Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Caro Emerald

12 April 2017

Four years ago, in April 2013, I turned on the TV, which happened to be tuned to the BBC Red Button channel, and stumbled upon a looped recording of a concert in the BBC Radio Theatre which immediately grabbed my attention. Completely forgetting whatever it was I had actually been switching on to watch, I found myself sitting through the entire concert, waiting for it to restart and watching back up to the point where I came in. This mesmerising performance was a session for BBC Radio 2 by the Dutch singer Caro Emerald. Her old-fashioned big band swing, updated by a modern four-to-the-floor dance beat, reminded me of the wonderful French group Caravan Palace who play the gypsy jazz swing of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli to pounding high-tempo electronic beats (reviewed here in July 2009). The use of samples from vintage recordings also brought to mind the Greek group Imam Baildi (reviewed here in May 2009) and the electronic tango of Gotan Project. Inspired by the Radio 2 concert I became a fan of Caro Emerald and would particularly recommend her 2013 album ‘The Shocking Miss Emerald’. So it was very exciting to get the chance to see her live this Tuesday at Milton Keynes Theatre. The 1400-seat theatre was completely sold out – I bought my ticket in November last year. Support was provided by the Israeli singer Irit whose lovely debut album ‘Hello’ is a summery feel-good collection of songs with a real international feel. Caro Emerald was stunning: trained as a jazz singer, her voice is strong and precise. Though her music draws on big band jazz it has more of a pop feel: there are no vocal hystrionics and the seven-piece band is very slick and polished. They use less electronics and sampling than Caravan Palace, Imam Baildi or Gotan Project – you could imagine them as a dance band transplanted from the 1940s to 2017. Indeed it was interesting to note how many of the songs are built on traditional ballroom and Latin rhythms (including tango, waltz, charleston, samba and cha cha cha). Regular readers will know that I love a band that dances to its own tunes and Caro Emerald and her band looked like they were having a great time – so was I. “Could you ever dream it - I have never dreamed, dreamed a night like this”.

You can take a look at footage of that 2013 Caro Emerald BBC Radio 2 session on YouTube – start with:

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