Even Londoners may not be aware of the Café in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square. Not only does it offer good-value food served in unusual surroundings, it also has a gift shop and bookshop and is a charismatic musical venue covering all spectrums. Classical music, varying strands of jazz and even salsa are regular features of its programme.
For a keen New Orleans jazz fan, always bemoaning the lack of this energising style of jazz, T J Johnson's Bourbon Kick ensemble was a welcome gig. They have an unusual line-up, lacking a trumpet but with a tenor and alto sax, a tight rhythm section and a sensationally talented trombonist.
New Orleans jazz tends to be the preserve of older musicians, but this is a refreshingly youthful set-up – T J Johnson himself is only 39. Originally the band's pianist and lead singer, he often tours Europe solo and is in huge demand on the UK circuit. A regular at the Crypt, he obviously has a loyal following, since 400 people were packed into the bistro here.
The acoustics are superb, and this enthusiastic band, with strong influences of rhythm'n'blues, played a brilliant two-part set. A small area for dancing or, to be precise, jiving, was filled with a tight group of regulars. Two energetic elderly males danced the socks off two very attractive thirtysomething females. Bourbon Kick have charisma, drive and enthusiasm in spades, propelled along by a first-class backing trio, the fruity tones of T J and the brilliant young trombonist (eat your heart out, Chris Barber!), who dominated the evening.
Judging from the packed venue, the prominence of regulars, a refreshing presence of young jazz fans and the fierce applause, this charismatic and much-needed traditional jazz band is a deserved repeat performer.
T J Johnson plays the Eildon Centre in Coldstream tomorrow (01890 883 150; www.tjjohnson.co.uk)
Jon Cole, writer, PortsmouthReuse content