Over the years I’ve heard Georgie Fame play many times, often at Ronnie Scott’s but at other venues dotted around London. I’m too young to have caught him in his 1960s heyday at the Flamingo when he was more a pop star and secured a number of hits with his unique Mose Allison and jazz and blues-rooted style.
Sufffice to say though, like his erstwhile musical colleague Van Morrison (namechecked in ‘The Diary Blues’) there is a big range to what Fame has to offer across a huge swathe of musical styles. Most of all Fame is all about clever lyrics, hip piano or Hammond-playing delivered in a swinging style, an effortless way with the blues and there is always a slight poignancy in the way he handles ballads.
Whether this is Fame’s final album or not remains to be seen – I sincerely hope not. There’s nothing maudlin incidentally about these “swan songs”. Fame has plenty to sing about here in the company of his sons guitarist Tristan Powell and drummer James Powell plus bassist Alec Dankworth, trumpeter Guy Barker, saxist Alan Skidmore, vibist Anthony Kerr with singer Madeline Bell, a long time collaborator or Fame’s, joining too on a few songs.
Recorded in a Welwyn Garden City studio in 2013 during Fame’s 70th year the material is mostly new and covers plenty of angles, a little calypso on ‘De Caribbean Way’, some Capetown flavours and more and there is plenty of personal biography thrown in whether reflecting his Methodist background or those far-off Flamingo days.
A one-off Fame remains, his contribution to British jazz and popular music invaluable and there are plenty of special moments here, ‘Lost in a Lover’s Dream’, Georgie’s own quality song, you’d swear a lost song worthy of an Anthony Newley.
Released on 6 November