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Judith Hill

Saturday 8th June 2024

Bush Hall, London

A phenomenal talent and multi-instrumentalist who is criminally unknown on these shores. Her reputation precedes her with collaborations with both Michael Jackson and Prince leading to spurious internet rumours online that ultimately the retort of the title of her latest album: 'Letters from a Black Widow'.

Dressed in a hippyish white dress and floral headband she took to the stage to an eager crowd and it wasn’t long before she had everyone completely enraptured. The sheer variety of musical textures she manages include into this set is what makes it remarkable. She started the performance playing her Gibson electric on live versions of songs that differ in tone to their album counterparts.

So piano-led numbers like 'Silence' and 'Bad Ones' are transformed into gritty Funk workouts courtesy of her rhythm section comprising the groove of her father on bass guitar Robert Lee "Pee Wee" Hill and the extraordinarily rhythmical drummer John Staten. And just to confirm this being a family affair, Tokyo-born Judith’s mother, Michiko, supplies flourishes on the keys as well.

It’s not long before Judith engages the crowd in a joyful clap along on the incessantly upbeat 'Turn-Up', as she seamlessly transitions onstage from timpani drums to handheld upright cowbell percussion; just simply astonishing how she can do all of this while keeping time. The most jaw-dropping aspect of her set is her vocal phrasing; simply put she can do everything. From soulful balladry to Sprechgesang openings, peaking in a uplifting “Irene Cara”-like powered delivery, she manages to strike the proper tone for her eclectic selection of tracks.

The group's musical repertoire is diverse and impressive; Michiko can play Rhodes-style piano as well as minimalist-style textures, and I could recognise John Staten's "Clyde Stubblefield" “Funky Drummer” licks in the mix too. And just when you thought that nothing more was possible, Judith jumps on the keys and belts out numbers like 'Black Widow' and 'Dame De La Lumière'.

With the audience at its most exalted state, there are multiple calls for "one more song"; the final climax is the all-out Gospel 'Cry, Cry, Cry', and you could be forgiven for thinking Aretha Franklin herself had just taken the stage. Absolutely mind-blowing!

Ivan De Mello

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