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Miriam Jones - Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 26/2/2015

  by Owen Peters

published: 12 / 4 / 2015

Miriam Jones - Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 26/2/2015


Owen Peters watches Vancouver-born and now Oxford-based singer-songwriter Miriam Jones play an evocative show at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London to launch her latest album, 'Between Green and Gone'

The Jazz Servants Quarters (JSQ) is a venue with a growing musical reputation. Established artists such as Gilles Peterson, Alexis Taylor along with breaking bands, the Staves, Nick Mulvey and Laura Mvula have played this intimate venue since its doors opened in 2011. Tonight’s it’s Miriam Jones taking centre stage. When we meet up she is pressing the flesh, thanking people for their pre-gig best wishes for tonight’s showcase (In showbiz terms shouldn’t that be break a leg?). She’s looking calm, relaxed, and, with jeans and booted, tee shirt, leather jacket, hair tied in a ponytail, tension-free personified. The previous night she played in her adopted home town of Oxford. When I ask about the gig, her beaming smile tells me everything. “It was great, really pleased. Lots of people turned up. Yes, pleased.” JSQ is a mix of new cocktail bar, with an atmosphere of an old bistro. As with many of London’s smaller gig venues, the action is downstairs in the basement. By the time Jones and her band Martyn Barker (drums), Calum MacColl (lead guitar) and Simon Edwards (bass guitar) are ready it’s standing room only. Get to know your standing partner as the place is full and intimate. Jones gives a brief introduction, and they begin...I immediately want to rewind. A non band member should have set the scene...thanks to the audience...launch of the new album 'Between Green and Gone'...introduction of MJ and her band...now we know why we are here. Instead folks are re-arranging viewing positions, shuffling drinks, finishing off a chat.Hopefully a fix is in place for the next gig. The first couple of songs, 'Train' and 'All Over', for whatever reason are performed well but with restraint. Jones introduces 'Cracks', another track from her new album: “This is a song of those little neglects in a relationship which become wider with time, allowing something or someone to fill the gaps.” Within a couple of chords, the increase in volume and passion is tangible. Now the band is bouncing off each other. When they hit the chorus Jones is pleading, “Cause something’s gotta go there”, namely the tag line being someone else's attention. It’s anger, frustration, resentment, acceptance change isn’t likely to happen. Wonderful lyrics, told with restraint. Special. The applause captures the move in pace, tempo and passion. They are joined on stage by Ginny Clee who provides backing vocals on 'Float'. This is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, and they make this one ping around the place. The tempo is a strong driving percussion, pulsating throughout the song. Barker on drums keeps everything in place with metronome precision. For those of you who have seen the film 'Whiplash', I guarantee he wasn’t dragging! Clee and Jones together sound good, as though the harmonies are well rehearsed, adding a different depth to the vocals. Jones has written a couple of songs for movie scores and her work on the J.K. Rowling biography drama 'Magic Beyond Words' served thematically as the seed for this next song, 'Given All'. Admission time, I have drunk from the well of this song on numerous occasions since first hearing it a week or so ago. This is a hard song to get right. It scales from an emotionless request to be left alone, surging to pleads, verging on a scream to hide her shame and embarrassment on bad decisions made along the way. With smaller venues (as in JSQ) there is no hiding place. The artist is up close and personal with the audience. Fear not...Jones not only captured the technical aspects of the song. She also captured the theatrical changes in pitch to define the story. The gentility of Edwards' arrangements skills work on the album, and they certainly work in this live environment as well. A waltz for those with tears in their eyes. Over recent years Jones has released an acoustic album 'Solitary Songs' (2009) and studio album 'Fire Lives'(2010). The next track, 'Don’t Throw Your Words Away', is featured on both albums. Jones sets the scene by saying if you’ve heard the Overstreet and Schlitz composition 'When You Say Nothing At All', made popular by Ronan Keating, namely as it was on the soundtrack of 'Notting Hill' that this is the opposite lovers request - Tell me you love me and keep the affection flowing. This feels like an outdoor song. A cool summer evening breeze, flowers in full bloom, lovers hand in hand. It’s simple, evocative - “The mouth can say all kinds of things/The hand won’t prove”. Jones can spin a yarn on young love as well. The gig closes with 'Warning', allowing the band to let loose a little. Even MacColl is allowed a bit more freedom from his lead guitar duties. Clee is once again adding backing vocals as the collective come as close as possible to a mini jam session. Except for two songs, the gig was a showcase of 'Between Green and Gone'. Not only did we witness how good the album tracks are performed live, it confirmed there is a back catalogue available as well. More live dates are being added throughout the year across the country. Be it the album or live gigs, give your ears and soul a treat and get hold of her music. Success is hard to define, not everyone get their just rewards. But maybe, just maybe 2015 is the year Miriam Jones gains the mainstream recognition she deserves. For the folks who attended the Oxford and London showcase gigs your future calling card may well be, “I was there…” Photos: Alexia Arrizabalaga www.troubleshooteur.com

Also at Servant Jazz Quarters, London

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Miriam Jones - Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 26/2/2015

Miriam Jones - Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 26/2/2015

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Interview (2015)
Miriam Jones - Interview
Vancouver-born and now Oxford-based singer-songwriter Miriam Jones talks to Owen Peters about her reflective sixth album, 'Between Green and Gone'

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Between Green and Gone (2015)
Poetic and melancholic sixth album from Vancouver-born and now Oxford-based singer-songwriter and guitarist, Miriam Jones

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