By: Sammy Stein
Seeing Kitty la Roar and Nick Shankland perform in China Tang restaurant in the Dorchester Hotel is about as perfect a setting for this duo as imaginable. Welcoming, classy and gorgeous – setting and band suit each other like tailored clothes. Their music is distinctive yet mainstream enough as to not upset the delicate palettes of Tang’s diners. I have seen them perform several times now and each time it gets better and better.
La Roar and Shankland have been around for a while but for some reason remained a little below the radar of most jazz music lovers seeking a good show in London. However, this is their time and the doors have opened. More and more people have come to discover their delicious mix of Kitty’s film-star looks and mellow voice, Nick’s dapper fashion sense and growly, Armstrong-esque vocal interludes as well as his wonderful piano playing.
Standards are worked into their routine, as are wonderful self-compositions, with some of the covers like Sinatra’s Fly Me to The Moon, or Spider Man given such a ‘Nick and Kit’ re-touch that they might almost be originals. The communication between the two onstage is wonderful and the audience can’t help but get a sense of the fun the pair have whilst they perform. They cannot fail to miss the quality of Nick’s playing or the beautiful timbre which creeps into Kitty’s voice.
It is difficult to describe what happens but suffice to say Kitty la Roar and Nick Shankland present a show for their audience which is practiced, very classy and performed with such delight and a sense of fun that whatever your day has been like, however crowded and hassled your life might be, watching them perform is akin to finding an oasis in the desert – only for half an hour at a time but by the end of their show you feel refreshed, happy and ready to face anything.
That was one night. But, Nick and Kitty had not finished with me yet. They invited me to another show the following evening at Scarfe’s Bar in the Rosewood Hotel. Here, the clientele is more mobile, more likely to just pop in for a drink or chat so Kitty and Nick can sometimes go a bit more experimental, relishing in pieces like Ellington’s ‘Black and tan’ with a La roar/Shankland twist.
For this gig, Kitty appeared in a gold shimmering dress which looked as if it had been melted to the contours of her body – she looked stunning. Nick was in black suit – black carnation included and black titfer hat- worn, he joked for the sole purpose of being able to acknowledge any applause with a bow and dapper swoosh of his hat. So, dressed to thrill, the couple drew attention- even leading to photographers there for a party hosted by Sir Elton John taking place downstairs to ask, ”who are they?” and take a picture, just in case.
The pair performed a range of numbers, clearly pleasing the crowd and enjoying themselves. Nick’s piano playing came into its own with flourishes, tweaks and some pretty monstrous chord clashes when he felt the need to liven things up a bit. Kitty’s singing just got better and better. With a realisation that I had to leave I left with the band still performing, people who had just popped in for a drink staying- well, why go anywhere else when this act was playing? and a sense of wellbeing and warmth. Between numbers the pair seemed to manage to speak to just about everyone at the bar and the striking thing is the warmth with which people speak of them. They greet many, chat to some and it is clear they make an effort to remember names, events and take an interest in the people who come to see them, many of whom make it a repeat event because they believe they have discovered an act which is a true gem.
Of course, they have but the secret is out, people are beginning to realise just how special this pair are and things, as they say, are on the move. Kitty and Nick are shortly going into the studio to complete their second album – which includes many self-penned numbers and it should be something well worth waiting for.
Kitty la roar and Nick Shankland – if you have not heard of them before, I guarantee it, you soon will.