly has a penchant for the quirky and her rendition of Ruth Brown’s peculiar ‘If I can’t Sell It, I’ll Sit On It’ will later have me busily spotifying this new to me 1950s R&B soulstress and, most probably, tweeting Craig Charles about her. Dimbleby has impressive versatility of voice and she clearly feels at home on the stage, working the audience, having fun.
But it’s the self-penned songs by both artists that are a revelation. Dimbleby’s use of the loop pedal (for vocals only and on her lap rather than on the floor) is as unusual as the lyrics of her recently written bluesy tune about yearning, using her ‘new toy’ to build a tense and urgent longing (for children, I think?) as she pleads for the answer to the question “How Long?” amongst her kin. In ‘Limbo’, the first song she wrote, she is consumed by the new feeling of having left a relationship and this is undoubtedly the number that Mum must’ve had in mind when she said during the interval that Kate Dimbleby reminded her strongly of Carly Simon.
Then it’s probably no accident that, when Keith Warmington just performed his own ‘The Evening Song’, I had warm waves of James Taylor washing over me. Warmington is something of a virtuoso on the harmonica with a laid back attitude that advertises his years of experience as he strums the guitar and sings us into a place we know, familiar even on first hearing. He has his own introductions to give us too in John Prine, someone new to most of us, I reckon.
By the end of the show, Dad is excitedly calculating where all the other members of our family are going to sit when we all return for Kate n Keith’s next gig here on 11th December. He clearly enjoyed this cosy night in an impromptu jazz/folk/blues/country club so close to home. We all did. More please.