Rarely have I heard the music of Stevie Wonder interpreted with such finesse, energy, and all-round brilliance.
Award-winning saxophonist Derek Nash has partnered with rock/soul vocalist Noel McCalla (former lead vocalist of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) to celebrate the music of Stevie Wonder in their ‘Some Kinda Wonderful’ concert. Produced by JBGB Events, ‘Some Kinda Wonderful’ occupied London’s The Other Palace on Sunday 14th June for a sold-out show.
Nash, a member of the Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion and leader of the UK-based jazz band Sax Appeal, has been presented with numerous jazz accolades for his craft. Indeed, his command of the saxophone is utterly marvellous to behold with phrasing at times elegant and at others manic and vibrant. In particular, he gave the slightly twee ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’, one of Wonder’s crowd-pleasing if somewhat corny hits, a shot of adrenaline with an astonishing, intoxicating solo. I would go as far to say that Nash, McCalla, and their accomplished band surpassed the original recording in this case.
Despite botching the opening verse of ‘Overjoyed’ and falling victim to a couple of lyric flubs, McCalla had the perfect voice and range to tackle Wonder’s catalogue – his tenor rich, rounded, and buttery. On ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’ he gracefully elevated the range of the song, his voice maintaining its fulsomeness throughout. Furthermore, he released gospel grit on ‘Misstra Know It All’, delivered with a testifying climax, and ‘I Wish’, Wonder’s nostalgic and joyous reflection on childhood mischief. The sign of an experienced vocalist, McCalla often strayed from the original phrasing, making slight alterations to the melodies while still maintaining the integrity of the material.
While both lead musicians displayed their respective talents, they came together to produce something more than just the sum of its constituent parts. In particular, the way they often ‘squared off’ against each other, tightly synchronising saxophone and vocals, was rousing.
Providing excellent support for Nash and McCalla were Dave Ital on guitar (a humble yet very talented guitarist who I have seen at Hideaway several times), Neil Angilley on piano (with beautiful, flowing solos), Jonathon Noyce on bass, and Nic France on drums. As a collective they particularly shone on a bossa nova rendition of ‘Another Star’ from Wonder’s iconic Songs In The Key Of Life album. I must applaud the act for choosing beyond the obvious Stevie Wonder hits.
After closing with ‘My Cherie Amour’ to a full standing ovation, Nash informed the audience that he was open to suggestions of other Stevie Wonder songs to be included within the set. So here goes mine: ‘For Your Love’ from Conversation Peace (1980) – those key changes are magic and there is plenty of scope to slip in a sax solo.
Watch a clip of Nash and McCalla performing ‘For Once In My Life’ on our Twitter feed here.
For more JBGB Events please visit their website here. ‘Some Kinda Wonderful’ will be coming to Pizza Express High Holborn on 3rd October 2018.
(Image taken from The Other Palace website)