Live Review: Camille Thurman with the Darrell Green Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s

Camille Thurman with the Darrell Green Quartet debuted at the world-famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London on May 11th kicking off the launch of their sold-out European tour. It was an unforgettable night.

It is hard to believe that Camille Thurman has not performed at Ronnie’s before considering her astounding achievements in a relatively short amount of time. In 2017, The New York Times featured Camille in their ‘For Women in Jazz, a Year of Reckoning and Recognition’ article stating that ‘you’re hard-pressed to find rising talents more exciting than Camille Thurman’ – they were not wrong. As a composer, vocalist and multi instrumentalist, Camille has won countless awards, received incredible reviews across the globe and is considered one of the world’s leading jazz artists. As a saxophonist, she was the first woman in 30 years to tour and perform full time with the world-renowned Jazz At Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, even performing Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Often compared with jazz legends, particularly Dexter Gordon, her vocals skills are of equal stature and as a vocalist, Ella and Sarah correlations are a plenty. Camille has shared stages with an astounding list of artists including Louis Hayes, Alicia Keys Harry Connick Jr., Dianne Reeves, Jack DeJohnette, Diana Krall, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan Terri Lyne Carrington…the list goes on. After only a few years of playing with jazz royalty she is very quickly becoming one of them.

Tonight at Ronnie’s, performing with the Darrell Green Quartet, Camille brought excellence to the stage. Darrell Green, one of the most in-demand drummers across the globe, along with his outstanding quartet of David Bryant (Piano) Wallace Roney Jr (Trumpet) Paul Beaudry (Bass) encapsulated the brilliance of New York jazz musicians and presented us all with clear evidence of why the fiercely competitive and inspiring city of New York, is considered the Jazz capital of America. If it is full of musicians of this calibre, there can be no argument.

Photo by Leon Barker

Opening with the beautiful solitary sound of David Bryant on the keys, he eased us in with a captivating combination of melancholy and wistfulness, masterly combined with some playful moments and truly virtuosic playing, with the band joining in briefly to tease us with a groove before we return to the solo keys. Then Camille enters. Her saxophone becomes her scepter within only a few notes. There is something truly majestic and powerful about Camille. She combines technical virtuosity, musical innovation, energy and excitement with an air of calm, grace and absolute joy. Respecting and acknowledging the legends who have inspired her by exuding a legendary quality and artistry all of her own. A powerful combination.

We were treated to an inspired choice of material which allowed plenty of space to play homage to the greats while showcasing Camille and Darrells’ arrangements and their unique take on classics tracks and completely making them their own. Cedar Walton’s ‘Holy Land’, Hoagy Carmichael’s’ ‘Stardust’, Ellington’s ‘U.M.M.G’ to mention a few along with a brilliant arrangement of Horace Silver ‘Love Vibrations’ from Camille and Darrell’s recently released Confluences album (highly recommend). Camille introduced the song by sharing that she hoped it would send the audience good vibrations and love – and it absolutely did and some. The audience were completed engaged and captivated throughout, but it was interesting to note that I am fairly certain I was the only audience member who yelled out yes, when Camille asked if there were any Horace Silver fans in the audience. This was a great shame as they missed out on the rich homage and beautiful arrangement and a sign of the increasingly tourist filled audiences I am becoming used to at Ronnie’s. If the tourists came here to learn about jazz, then Camille and her band certainly showed them.

Camille by Daryon Haylock

Camille performed some pieces purely on sax, and in fact the first few songs were sax only, but when she put her sax down, temporarily, it was easy to see why Al Jarreau famously said he was scared of her scatting. Truly something to behold. Scatting can be a dangerous game for today’s vocalists and I have seen much criticism of singers trying to emulate their heroines through vocal acrobatics.  Much care must be taken in being driven by the history and successfully make it your own. Whilst some vocalists can get carried away with demonstrating technical skills, the heart of soul of what scatting actually is, is often forgotten. The path laid down by Ella and Sarah is rarely successfully achieved. Camille Thurman more than meets the challenge. Quite incredible.

Wallace Roney Jr by James E Harvey-Kelly

The connection between the musicians on the stage, throughout the night was exhilarating. Moving as one where needed and allowing moments to shine, the chemistry was palpable. There were some especially beautiful moments between Wallace Roney Jr (trumpet) and Camille’s sax where their interplay and use of dynamics was truly magical. Wallace Roney Jr is a truly remarkable musician.

Sadly, the night ended when the house sound engineer, who appeared to be a little too keen to get on the last tube home, seemed to start turning everything off before the musicians had even put their instruments down, causing horrendous feedback, that filled the room. A first for me at Ronnie’s. Camille smiled graciously and left the stage to greet the many audience members waiting to talk to her who were clearly not in a rush to get home and wanted the night of incredible music to continue.

62 years after Dexter Gordon made his debut at Ronnie’s, his presence was felt and while the often-desired need for comparisons to legends are obvious, make no mistake that Camille has her own unique sound and brings a diverse mix of influences, virtuosity and artistry into her palette. Tonight at Ronnie’s was a masterclass in jazz excellence.

Camille Thurman Website

Darrell Green website

Last modified: June 6, 2024