The James Taylor Quartet @ Hoochie Coochie Newcastle 23rd January 2016

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As a teen during the 90s I unashamedly sported flares and a Jamiroquai T-shirt. My favourite video game was Interstate ‘76 where I would play the role of a moustachioed 70s detective taking down pimps and perps in my American muscle car. Somehow, funk was back and it was cool to dance again; I’d picked up the bass and suddenly I was Larry Graham.

My friends all hated me.

I became the kind of annoying twat that would put a slap bass solo in the middle of Smells Like Teen Spirit. I wasn’t grimacing my way down the street to the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. I was high-fiving my way to the tune of Starsky and Hutch.

I hadn’t been to Hoochie Coochie- I’d always wanted to but I imagined it was an extremely commercialised club with dim lights and expensive drinks. I have to say I was gladly mistaken. Such a warm and friendly place. It was the perfect place to see the James Taylor Quartet- a tightly packed audience moving and swinging to the funky music. I even felt the part as I limped in (almost pimp-like but not quite) on a walking stick like a ginger Huggy Bear. The staff at Hoochie Coochie were superb. They found me a seat and checked I was OK all night as I nursed my football injury. Top Marks Hoochie Coochie.

JTQ themselves did not disappoint either. James Taylor- no not that one, recently announced a new project to blend jazz and classical music so I wasn’t sure what kind of set we were going to get. I shouldn’t have feared- this was as groovy and as hip as I could’ve hoped for. Taylor’s Hammond organ is impressively percussive and melodic and he leads the group with flair and pizzazz. That signature Hammond sound is incredible live- as it fills the room it has an undeniable charm. Taylor himself is a showman and a band leader- conducting the drums, guitar and bass with nods and flourishes- reminding me a little of the showmanship of Herbie Hancock . All of the show was instrumental aside from a few chants and hum-alongs from the audience; we were lost in the groove and musicianship. Adam Betts on drums was magnificent. Not only was he bang-on tight and technically gifted but he was really hitting those beats hard giving the floating jazz some real punch and bite- the kind of funk-drumming you would hear from a legend like Clyde Stubblefield.

The band played a number of tracks from albums such as 1998’s Wait a Minute and treated the audience to some absolutely corking covers- a personal highlight amongst Green Onions was their version of The Meters Funky Miracle one of my all-time favourite Meters tracks. The band was locked in and tight and- as you would expect, rehearsed and full of confidence. Bass player Andrew McKinney flickered and fluttered around the fret-board with style and groove on a beautiful Fender Precision; guitarist Chris Montague played with the sweetest clean jazz sound and most pleasingly of all- they all looked like they enjoyed every minute of their performance. The audience certainly did.

For my final treat of the night they played the Starsky and Hutch theme tune. I would’ve strutted out of the place feeling like a real badass- if only I could’ve walked properly.

Photo Below by Victoria Ling

James-Taylor-Quartet-Hoochie-Coochie

 

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