Camden’s Jazz Cafe is one of the city’s most beloved music venues. Over the years, it’s seen the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele, Roy Ayers, and Bobby Womack, to name just a few, grace its stage and in May 2021, Omar Lye-Fook celebrated the easing of lockdown measures by delivering a concert there.
QCBA joined him on stage and eight months later they released an album together, based on that night’s concert – Live at Last. The joy at finally being able to perform live is apparent. The tracks are energetic and charged with the excitement from the audience too.
QCBA – Quentin Collins (trumpet), Brandon Allen (sax & flute), Ross Stanley (Hammond organ), and James Maddren (drums), have worked with Omar for over a decade and consequently their collaboration feels easy. Everybody is given a chance to shine. Maddren underpins it all, setting tempos and grooves in granite, and when one layer rises above, smoothly exploring silken melodies, the rest support, until it is their turn to ignite the audience.
Omar shows why he holds such an esteemed position in British jazz. His vocals are a highlight, exuding warmth and richness throughout. Clear and considered in one moment, throaty and unrestrained the next. On Ordinary Day especially, he delivers lyrics with a sense of playfulness, yet they don’t lose any weight. There’s Nothing Like This, a focal point of the album, and a clear crowd favourite, is a transparent showcase of his remarkable singing ability and just how well it works in this long-lasting partnership.
Watch the live video of There's Nothing Like This here:
The entire album is a fun listening experience. Stop War, Make Love opens with toing and froing between Collins and the audience, and it further adds to the energy Live at Last as a funky, soulful album which is very much spontaneous and spur of the moment. It is a refreshing listen – joyful, exuberant, and ebullient. Truly – There’s Nothing Like This.
Review by Elana Shapiro