After his debut shows in New York City as part of Gilles Peterson’s curated showcase at Winter Jazzfest, Oscar Jerome returns home to a sold-out show in support of his newly released sophomore EP.
Corsica Studios – 31st January
Accompanied by a quartet of fellow rising stars within South London‘s flourishing jazz scene, Oscar Jerome and his band launch into an effortless, mellow jam that sets the night’s tone and makes Corsica Studios feel more like a 1920’s speakeasy than a nightclub under railway arches.
‘Two Sides’ from his debut EP continues this mood as Theo Erskine’s sultry saxophone melody complements the resonant, warm tone of Jerome’s hollow-body guitar. Introducing his latest EP with the experimental ‘Chromatic Descendants’, its samba-influenced bridge breakdown by conga player Onome Edgeworth exhibits Jerome’s growing confidence as a composer and gets the crowd moving.
Revealing that title track ‘Where Are Your Branches’ was dedicated to the craft of guitar playing, Jerome does not disappoint. With eyes closed in trance-like concentration he intrinsically riffs over his band’s steady groove with increasingly complex melodies that speed up into an incredible ‘wah-wah’ pedal heavy guitar solo. It is clear from his beaming face how at home he feels playing his guitar and the audience is so captivated no one wastes a second of it to get out their phones. Jerome’s expertise elicits this attention; the sight of an audience not looking at a performer through a screen is rare sight at gigs in the smartphone age.
By himself, Jerome covers ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’. With only the unaltered tone of his Gibson ES330 and the emotion in his voice, he beautifully captures the raw heartbreak of the Jeff Buckley classic before returning with his band to an upbeat vibe on ‘Give Back What You Stole From Me’. The hip-hop influenced syncopation between drummer Jake Long and bassist Jack Polley has the audience dancing before saxophone and guitar melodies burst in at the climax. ‘Subdued’ maintains the party atmosphere and the synergy between band members is palpable: without eye contact they take it to almost a standstill during the bridge before Jerome launches into another mesmerising solo.
The set finishes on ‘Smile On A Screen’, which even without poet James Massiah present is rapturous and has the crowd shouting for more. Jerome obliges with a final solo cover of Reggae legend Bankie Banx’s ‘Pour It All Out’. As he delivers it with the same soulfulness and presence as his Buckley cover, the transfixed audience is proof that he is more than deserving of the accolades he has already amassed and will continue to gain.