Written and Captured By | Morris Shamah
Reuben James completed his tour on Sunday night at Lafayette in London’s King Cross, and Lafayette’s brick walls and slick LED lighting made the perfect backdrop for a night of stylish, soulful timeless jazz.
House Of El, Reuben’s elder brother, started the evening’s proceedings with a 4-song, 25-minute opening set. Starting off solo at an electric piano, House Of El starting filling the stage with his second song, first by introducing a flautist, and then finally bass, guitar, and drums. House Of El’s soulful songs brought a warm, intimate vibe as he gently played with the 550-person crowd, giving them the option to choose between tempos of “fast or slow” energy, leading singalongs, and even shouting out attendee’s fashion choices.
See more photos of House Of El HERE
Reuben James had the opposite entrance – having his band come out and start playing before he joined them in the same seat his brother had vacated a half hour earlier. Reuben immediately ignited the crowd with his electrical musicality, doing double duty on the keys and the talk box, and for the next 90 minutes he transformed Lafayette into a jazz club, complete with full band improv, a melodica, and countless sax, bass, guitar, and drum solos.
Reuben proved himself to be a masterful bandleader, patiently commanding his 5-piece backing band with every part of his body. His bandmembers couldn’t take his eyes off him – neither could the audience – for fear that they might miss a cue. They deftly followed Reuben through a musical odyssey of R&B, jazz, hip-hop, reggae, and pop music, from Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” to Dido’s “Thank You” to his own “Means The World” and the unreleased “Teach Me.” Reuben conducted with his hands, waving players down or up, suddenly pointing to the instrument that should solo next. He bounced between tempos – keeping it sexy but “don’t wake the baby” – and you could see him feel every element of the arrangement in his soul as it rippled through his shoulders, arms, and out of his instrument.
See more photos of Reuben James HERE
Throughout the evening, each instrument was fully present and defined, as the music was patient without meandering. Every song had a jam, and every jam had a thrilling, peaking conclusion, none more so than the show’s finale when Reuben came out with a keytar, sparking with his fingertips as he prowled around the stage and dueled with his bandmates, a man possessed.
Reuben and his music have the character in them to evoke a mystical place, a time when music was always live and exciting, where cigarette smoke mixed with whiskey fumes behind a basement door somewhere unknown. That place may be a fantasy, but on Sunday night, Reuben James took us somewhere pretty close.
Photos By | Morris Shamah