Superb – It’s only a
matter of time!
Olly Wedgwood has been
playing with the Oxford Jazz Quintet, Jamie Cullum’s previous group
before he rocketed to stardom (playing as Jamie Cullum's replacement
on piano and vocals). Can Olly J follow in Jamie Cullum’s path and make it big
with his versatile range of upbeat jazz, soul & funk together with
engaging ballads & mainstream pop?
Although he plays concerts
in 30,000 seater stadiums, Jamie Cullum is still honouring
commitments to play at weddings & other private bookings made before
he shot to fame and the people who made these bookings just can’t
believe their luck!
Well I felt the
same, turning up to a small intimate concert at The
Riverhouse Barn in Walton Surrey, expecting to be
pleasantly entertained, but no more than that. To my
delight, I was blown away by a superb performance of
quality musicianship and entertainment.
I had never
seen Olly play live before and didn’t expect such a
treat. The concert was to launch his new album ‘From the
Heart’. Like most of the audience, I had never heard any
of the tracks before and even star names have trouble
commanding the attention of their fans with a whole
album of new material.
Right from the
start Olly showed that he is more than a talented
musician and composer; he is an entertainer who thrives
on live performances with his outgoing personality.
mention must be made for the superb musicianship of
Olly’s friends – the band played the challenging set not
just faultlessly but brilliantly – so tight and together
with lead guitar, sax, clarinet, flute, bass & drums
playing off each other, with short jamming spells to
show their individual talents.
The set started
up-tempo with the ‘upstream’ section of the album,
nicely leading to the ‘interlude’. The second half
‘downstream’ - more mellow, chilled out music and then
brought to a lively finale with some Latin American
Calypso style songs and upbeat funk.
The set kicked
off with ‘Everything I Need’ the first track from the
album which has a funky intro and backbeat, exquisite
rhythmic vocals and superb sax and trumpet licks –
nicely into the grove, an impressive start indeed!
The album then
goes a few more notches up-tempo with ‘Your Smile’ which
lifts your spirits, and that’s precisely what it’s about
- a celebration of how great you can feel when there’s
someone special in your life to give you support through
good times and bad. Again very rhythmic throughout, It
features an impressive guitar solo and leaves you
feeling upbeat and optimistic. Play this at home and
you’ll find you get the housework done in half the time!
versatility, Ollie and friends gave solid performances
of jazz & blues standards ‘Blue Skies’ (Irving Berlin
made popular by Robin Williams & Eva Cassidy) and God
Bless The Child (Billie Holiday).
This led into
Olly’s next original composition, ‘Walking’ which is
track 3 on the CD, another upbeat optimistic song with
impressive scat vocals. I challenge you to keep still
when you listen to this.
The set moved
on to a lively version of Sweet Georgia Brown (in New
Orleans style) and an enchanting version of ‘Nature Boy’
(Nat King Cole, David Bowie, Celine Dion) which Olly
really put his emotions into. You believed the words
were heartfelt ...”the greatest thing you’ll ever learn
is, just to love and be loved in return”.
(track 4 on the CD) was another surprise for the
audience as Olly left the keyboard half-way through this
number to demonstrate he has rhythm in his feet, as well
as his voice, with a tap dancing ‘duel’ with the drums.
Behind the fun
there’s a serious message in the lyrics of ‘Freedom
Dance’, inspired by Amnesty International observing that
in many countries just speaking the truth is breaking
the law and can get you locked up. But if you’re
non-political don’t be put off, the lyrics are
meaningful but nothing’s rammed down your throat and you
will be entertained by this number which is the last
upbeat track on side one. Featuring punchy sax & trumpet
interplay and rhythmic acoustic guitar and bass solos
leading into that tap & drum ‘duel’. It was a brave
thing to do, but I’m glad to report that far from being
a gimmick the tap & drum routine is not just a triumph
in the live performance but also works very well when
listening to the CD.
On to the track
which takes us from the upbeat (‘Upstream’) section of
the CD towards the mellow (‘Downstream’) section called
‘Interlude’. It ‘s an instrumental which shows yet
another side of the musicianship of Olly J & his band.
This instrumental is no time filler; it is part of the
album and live set on merit. Featuring wonderful flute &
percussion throughout, it represents the journey of a
river from the bubbly, fast upstream, to the gentle
ballads ‘downstream’ as the river widens. A lovely track
to make the transition,
starters were followed by some desert in the shape of
‘Tutti Frutti’, a highly original version of the Little
Richard Rock n Roll number performed in scat style,
apparently one of Olly’s trademark songs at his gigs.
The second set
was kicked off with ‘From The Heart’, another new song
(track 6 on the CD). It’s about unattainable love - a
devoted servant’s longing for the ‘princess’ he serves.
It develops beautifully and has delicious sax and
acoustic guitar supporting the quality vocals and piano
playing of Olly.
We were then
treated to an impressive jaz piano solo, with
improvisation in the middle, titled ‘Sway’, followed by
‘What a Difference a Day Makes’ which developed from a
slow intro into a samba style.
‘Right by Your
Side’ (no 7 on the CD) came next, a nice mid-tempo
number with meaningful lyrics, great rhythmic vocals and
lovely interplay between piano and acoustic guitar. It’s
a song you find yourself singing along to and would make
a great single.
A jazz version
of the standard ‘East of The Sun (and West of The Moon)’
was followed by a touch of Billy Joel – ‘She’s Got A
Way’ performed solo by Olly on piano and vocals.
(track 9 on the CD) has a lovely feeling of lazy summer
days and a beautiful flow of rolling waves. This is
punctuated with some glorious soaring electric guitar
passages as the lyrics head skywards.
song, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ was served up in
the set was ‘The Shepherd’s Song’, the last of the new
compositions. It’s a story of a journey to an unfamiliar
land in search of ‘treasure’ and a better life, being
sent in a particular direction, being cheated and left
not knowing which way to turn. Really also about the
journey through life and observing that you can find
real happiness by ‘following your heart’. A nice jazz
influence but with a Latin flavour on the percussion.
This up-tempo song had us feeling upbeat and demanding
We were treated
to two encores, a chance to hear a second performance of
‘Everything I Need’ which was followed by a jazz
rendition of the popular Gershwin standard ‘S’Wonderful’.
The quality of
live performance, both musicianship and entertainment
far exceeded my expectations and I realised I had
attended an intimate concert by a talent who deserves to
heard internationally on the ‘big stage’. Having
witnessed his performance, I have developed an interest
in Olly’s music and purChased the new album ‘From The
Heart’ which I play over and over. I very rarely make
recommendations and as a rule don’t do reviews, but felt
compelled to spread the word on this marvellous talent.
Olly J Wedwood
is a name you should look out for. He has music running
through his veins with both his parents being very
talented musicians, and his mother an author of top
selling ‘Learn to play’ books. Olly started young and
has had the drive to start up various bands, developing
his skills not only as a musician but also as a
performer and entertainer. He stepped into Jamie
Cullum’s shoes in the Oxford Jazz Quintet on merit after
Jamie Cullum had a lucky break (getting noticed by
Michael Parkinson & Melvyn Bragg) and made it big. If
there’s any justice it’s just a matter of time before
Olly get’s the big break that his talent merits.
Review of concert to launch the album 'From The Heart' at the Riverhouse
Barn, Walton-on-Thames Surrey. Reviewed by Chris Grace
Editor of all about Weybridge website
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