When The Jazz Bar springs to mind, it is impossible not to think of the late legend Bill Kyle. The former owner and resident drummer, sadly taken in 2016, left a legacy in bands that still frequent his bar, and therein lies the true spirit of immortalisation. Of but one of many acts that were inspired and brought together by the wisdom and experience of Kyle are The Katet: a seven-piece jazz/funk group that pay great tribute to Stevie Wonder. The band spared no time on frivolous introductions, and rightly so. The lights were dimmed as a hushed awe of anticipation spread in whispering ripples across the room, before the unerring vocals of pianist Mike Kearney gently lead in with the soft, woeful lyrics of
For their remarkable output, the audience were wholeheartedly grateful.
With the likes of I Wish and For Once In My Life we get more exposure to the drumming skills of Davide Rinaldi, whilst on numbers such as Sir Duke we gather a wider scope of the brass section, with trumpet player Chuck Dearness and trombonist Ross Lothian exhibiting excellent dynamics and sustained use of glissando. The band also opted to play lesser known numbers such as Contusion, with strong drumming and bass reminiscent of Isaac Hayes, and Another Star that saw saxophonist Tom Pickles charm the crowd with an endearing flute solo.
I Believe (When I Fall In Love) slowed down the momentum but brought to the fore the excellent improvisation skills of guitarist Dave Wallace, who continued to build on this in Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing with a quirky solo that invoked the main riff of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise; evidently, the seven are not afraid to have fun. With I Wish and Higher Ground out of the way, there was no question what the night was going to end on. And they did not fail to provide. Moving behind the powerhouse of the funk driven bassline, Mike Kearney took to leading the crowd in Superstition and thereafter ended the night on a high note.
I’d have liked to have seen more use of trombone as it did not feel like The Katet used Ross Lothian’s potential as best they could have. And whilst it was fun to tease in the opening of Sir Duke before several songs, it wasn’t done justice for how much it was built up only to be cut short by about two minutes; still, it was a good rendition for the short time it was played. And any lead singer who can make mid-stage towel-offs look cool deserves credit, though Kearney truly showed his vocal prowess is matched only with his stark abilities on the piano, particularly on the likes of He’s Misstra Know It All.
It is hard to call The Katet authentic given the show is based on one performance of one artist, but they are by no means a cheap imitation. The septet showed remarkable improvisation where fortune allowed it. Their musical cohesion was bulletproof. And for their remarkable output, the audience were wholeheartedly grateful. Bill Kyle would be proud to know there are still plenty of talented musicians who can invoke such a positive reaction from the crowd.