Caro Emerald, Jazz Café, London
Dutch diva puts on a vintage show
Wednesday 31 August 2011
From lindy hop dances to art students dressing like land girls, pre-rock 'n' roll vintage is the hipster's current era of choice. Caroline van der Leeuw, however, is far removed from that studied cool. As Caro Emerald, the Dutch singer leads an eight-piece group that recreates big-band jazz, Latino rhythms and joint-rocking jive, yet also includes DJ Git Hyper's scratching.
In the wrong hands, this mix of cultural references could get teeth-grindingly wacky, but tonight Emerald's carefree sense of fun is, ultimately, disarming. Her debut album, Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor, has spent 10 weeks this summer in the Top 10, overshadowed by bigger female names – the record-breaking Adele, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Amy Winehouse. Released last October, the album's rise came on the back of Radio 2 playlists and daytime TV, her UK live debut having been delayed after emergency surgery this spring, on a vocal polyp. Emerald is massive back home, her album breaking the Dutch record for weeks at No1, and after a tentative start here she soon asserts such authority, letting loose a powerful voice.
This is a good humoured, nostalgic return to seemingly innocent times in which the nightclub hostess of "Just One Dance" works in a perfectly harmless occupation. Emerald's band are slick, charming and smartly dressed. Nodding to the heyday of jazz, most of them get a chance to show off, including the parping brass section, a twanging guitarist and even that turntablist. Git Hyper's drumpad solo is a novelty too far, mind – the spectre of the Charleston-inspired one-hit travesty "Doop" raises its ugly head.
Otherwise, this odd mix of period charm and vaguely modern dance sensibilities – think early 90s jazz-rap with clean production – lifts the spirits. "A Night Like This" takes the funk to Perez Prado and "Back It Up" combines a light shuffle with a firm backbeat. As well as celebratory dance numbers, Emerald delivers whimsical pastiche, none more cutesy than "Dr Wanna Do", with its grating "My eyes went woo/My voice just cooed" refrain. Her bonhomie makes even that engaging.
Only rarely does Emerald sound genuinely soulful – she exudes resentful hurt on "The Other Woman" – but she brings enough vivaciousness to the show to suggest that she will be more than this summer's seasonal fad.
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