EWAN BLEACH | London, Green Note

Ewan Bleach has mastered the stride piano / music hall / Ragtime revival fusion combo like no one else, in this most intimate and acoustic of gigs. Even though every piece is in the same authentic “oom-pah” style, he grips the audience with tight structures, evocative solos, and a husky, unpretentious vocal.

No more than two dozen of us are gathered in appreciative silence around an upright piano, like scouts around a campfire. We nod along; if requested, we sing along. About half of us are only inches away from the piano. The tiny, charming basement room (replete with Edwardian music hall posters) has become a sort of time machine.

In other gigs of his with bands, he plays the clarinet. But his raspy, heavy-vibrato slide clarinet still features here. How? He plays the clarinet and the piano at the same time. He plays the piano and the clarinet at the same time. Clarinettists and pianists will understand this is impossible, but I don’t know how else to describe it. High notes, low notes, all at the same time.

Ewan Bleach makes a feature of being unsure of his material, trying new stuff out, asking for requests, asking for help on the lyrics. It’s all part of the charm. Isn’t it wonderful to know that in the bustle of Camden there’s a quiet slice of magic to be found in a basement? But book, because the few tickets sell out long in advance.

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