Jeremy Sassoon – Ray Charles Revue, Ronnie Scott’s
Sipping a mint julep, former Psychiatric Doctor Jeremy Sassoon coolly opened an exhilarating set paying tribute to the music of Ray Charles, his debut at Ronnie Scott’s. A compilation of hits and lesser-known tunes, Sassoon and his band presented a well-arranged, well-executed 80 minutes of music. Many of the arrangements came from jazz saxophone master Iain Dixon, making the most of the stars of the band: Winston Rollins on trombone, Martin Shaw on trumpet and the superb Mike Smith on drums.
And not forgetting of course, “Ray Charles” himself, Jeremy Sassoon. There’s no doubting from where Sassoon draws his inspiration – whether consciously or sub-consciously, he rocks on the piano stool while playing, head whipping from side to side, getting into the groove of the music.
Sassoon is a charming and witty front-man, one of his skills being that he can make the audience feel immediately at ease, and can almost relate to the crowd on a personal level. Such an atmosphere made the sold-out crowd – presumably brimming with Ray Charles fans – applaud wildly for each tune and soak up the infectious feel-good vibe.
Vocally, the highlights were a raw, aching You Don’t Know Me, and Bye Bye Love, with spot-on backing vocals from Annabel Williams, Tor Hills and LaDonna Harley-Peters.
The Ray Charles Revue certainly has longevity, as a sold out Saturday night crowd will testify.
Sarah Ellen Hughes for London Jazz News
Jeremy Sassoon quartet at Pizza Express, Soho – 8th January 2015
There was a real buzz at Pizza Express Dean Street last Thursday, where singer pianist Jeremy Sassoon played to a sold-out crowd. With a fantastic line-up including, Derek Nash on sax (Jools Holland, Sax Appeal, Annie Lennox) Elliot Henshaw drums (Buddy Rich Big Band, Shirley Bassey, Kirk Whalum) and Richard Hammond, bass (Tony Christie, Imelda May, Tom McRae), the band were immediately in the groove from beat one.
The sets were masterfully crafted, with a variety ranging from Nat King Cole’s haunting Nature Boy to Paul Simon’s playful 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover with the gently swinging Dance Me to the End of Love by Leonard Cohen bringing the audience back from their reverie in between. A major highlight of the show was Jeremy’s No.1 iTunes hit, The Things We’ve Handed Down, which was featured on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs and was rated as the Castaway’s Favourite on the BBC.
I could hear a number of influences in Jeremy Sassoon’s intimate and honest vocal style. With bluesy, soulful inflection, I could hear hints of Ray Charles, Georgie Fame, Van Morrison and even Michael McDonald in Jeremy’s sound. A genuine sense of fun really came across on the more up-tempo numbers like ‘Gone at Last’, and Sassoon’s heart-felt delicacy on songs such as the poignantly beautiful I Could Drink A Case of You brought a melancholy tear to the eye.
It is a mark of true showmanship when a performer knows when to change the speed or the vibe, taking the audience on an emotional journey, and that is exactly what Jeremy Sassoon did at his sold-out show!
Review by Kai Hoffman for London Jazz News
Ray Charles Project Big Band at Manchester Jazz Festival 29th July 2016
The 21st edition of Manchester Jazz Festival came to a conclusion over the weekend with some fanfare. At the Hobgoblin festival tent, Jeremy Sassoon revived his long-running Ray Charles big band project which had premiered at the festival seven years ago. Digging deep into the legend’s songbook, the band revised and renewed a range of The Genius’ numbers from the most obscure to the most well-known. It’s a recipe that will satisfy the most ardent Ray Charles discographers and those with only a casual acquaintance of his music. So, despite a smattering of the big hits, the set-list was never predictable, as proven by the opening numbers, a Latin-esque One Mint Julep, Hallelujah I Love Her So and Little Girl of Mine which all swung with well-honed panache.
Taking his place at the keyboards as band leader and singer, Sassoon adopts an intelligent stance toward the material without ever seeming to take the project too seriously. His solos, whether taken on piano or Fender Rhodes were a delight; a blues-drenched workout on Georgia on My Mind was particularly memorable. Arrangements were taken care of by vastly experienced reed man Iain Dixon (latterly of The Impossible Gentleman) who has either transcribed or re-arranged the tunes. Iain’s reworking of You Don’t Know Me really was sweeping, passionate and layered in warm harmonic depth. And there’s plenty of other talent in the ranks of this ever-evolving line-up.
There was some aristocratic blues lineage in the Albert Collins-like attack of Mike Outram’s guitar for the very obscure 1970s song, Jealous Kind. Steve Parry’s razor-blade trumpet style crackled with energy all night. Guest alto saxophonist from the Jam Experiment, Alexander Bone, who’d played earlier, showed a mastery of high-flying be-bop licks in his two solos. There were also some entertaining conversations from the trombones, and a great section where all the horns built and merged into a group improvisation inspired by both King Oliver and Free jazz in equal measure. A trio of backing-singers, The Jaelettes, were introduced just in time for some spirited call and response in the classic What I Say. And of course they were an essential element in a sparkling rendition of Hit The Road Jack. For the finale there were a few of Charles’ big hits which had people up at the back, shaking their tail feathers with gusto. A great tribute to a songwriting legend.
Andy Cronshaw for The Manchester Evening News