Cafe Society Swing

This acclaimed words-and-music show is now available in a concert version for the UK and beyond – see ‘Upcoming Events’ for dates.  Cafe Society Swing has attracted rave reviews for its various manifestations since its debut as a one-off show in the London Jazz Festival.  Since 2015, the show has played Ronnie Scott’s, the Pizza Express, the Hideaway and JW3, as well as jazz festivals in Scarborough and Gateshead.

The show stars vocalists Vimala Rowe and Ciyo Brown, who joined the show for its Leicester Square Theatre run in 2014, alongside Cherise Adams-Burnett and actor Gareth Snook.

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 Leicester Square Theatre run in summer 2014:

‘A brilliantly conceived theatrical cabaret’ –

‘It’s very rare that a show comes together so tightly that it makes your spine tingle but Cafe Society does just that’ –

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 (***)

‘Writer and director Alex Webb has brought together a collection of flawless singers and musicians’ – Morning Star

Cafe Society Swing (formerly ‘Jazz at Cafe Society’) was first performed in the 2013 London Jazz Festival and finally reached London’s West End for two shows at the Leicester Square Theatre in December 2013, with further dates in June 2014. In July 2012, the show also played to sellout audiences for a week at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn London NW1.

‘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 and Rockin’ Chair (Carmichael) with the Cafe All Stars at Leicester Square Theatre:

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.

The show has attracted stellar talent in its various showings, including vocalists Alexander Stewart, Gwyneth Herbert and Paris-based China Moses, daughter of jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater. Instrumentalists in the show have included Denys Baptiste, Jason Yarde, Nathaniel Facey, Sue Richardson, Freddie Gavita, Winston Rollins, Gary Crosby, Miles Danso, Rod Youngs, Shane Forbes and others.

China Moses performing Lucienne Boyer’s ‘Parlez Moi d’Amour’ at Tricyle Theatre:

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 2018 and beyond: contact for more information.