When Jazz Meets Flamenco
Lilian Baylis Studio
Reviewed – 26th November 2021
“But taken on their own, each facet is a fascinating watch”
We are a few minutes into the show when renowned Flamenco dancer Karen Ruimy name drops the late Phil Ramone. We’ve just witnessed a smoky rendition of ‘Black Coffee’ that percolates a heady, jazzy atmosphere through the auditorium. We realise, then, that this is an album launch more than anything else. The credentials are impressive. Youth, the founding member of Killing Joke, is the Musical Director, and there is no shortage of virtuosity from the band forming an arc across the back of the stage. Ruimy herself has an intriguing backstory to add to the mix. Born in Casablanca, raised in Paris, she learnt flamenco at an early age. Adulthood found her in the banking world before leaving that to pursue creative and spiritual ventures and continuing as a professional flamenco dancer.
Already an author as well, she adds humanitarian work and philanthropy to her portfolio. Truly a force to be reckoned with, Ruimy brings her steely charisma to the stage. It is not entirely clear, however, which part of her personality we are being asked to focus on. The hesitancy in the delivery suggests nobody is really in control and consequently the show becomes a bit of a free for all. Titled “When Jazz meets Flamenco” it depicts more of a chance meeting between the two genres rather than a combination. We feel they are ships in the night rather than a meaningful romance. They don’t even exchange numbers. The sultry “Stormy Weather” and “La Vie En Rose” barely glance at the fiery bursts of music and dance breaks that feel as though they should be hot footing it into another gig.
But taken on their own, each facet is a fascinating watch; with the flamenco gaining more of the match points. Ruimy is a little short on theatricality, and occasionally short of the power needed to give voice to the songs she has chosen, but her band of musicians and dancers are more than happy to take the helm. Francisco Hidalgo and Francisco Blanco give star turns as the Flamenco dancer and singer respectively; their movement and energy creating the sparks that ignite this performance.
The band certainly feed the flames of passion that the style evokes. Particularly the Spanish guitar which frequently takes centre stage while the backline shifts into the shadows. It is a shame that these moments then give way to a lack lustre “These Boots Are Made For Walking”. Again, we are reminded of the discrepancy of the styles rather than a promised fusion. A mix that sounds fascinating but is not realised. Towards the finale Ruimy concentrates on the traditional roots that are clearly dear to her. And to her credit she refrains from using the evening to plug the album that is being released alongside the live shows. For her it is a labour of love, and she communicates this with an aficionado’s affection for detail.
Two powerful forces are being brought together in “When Jazz Meets Flamenco”. But like reluctant solitary creatures they circle each other warily. The marriage is never consummated and ultimately the heady, explosive hit that the collision could give is slightly diluted.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Ryan Howard
When Jazz Meets Flamenco
Lilian Baylis Studio until 27th November
Other Sadler’s Wells shows reviewed this year: