When a music venue sells Tyrrells Root Vegetable Crisps, it suggests that an above average evening may be in the offing. Claire at the Red Hedgehog in Highgate, north London, runs such a place, seemingly geared to listening rather than eating, drinking and yapping.
Upon plonking yourself into one of the comfortable seats, you feel like you’re at the cinema or the theatre, yet tonight you hear a blend of hot club-based jazz, original songs and some Christmas fare from a group called Viper’s Dream.
I’m sitting about 3 feet from the guitarist Tim Robinson as he plays in the spirit of Django Reinhardt, combining playfulness and raucousness with cheeky arpeggios right to the top of the instrument’s neck, to particular effect on ‘Sheik of Araby’.
To his left is Patrick Naylor, another guitarist, with a smoother more modern jazz-influenced sound that portrays deep emotion. Next to him is Alex Keen, worshipping the music with inspired basslines and solos.
Sara Mitra was also present. Technically secure and musically excellent, Sara sung standards like ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ and ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ with the looseness and invention crucial to any aspiring jazz singer.
Her own well-written songs were put across immaculately and she even brought this Christmophobic some joy with original interpretations of ‘The Christmas Song’ and ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’. The latter was sung quietly and half of it was just Sara’s voice and Alex’s swinging bassline.
Somehow the subject of Woolworths came up onstage. Guitarist Patrick remarked how he had done all his Christmas shopping there and Sara responded to him with the words ‘Thanks in advance for the pencil case’. My companion bought a CD but I doubt she’ll be giving it away.