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On a chilly Saturday evening, the basement that is the 100 Club initially provided a warm refuge from the blue and white Oxford Street Christmas lights that seemed to herald the approaching winter weather. Small groups of people, young and not so, huddled around small tables and drinks, lit only by a handful of spotlights focused on the stage in the centre.
At around 9.30 pm, four inconspicuous musicians shuffled on stage and took up their rehearsed positions and instruments. Then... a burst of blistering boogie-woogie piano assaulted the eardrums and instantly electrified the atmosphere, closely followed by a driving beat created by bass, drums and honking saxophone.
Kicking off with the Don Raye classic “Down The Road A Piece” and followed by a swinging “Josephine”, Ben “Hugh” Waters instantly demonstrated his stupendous talent with the keyboards and an ability to create an instant party mood. Boy, his fingers were a blur! Between then and midnight, Ben and his small combo gave us barnstorming New Orleans style blues and boogie-woogie, with some good time rock’n’roll thrown in for good measure. There was even a sample of duelling banjos and an irresistible country hoe-down that had many of the previously seated punters on their feet.
Ably assisted by Ade Milward’s perfectly synchronised percussion and Rich Hymas on bass for the essential rhythm, plus Clive Ashley’s sax to enhance the overall sound, the result was simply infectious. Although Ben controlled proceedings with his playing, lead vocals and good humour throughout, all musicians chipped in with vocals, notably during their own compositions that were sprinkled amongst the better known standards by composers, such as Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Amos Milburn, with “Tiny Planet” a great example.
Leiber and Stoller’s “Jailhouse Rock” did just that, as did “Rooming House Boogie”, while four volunteers from the audience were coaxed on stage to provide backing vocals for “Twist And Shout”. Rich took lead vocals for a couple of numbers and Clive blew up a storm during “No Particular Place To Go” and the finale of “Great Balls Of Fire” and “Mean Woman Blues”.
Look out for the forthcoming CD and catch the infectious boogie live from Ben and the boys when you can, especially if you like a party!