Arts: Pop: Soul man finds perfect pitch
DAVID MCALMONT FLEECE AND FIRKIN BRISTOL
Tuesday 02 February 1999
How best to harness his gorgeous instrument, however, hasn't been entirely clear up to now. A background in indie-crossover acts, first with Thieves, and then in the brief partnership with Suede's Bernard Butler, allowed McAlmont to avoid the black hole that all Brit-soul careers seem to end up in. But where was it leading to, other than occasional Shirley Bassey pastiche?
Thankfully, on the recent solo album A Little Communication (Hut), McAlmont has put his soul cards on the table. The result is a record, produced by Tommy D, with backings stripped to the bone, that just keeps getting better with every listen. The rare jewel of a voice is at last given a setting worthy of it. Whether the programmed beats and murmurs could be reproduced live remained the wild card in the pack.
A pre-gig soundtrack of Al Green's greatest hits tempted fate, but once McAlmont took the stage, all doubts vanished immediately. The superbly versatile and laid-back quartet of two keyboard players, bass and drums stroked out the insouciant rhythms; the singer took his position by the microphone, and we all prepared to swoon. Almost from the first note, it was achingly, breathtakingly good. With his retro specs and the sweeping gestures of his pipe-cleaner arms making him look like a less messianic version of Malcolm X, McAlmont was a marvel.
Unlike Al Green, Aretha or Marvin Gaye (whose "Sexual Healing" era beatbox rhythms are copied occasionally on the new album), McAlmont's voice is more airy than earthy. Rather than testify, he soars, twitters and trills like a miraculous bird. The mastery of his voice and microphone technique are quite remarkable. Notes are projected at an intimate volume and then subtly caressed, with the off-mike breath calibrated to produce the desired effect. The only doubt is that the music is so subtle and elegant, and McAlmont's charm so sophisticated, you wonder if they risk going over the audience's heads.
Though the performance was one of the best I've ever heard from a vocalist, the encore was far from assured. It came all the same, in the beautiful form of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", with the opening verses sung wonderfully, not by McAlmont, but by keyboard player and bassist. It was magical already, but when it came to McAlmont's turn it got better still. What a voice!
McAlmont plays the Jazz Cafe, London NW1, tonight. His new single `A Little Communication', was released yesterday on Hut Recordings
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Game of Thrones season 5: Emilia Clarke praises characters who 'accept their femininity'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate