Eyewitness report by George Matlock
Former Elton John guitarist and saxophonist John Jorgenson was back in London with new songs, older songs, and all in a great fresh Jazz set which was fun for him – and us!
In the interval, JJ told eltonjohnworld that he enjoyed coming back into a music style which he had not had a chance of performing for a decade.
Most Elton fans will remember JJ as the affable guistarist in the Elton John Band in the late 1990s.
Now doing his own thing, JJ was at Pizza In the Park to perform a fabulous set on the second of two nights, November 5, 2003.
It may be Remember, remember the fifth of November, the day of fireworks and Guy Fawkes, but we had a turbo-charged boost from JJ.
PITP is considered a disappointment by the diners, hence our little “dig” at the place in the headline. Well what else do staff do but dig and plant in a park?
But this is a venue across the street from London’s Hyde Park and it makes up for shortcomings with top billed acts. The only thing that we had to compete with when hearing JJ on stage was the air conditioning which sounded more like an ever-present Zeppelin. And no one would have minded if it was a Led Zeppelin!
JJ came on stage in an Egyptian Pharoahs pattern yellow shirt which suited the mood, if not quite the great jazz waltz style of music he was about to present.
He opened by telling guests that earlier that day he had performed a benefit concert at St James Palace, London, in the presence of Prince Charles for disadvantaged youth.
With Andy and the Bradley Webb Trio, JJ came on stage to a piano, double bass, second guitar and drums, and launched into the inaugural song on his new album, Franco-American Swing. The song was: F. A. Swing.
JJ then said the new album was influenced by jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, of whom JJ was a big fan. It also tied in with a film he was involved in – see interview with JJ today for more details.
JJ then launched into the second song of his first set of the night, with a welcome return for a song he’s been doing a few years now, Valse De Samois.
Then it was time for Vipers Dream, followed by a solo improvision which lead nicely into a full band sound of September Song.
JJ asked the audience in this intimate venue of 90 people to participate in singing. It must have been a big change to be able to conduct a fairly small audience to sing – and unlike in packed-out Elton stadium venues to also be able to see those in the audience who can’t sing well!
He asked people to chant “Palm Springs, Palm Springs” as he performed Everybody’s Coming to Palm Springs. That’s also close to where JJ lives in California.
Then it was back to idol Django Reinhardt and Mabel – a song dedicated by the jazzist to Mabel Mercer, sister of world-famous lyricist Johnny Mercer.
JJ returned to the new album with a song written and famously performed by The Shadows frontman Hank Marvin, Man of Mystery. The song was graphically re-arranged by JJ after a chance meeting with Hank last year. JJ found Hank was so keen to talk shop with JJ, focussing on gypsy guitar, that it inspired him to work on the Hank classic which had been the theme of TV series Acker Wallace Mysteries.
For the ninth song, JJ chose an evergreen of his, which is also re-arranged for the new album, In Memory of Danny Gatton.
Staying with the new album, JJ handed out on accoustic guitar, as all of this evening, Snowflake Waltze.
To complete his first of two sets, JJ then reminded us that guitar is not his only accomplishment. Although no steel pedal guitar this time, no electric Fender guitar and no saxophone, he kept up the fresh take on music by wielding a clarinet.
It was the first time I saw he perform this instrument, but he told fans he used to play a lot. And it showed! A great big-band approach for After You’re Gone.
Sadly, I could not remain for the second set, but I know more surprises were due. At least you have hear a peep at what you’re missing.
JJ is now heading to France for a few days before he makes for USA on November 12, 2003. If you have a chance to see him somewhere around the eltonjohnworld – you know our advice: Take It!