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Cats on Trees, Sirens and une exception fran├žaise

The blues of Jerimiah Marques ain't nothing but sensational

Jeremiah 2

When I moved to Paris in 2004,
it took a couple of weeks to locate jazz and blues bars and just a few months to make two of them, Le Caveau de la Huchette and the Bilboquet, reasonably frequent haunts. It has taken me more than 40 years to find a club in London where the blues, one of my earliest musical passions, is played night after night.

Ain't Nothing But ... is in Kingly Street of the western fringes of Soho behind the giant Hamley's toy store. I caught Jerimiah Marques and the Blues Aces there on Saturday night for a session that fixed itself among the most memorable live musical occasions I have experienced.

It took me back half a century to nights when, sad youth that I was, I'd play John Mayall's Bluesbreakers eponymous long player, with a young Eric Clapton's unforgettable guitar solos on Have You Heard and Rambling on my Mind, as loudly as I dared, lying on the floor with an ear next to my primitive first post-gramophone record player.

Hearing white English boys play Chicago blues on record introduced me first to folk music, since folk clubs were places you might hear others attempting it live. Gradually, it led me to the old-timers who'd play acoustic Mississippi blues. Occasionally, these ageing greats of the genre, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee notable among them, would be put together to tour the UK.

I'd heard that entrance to Ain't Nothing But ... was free most nights, and before 8.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, but was more concerned about being early enough to be near the front of what I imagined would be a small venue.

Even at 7.30pm, it seemed to be heaving, standing room only at the back and all seats near the stage taken as the Niall Kelly Blues Band reached the end of their early spot.

But Madame Salut is the queen - if France can still have a queen - of space and seat-grabbing. Without even having to brandish pointy elbows, Harrods sales or Tube rush-hour style, she propelled us effortlessly through the crowd to the front of the standing room, ready to pounce the moment a chair became vacant.


In two further smart moves we were side by side on seats against the wall, just if only just wide enough to accommodate her trim - and my less trim - frames. Niall's band provided a storming finale and departed the tiny stage, making way for the Jack J Hutchinson Band, "as I call it, quite non-egotistically," Jack said when we found themselves shoulder to shoulder in the Gents' later.

Indelicate mention of toilets - I once met Ronald Reagan in the same circumstances if at a grander establishment, but we didn't discuss music - makes it a duty to applaud the wonderful wall art that leads customers downstairs to answer such calls.

Wc 2

Hutchinson is a compelling performer with a strong, growling voice nurtured on the cobbled streets of Burnley (if any remain) and useful slide guitar. The set was enthusiastically received by the growing crowd, dominated at the front by lots of young people of Hong Kong family origins celebrating the birthday of their tall, beautiful friend Vicky.

Jack j 2

Jerimiah Marques, though, was extraordinary. Wonderful stage presence, robust vocals, exemplary accompaniment with the harmonica player, Laurie Garman, quite outstanding. Marques veered from Chicago blues to a rootsy approach to reggae towards the end of his first set. But it worked just as well, maybe not surprising since he could probably pass himself off as Bob Marley's brother.

I do not lightly add recently attended gigs to my list of all-time best live experiences (eg De Dannan with Mary Black in Bristol, Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief re-creation at Cropredy, John Mayall in Le Lavandou and, yes, the Cranberries and Coldplay in separate Nice concerts). This one gatecrashed the list with consummate ease.

For 24 hours after watching that set, I was buzzing.

Ain't Nothing But... has two new admirers.


Anne Cullingford

Love him xxx

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