Aldwych Theatre, London
I’m a fan of the Jive Aces, me. I’ve only seen ’em once, mind, up at the Edinburgh Fringe, but I though they were well cool. Acutely professional, yet immensely approachabe, these are amenable swing merchants, who know just where to find our audio g-spots & get us reyt going. Anyways, a pal of mine, tonight’s photographer, has a daughter who just happens to be among the occasional singers of who adorn the Aces’ canary-black stage, & so when we discover’d she would be doing a one-off festive show at the Aldwych Theatre in London, it would have been foolish not to accept the invitation to witness, ‘The Jive Aces Not Quite Christmas Show.’
Taking our seats in the Dress Circle of the Edwardian & wedding-cake decorated Aldwych theatre, what a treat was this festive variety box . Think of a variety buffet, with tap dancers, swing-groovers & a whole medley of singers & players. We had Ray Gelato, just about to start a stint at Ronnie Scotts, & an absolute donjon whizz at sax & swing. We had the London Belles, three delectable & sassy singers ‘from the locality,’ who synchronised notes & moves with an addictive elegance. We had tap-dancing maestro Adele Joel, we had Alan Power, a fantastic new talent from Ireland who seems somehow descended from the very bloodline of Elvis Presley; & finally, of course, my friend’s daughter, the living embodiment of Betty Boop, Rebecca Grant – a BBC beauty who had flown in from San Francisco in the middle of a film-shoot especially for this one-off gig.
The Jive Aces themselves are six stunningly talented lads who perform’d 500 live nightly streams in a row during the Pandemic, a veritable Hamburg period of intense song exploration which has widened vistas into a great Christmassy set here, a roots of Elvis gig there, & of course the core of their musical soul which is a feast of swing & jive. I loved the Jerry Lewis theatrics of the ‘Professor,’ Vince Hurley, on keyboards, while the drummer, Peter Howell, banging on the double bass strings, while its player, Ken Smith, was jazz fusioning all over the shop up the fretboard was literally the best thing I have ever seen in my life. Meanwhile, conducting everything with superslick, easy-vibes,caressing his ukelele & emitting kittenesque caramel vocals was mega-talented Ian Clarkson. What a band! What a joy!
We all have our foundation myths at the Jives Aces appreciation society; one of the audience members, a lovely woman of a certain age, had first seen the Aces a few years ago at the Twinwood celebration of Glen Miller’s music, & watch’d 490 of the 500 aforemention’d live streams. She & I, & everybody else all rose to our feet for the powerful & funky finale & from the spirit of the Jive Aces, a very merry Christmas to you all.
Words: Damian Beeson Bullen
Photography: Michael Grant