Dennis Taylor: London Camden Jazz Cafe

Dennis Taylor's old skool take on soul is refreshing...

The only justifiable diss that can be leveled at Dennis Taylor is that he’s finally got himself out of that hair rut (well, it was looking a little TOO jheri curl). And that, in essence, is it. Because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way he sings; nothing wrong with the way he blends all his material into live performance…

With seemingly effortless ease Taylor’s rich (and on the right side of booming) voice filled every available space in Camden’s adopted home to soul music. Although he’s a kinky ol’ dawg, talking about “rockin’ u good”, “giving you every inch of my love” and using the word ‘loving’ as a euphemism for sex, Taylor is a resolutely old skool soul singer. But we’re talking ol’ skool in terms of soul before it became ballad-obsessed and soul before hip hop infiltrated it and made it P Diddy’s play thang. We’re talking the days when you felt rude because singers evoked feeling, not because they described your thong.

Taylor is a true-blood from that time. And his sprightly material has a refreshing, almost astringent air to it. You can literally detect optimism in his voice and words, even if, in reality he’s singing of pain and rejection, confusion and selfish resolution.

As so, Taylor and his band – special mention must be given to startlingly capable backing vocalist India T – provide an accurate climate for recollection. They make tonight comparable to looking at old photos and having a ‘Disney moment’ where the pictures come to life with sound, feeling, et al.

With the delivery of ‘Smile’, ‘Angel’ and, of course, the delectable ‘Enough Is Enough’, Taylor and his ensemble remind you of a time when the likes of Clifford Caultier and Tammy Payne gave raving London something to stay out late for. Exquisite in its simplicity, and evocative in its classicism, tonight’s an example to naysayers that yet another variant form of soul music can compete and exist. And boy, how it does.

Jacqueline Springer