Tucked away in a quiet corner on Aliwal Street, the Sultan Jazz Club may not look terribly hip or trendy from the outside. Yet, the place’s understated charm soon gets to you as jazz standards begin wafting into your ears from beyond the steps of the Sultan Hotel…
Although the dress code is smart casual, we nevertheless ended up woefully underdressed, standing sorrowfully in the array of suits around us. Yes, suits. The crowd seemed to comprise mostly working professionals in their early thirties, many of whom were Caucasians accompanied by their (apparently) local girlfriends. Hmmmm……
Designed to seat an audience of 50, the venue is small enough to feel cosy, but excessively such as to generate an uneasiness of overcrowding discomfort. The atmosphere is smooth and relaxed; the music and background banter keep the room lively throughout. The place is quiet enough to talk without raised voices, but should your conversation with your date falter (touch wood!), there’s always the fallback on the performance anyway.
While it is well known in the local jazz scene as a choice performance venue for jazz musicians from around the world, the Jazz Club does deserve kudos for also serving decent cocktails and finger food. Yum!
The first drink we ordered was “Asian Tantric”. On the nose, the orange triple-sec is full of lemongrass, with a hint of fruit. It’s warm and slightly sweet, with flavours ranging from apple and lemon to a tinge of lychee; it starts out mildly sweet and finishes relatively dry.
The second drink we ordered was the “Ya Habibi” – is vodka mixed with apple juice, and a dash of saffron. Disappointingly, the already nearly negligible vodka taste is severely overwhelmed by the general sweetness of the drink, finished off with the slightest hint of saffron. Bottom line: it was extremely sweet. This drink probably appeals to non-alcoholic drinkers who always manage to find themselves, accidentally so perhaps, in a bar with their friends (if this describes you, then here is your bailout drink!).
On a side note, we were surrounded by people opening bottles of red wine and scotch. Compared to our two measly cocktails…
To keep our hands occupied we ordered some truffle fries, and upon the waitress’s recommendation, bacon wrapped sausages too. While the serving of the truffle fries was satisfying generous, they could honestly do with much more truffle.
The bacon-wrapped sausages, on the other hand, were pure oily, salty goodness, bloated with calories enough to make you feel guilty for weeks. Not recommended if you’re afraid of greasy, shiny, un-kissable lips on a first date.
While it wasn’t very crowded on the Saturday evening of our visit, advanced reservations are recommended if you desire a table with a good view of the performers.
The main event of the night was the wonderful James Flynn from Australia, accompanied by pianist Tan Wei Xiang, legendary bassist Christy Smith and the smooth Darryl Ervin on drums. James Flynn has established himself as one of Australia’s leading jazz vocalist, and has travelled around the world performing jazz standards of, inter alia, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. True to his repertoire he graced us, among other tunes, with Cole’s It’s Almost Like Being In Love, a tune this writer was extremely familiar with, and Sinatra’s On The Sunny Side Of The Street. He also surprised us with his wonderful rendition of Norah Jones’ Nearness Of You. Flynn’s rich tenor voice and his stage presence truly bring out the underlying intricacies of each tune, and it is no wonder he is consistently voted one of the best vocalist in the region.
Flynn also regularly engaged us between songs, telling stories about his colourful life and talking about the tunes that he had in store for us. He mentioned that he was playing for the first time with the accompanying trio, with no rehearsals whatsoever! Oh the beauty of jazz – the ability to put people of different nationalities and cultures together, uniting people in the universal language of music!
The accompanying trio was also truly in their element. Tan Wei Xiang probably made the most impact — his improvisation over complex chord progressions defies his relatively young age. Christy Smith needs no introduction for those familiar with the music scene; probably the best bassist in town. Darryl Ervin’s drumming was consistent, clean, and his improvisation simple but classy.
In the presence of the amazing music provided by the Flynn quartet, awesome food and drinks, and an excellent ambience, our Saturday night was the very stress-reliever we needed right after the rigors of a Tort assignment!
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Photography: Xi Xing He (Year 1)
Certain photos are taken from the www.sultanjazzclub.com