Wild Card beat the heat at Ronnie’s Bar

It was fitting, perhaps, that Clement Regert's (above) groove jazz outfit Wild Card should have arrived at Ronnie's upstairs bar on one of the hottest nights of the year. Scorched by the London heat, the audience was then scalded by Wild Card's horns, steamed by the Hammond, then blasted by a powerhouse of a performance from stand-in drummer Francesco Mendolia (below, of Incognito), constantly stretching the beat and throwing rhythmic ideas around.


Wild Card takes an eclectic approach to genre: if the audience are itching to the groove, it works. A funked-up version of 'Beat It', started by Regert's glossy guitar melody and supported by Mendolia's chinking percussion, and concluded by Jim Knight's summit-charging solo on alto sax, led onto 'Heartshape Box', a muscular, driving funk take on the Nirvana tune that opened deceptively smoothly before roaring into life with another massive sax solo. Alistair White (below) on trombone matched Knight in adrenaline, though perhaps his stand-out moment was the yowling, muted accompaniment on 'Fever'. The vocals were performed by another new collaborator, Lily Dior. She combined ultra-precise articulation with an irresistibly sultry, yearning tone that gave her pieces some welcome breathing space after the pedal-to-the-metal instrumental numbers.


Showing the band's gentle side was 'Lullaby for Lauren', with Mendolia picking up the brushes for a samba turned sax-explosion, and 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone', featuring Alistair White's acrobatic trombone tribute to ska. Alongside the incendiary Mendolia, Regert's regular Hammond player Andy Noble often took a back seat, adding silky texture and cute melodic flourishes, but he led the swinging band through 'The Ritz' until another massive Mendolia solo blew everyone away. Occasionally, with three new players in a quintet the ensemble had a seat-of-the-pants feel to it, but such momentary raggedness just added to the gig's immediacy. On a night when the overwhelming temptation was to lie still, Wild Card had the joint jumping.

– Matthew Wright

– Photos by www.goatnoisephotography.com

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