This acclaimed words-and-music show ran for two weeks in 2018 at London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East in a new edition featuring a stellar vocal line-up of Vimala Rowe, Judi Jackson, China Moses and Ciyo Brown. Blues & Soul called it, ‘a unique story of a bygone age told with pathos, clarity and understanding. A must-see.’
This was just the latest incarnation of this show which, since its 2011 debut, has played New York, London theatres, jazz clubs and various UK festivals. In December 2014 the show went to its spiritual home, New York City. Cafe Society Swing spent three weeks at New York’s 59E59 Theaters from Tues 16th December – Sun 4th January 2015 – and got great reviews. The New York Times gave it a ‘Critics’ pick’ and called it, ‘A balm for the soul, though the story it tells is bittersweet … The triumph is in the music, because the music lives.’ Jazz Times noted, ‘Fronting the excellent eight-piece band …are vocalists Cyrille Aimée, Charenee Wade and Harris, who deliver between them excellent arrangements of period standards … Cafe Society Swing is a rousing success.’
The cream of New York’s young jazz talent joined pianist Alex Webb for this edition of the show: singers Cyrille Aimée, Allan Harris and Charenee Wade along with Camille Thurman (tenor sax), Bill Todd (alto sax), Benny Benack III(trumpet), Brent White (trombone), Mimi Jones (bass) and Shirazette Tinnin(drums).
Praise for the show’s Leicester Square Theatre run in summer 2014:
‘A brilliantly conceived theatrical cabaret’ – theartsdesk.com
‘It’s very rare that a show comes together so tightly that it makes your spine tingle but Cafe Society does just that’ – Westendwilma.com
Allan Harris sings ‘I Left My Baby’ (Basie-Gibson-Rushing) with the Cafe Society All Stars at 59E59 Theaters, New York
Praise for the Tricycle Theatre run in summer 2012:
‘Fabulous jazz … Alex Webb, directing from the piano, captures this multitude of styles with three vocalists and a classy, in-style octet’ – Financial Times (****) July 2012
‘An eight-piece band worthy of any West End stage’ – Evening Standard (***)
Cafe Society Swing (formerly ‘Jazz at Cafe Society’) was first performed in the 2011 at the London Jazz Festival:
‘Alex Webb’s celebration of Cafe Society, a New York landmark, proved to be a genuine treat’ –The Times (****) November 2011
Cafe Society was a New York nightclub opened in 1938 in Greenwich Village by Barney Josephson to showcase jazz and blues talent, and as an American version of the political cabarets he had seen in Europe before the war. As well as running the first racially integrated night club in the United States, Josephson also intended the club to defy the pretensions of the rich and the club became a haven for bohemians and the intellectual Left. It also presented some of the finest musical talent of the time – including Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie and many others.
One Meat Ball (Zaret-Singer) performed by Ciyo Brown with the Cafe Society All Stars at the Hideaway:
Cafe Society Swing follows the progress of the venue from its idealistic Left-wing beginnings, through all its struggles and triumphs, to its eventual demise in the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 1940s, when New York’s powerful press columnists turned against the club as a ‘nest of communists’ and hounded Josephson out of business.
Cafe Society Swing is available for festivals and theatres, both as a full theatre production and as a simpler concert version. Both shows are booking for 2020 and beyond: contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.