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Borough Blues Club, Pontypool, Newsletter March 2014

Gig Review, 8th Feb 2014

"one of the best evening’s entertainment we have ever had at the club"

We don’t get many lady vocalists at Borough Blues and, OK, Wales lost and it was another filthy night, but those who didn’t turn up to see Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion missed one of the best evening’s entertainment we have ever had at the club.

It would be hard to overstate the brilliance of this band; a group of seasoned professional musicians laying down creative, exciting, entertaining and rootsy numbers with great skill and enthusiasm.

Led by a superb vocalist in Zoe Schwarz who moved with ease across a range of styles from plaintive and sultry torch-singing to sassy and aggressive blues shouting, Blue Commotion performed mostly original material written by guitarist Rob Koral in collaboration with Zoe - think Billie Holiday; Janis Joplin or a young Maggie Bell delivering cool, subtle, sometimes jazzy, often funky but always well-crafted material.  This was a superb performance.

And it wasn’t just Zoe.  The zany and eccentric Si Genaro produced backing vocals and the clearest and most inventive harmonica solos.  Si was a recent competitor on The Voice UK – where he wowed the panel and audience with his track “Chicken Train”.  His quirky antics made sure there was plenty of visual entertainment – sometimes distracting from the imposing and impressive lady singer – but often humorous.

Rob Koral wove melodic accompaniment and smooth solos on his left-handed guitar and provided driving riffs and hard-edged lines when needed.  He was complemented by superb keyboard skills from the Hammond of Peter Whittaker and together they created a superb, tightly knit and creative musical platform – totally engaging in its own right yet adding mightily to the vocal skills of Zoe Schwarz.

And then there was the percussion!  Paul Robinson is the most expressive drummer.  Hugely experienced (read the bio on his website – 19 years with Nina Simone and worked with a list of people like a Who’s Who of world music) he provided the perfect rhythmic integration of the band.  Never dominating, never overcomplicating but always intricate and interesting.  Just to watch and listen to him play was worth the entrance fee alone.

Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion were superb – perhaps not to the taste of those who like louder or more rocky blues – but even then, must be applauded for their performance and inventiveness.  Genuine and entertaining musical creativity has to be admired and this band should be a growing force in the British Blues scene.   Look out for them – or see them the next time they appear at the Borough Blues Club.



words by: Adrian Bold