Event Review: Judi Jackson @ Jazz Cafe – EFG London Jazz Festival (London; Thursday 18th November 2021)

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Judi Jackson is able to tease out more erotic energy from a crowd than eighteen months of lockdown boredom. Or maybe it’s the combination of both. This was a night packed with couples flirting, whispering and grinding. I was enchanted too, and just one worrying step away from trying to get cosy with the complete stranger next to me.

Jackson enters in skinny stilettos so high, her fearlessness demands your attention before she even starts singing.  She clearly enjoys the theatre of being on stage and opens what will be both a playful and deeply emotive night filled with neo-soul, blues and jazzy ballads. Her spell is immediately cast.

 

Her writing style is one of exploring deep feelings but she keeps a sense of humour.  ‘Space Gyal’, a tune from her new album Grace nods to an Erykah Badu style production. With a verse of sassy spoken word she enters the chorus with “I’m out of this world”. She jokingly instructs the audience to use this sentence in hard times. As she tells the eager room, whenever someone dismisses you, just respond “I’m out of this world”. If you find yourself rejected, simply reply “I’m out of this world”. 

It was touching to see Jackson reignite a song she wrote when she was younger, ‘Crashing Down’. The lyrics outline lessons learnt from the rawness of an all-consuming hurt, sharing her journey of personal growth. The performance then turned dramatic as she performed ‘Sunrise’. If she wasn’t so talented, this could have fallen on the wrong side of cheesiness.

At times throughout the performance, Jackson was splitting the audience into groups and encouraging them to sing different parts of the melody.  She takes the audience into her arms, allowing them to join in, before turning to her band and showing off their own skills with call and response via impromptu scatting.

With an impressive range, Jackson is able to master complex melodies with such perfection, but it is in her emotive delivery that glues every sense to the stage. The finale was the most touching rendition of the night, as she removes her sunglasses and through tears sings ‘Grace’.  A song describing the longing to see her birth mother again.

I can’t imagine Judi Jackson not being a performer and on this night she left the audience experiencing all the different forms love, pain and joy can take.

 

Photos ©: Kate Pieroudis

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