What a wonderful evening yesterday!

I am one of these people who rarely if ever wins anything substantial. Occasionally I’ll win a few quid at the lottery, and once I won a draw after answering a software testing questionnaire and got £250 worth of vouchers. But lately my luck hadn’t been very good.

Last week HWMBO and I went to a concert by his favourite English singer, Raúl Malo, at Queen Elizabeth Hall. The opening act was by a group called the Lucinda Belle Orchestra, headed by a beautiful harpist and singer named, natch, Lucinda Belle. I had never heard jazz harp before (and her harp is something to behold, decorated as it is with a saying and various other pictures) and she has a way of magnetising an audience into participating. You wouldn’t think that a QE Hall audience would reply enthusiastically “Woo-ooo!” when the singer sang “Whoa-oh” but she got a very good response.

The only disappointment is that so many people were more interested in hearing Malo than in hearing his opening act: entire sections were empty. Those of us who attended got a card with a QR code to download some of her music. We then settled down to hear Malo (who is very good: this year we were much closer and could actually see him; last year we were in the last row and could only see a very tiny figure on the stage).

When we got home I duly scanned the code and got the music.

The music is quite good and well-worth downloading. After downloading, there was a competition: if you tweeted about the download and used a specific hashtag in your Tweet, you would be entered into a draw for a prize: free entry to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club to hear Lucinda Belle. So I tweeted.

And we won!

So last night we presented ourselves at the door and got two seats at the bar. Now, to be honest, the seats were pretty uncomfortable, especially for me and my foot. The wine (I had two small glasses, and HWMBO had one) was pricey for what it was. But the gig was great.

The opening set was by a guy named Earl Okin. He’s been around since Hector was a pup, it seems, and his website is, um, unique. He began with a few guitar and vocals pieces, and a few stories about people he’s met and worked with at Ronnie Scott’s. He’s very witty, and when he went to the piano and gave a lesson on stride and whorehouse piano, he was not only entertaining but a very good singer. You may want to turn off Flash if you go to his website. He does need a website designer, desperately; however, he is a good performer.

After the whorehouse piano lesson, he returned to the guitar and did some bossa nova with a Brasilian singer. I’m not an expert but his Portuguese accent was pretty good.

While Earl was up there, Lucinda walked by, sat on the barstool next to mine, and asked whether we were the people who had won her competition. I said that we were, and I introduced her to HWMBO. She is a very beautiful woman, with a lovely smile and a fabulous wardrobe.

Now we are lucky that we ate before we got there, as there was no place to eat where we were. But there were waiters galore, including one Hispanic (I believe) young man who was flirting with me whenever he went by. I expect it was just for fun, but it certainly warmed the cockles of my heart.

Lucinda Belle’s Orchestra went on around 8:30 pm, and she proceeded to sing and play the harp so well that you would think that the harp was a natural jazz instrument. Her dress was a flouncy number with a leopard-skin print that just swirled around the stage as she sang.

What did she sing? One song was about Valentine’s Day, which really got me as our anniversary is Valentine’s Day. Later on Lucinda answered my thank-you email with: “I think you may have found your song for your anniversary…” and I think she may be right. Her harp is named “Diana”, by the say, and she shlepps it around herself, at least until she arrives. The orchestra was more extensive than the one she led at QE Hall. There was a piano/accordion, a cello, a percussionist, a bass, a guitar, a clarinet/trumpet/flute/sax, and a trombone. They worked together really well in the space, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the music. Her song about a couple who robbed banks (not Bonnie & Clyde) was a real roof-raiser!

She’s signed a deal with Universal Music, and her album “My Voice and my 45 Strings” is out now, and, she says, available at iTunes (I can’t find it at the moment). When I’ve got my iTunes sorted (it’s a loooooong story) I shall download it.

Ronnie Scott’s was new to me. I’ve known about it for a long time, of course, as it’s just north of Old Compton Street in Frith St. in teh Gay Village. Normally admission is £20 or £40, and this just gets you a table (if you’re lucky). The food looked and smelled pretty good, but I’m told in reviews that it’s a bit overpriced for what you get. And I shudder to think of how much the tables in front of us (about 12 people) spent in food and wine. I enjoyed the ambiance, and would like to go again. As one of the flagship jazz clubs in the world, Ronnie Scott’s deserves more than one free visit. But the prices are such that the only people who can afford to go are City slickers with more money than brains, or rich tourists who want a night out with some good music.

We pushed our way through the Friday night West End crowd, with me muttering about “Damned tourists!” and HWMBO trying to keep me calm. Got home and I must say I was uplifted and enthused about the evening, in a way that nights out haven’t affected me for a very long time indeed.

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