With just a loop pedal and a small tablet, hidden behind the flowers looped around her mic stand, Madison McFerrin has got more stage presence than most four-piece bands. She’s got a gift for putting an audience totally at ease, switching up the pace between songs with chatty anecdotes about her school days and occasional self-deprecating humour.
Typically at the start of a gig, there’s a shift in the atmosphere of a room as the artist begins their set and the audience decides whether or not they’re on their side: this audience are instantly on Madison’s. Her songs develop seemingly from scratch, using the loop pedal to build increasingly complex vocal harmonies that, despite their soulful pop melodies, have a jazzy undercurrent of progression and improvisation.
She’s supported by new London artist Rahaven and R&B duo S4U, in an all-female line-up curated by gal-dem for International Women’s Day. Jazz Café usually does a great job of booking a diverse range of acts (as I recently grumbled about on Twitter, they were at the time of writing the only London venue to have booked a non-male act for Piano Day), and this collaboration with gal-dem is a master stroke. Hats off to them, and here’s hoping for more Jazz Café takeovers in the year ahead.
Apropos of not much, I’ll also mention here that it’s apparently one of the few venues in London where it’s still possible to vape indoors (a fact I’ve learned from my boss, Sam, an enthusiastic vaper): the DJ backing one of the support acts, keen to keep things casual, had a quick vape on stage in the middle of a song.
In my old age, I’m increasingly grumpy about weeknight gigs where the headliner doesn’t come on stage til after 9.30: it’s not very punk-rock of me I know, but I love an early bedtime. Madison McFerrin’s jazzy a cappella and witty banter are worth getting the last train home for, and that’s saying something.