Friday night fever

While others get carried away, model of decorum Dave Woodhall taps his foot occasionally.

It’s some sixty years since the appearance of a sax player in the line-up of a jazz band at Birmingham Town Hall caused a storm of protest from traditionalists. What they would have made of the variations on a jazz-tinged theme that played the venue last Friday is anyone’s guess.

A Tower of Power tribute from Birmingham called Rotunda of Wonder have got a strong claim for the title of best-named band in the world. They certainly worked their way through a set that was well appreciated by a small but growing crowd throughout and would be well worth a listen next door at the Yardbird.

The James Taylor Quartet strolled onto the stage and began laying down some highly danceable funky, bluesy, jazzy tunes. Taylor himself is as good a frontman as it’s possible to be when you’re behind a Hammond, and got the audience singing, or rather la-laing, along to a selection of the band’s own material and a couple of Booker T covers, climaxing with the crowd-pleasing Theme from Starsky & Hutch. By the time an encore of All Wrapped Up came along even upstairs was dancing along; this is not a band to have playing support unless you’re sure the audience will be behind you.

Incognito take to the stage initially as a six-piece, add a couple more horn players and finally their trio of singers arrive. Their music is uncomplicated jazz funk, as catchy and danceable as it ever was, and they hit the right note with an audience that wanted nothing more than to enjoy themselves.

Guitarist and mainstay of the band throughout their lengthy career Bluey kept order, sax player Nigel Hitchcock was the musical highlight of the set while singers Imaani (runner-up in the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest) and Katie Leone showed that they’re more than just backing vocalists.

The set came to a low-key end after just under an hour, with the band returning for an encore of their top ten hit from 1991 Always There and a final chance to dance as Bob Marley’s One Love played over the PA and ended a night of nostalgia that would have made many of the audience think about the time when their Friday nights were spent a few hundred yards away on the other side of Centenary Square.