Album Review: Greek Street Friday

Sphere Magazine

Lisa Barnard, 8th September

Jazzy Ian Shaw releases album Greek Street Friday

Prepare to be uplifted and entertained by jazz musician Ian Shaw's new album Greek Street Friday. Sphere was treated to a live preview on the eve of the album's launch at Ronnie Scott's, within spitting distance of the eponymous street in London's Soho.

The release of Ian Shaw's new album Greek Street Friday timed and chimed beautifully with his recent appearances at Ronnie Scott's. The artist is larger than life – hugely entertaining, irreverent, generous in all senses and so talented as a singer songwriter. How is it he has he recorded 17 albums to date and is not better known, or am I just late to the party? He also had the best backing vocalists at his performances, all above their pay grade, including the wonderful Polly Gibbons, whom I also saw live at Ronnie's in July on the eve of her own album launch As It Is. Shaw and Gibbons have been flatmates – I imagine there was some late night improvisation.

Greek Street Friday is co-written by the pianist and Shaw's long-time collaborator Jamie Safir. Highlights for me are Falling Uphill, Little World and of course Greek Street Friday. People Who Go Ta-dah! had the audience in chuckles. Shaw has no truck with the "Ta-dah" brigade (visualise wide upward sweep of arms and forced ecstatic grin). Nobody walked out, so I assume those people weren't in the audience for the matinee performance. If they were, they kept their arms to themselves.

Shaw has a string to his bow as an entertainer and this shone through his performance. He started on the comedy circuit and came up through the cabaret scene in the UK and New York. He's performed two-man shows with Julian Clary, has staged shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and has presented the Jazz FM Ronnie Scott's Show for a decade.

Jazz is too narrow a description for Shaw. His songs are based on his engaging portraits of people and places: whether it's 1980s London, New York, love and loss, basement bars, poets, friendships, lovers, near-escapes and far-away places.

Ronnie Scott's describes his music as "soulful, funky and bold, drawing inspiration from Shaw's early musical and lyrical influences - Bowie, Steely Dan, Al Jarreau, early Elton John, Billy Joel, Rickie Lee Jones." The evening opened with a rendition of Joni Mitchell's In France They Kiss on Main Street which set the mood.