Ben Waters - Number 1 Boogie Woogie piano player in Europe
We were invited to see Ben Waters featuring Derek Nash at Foundry616, a cosy music venue in Ultimo, Sydney, offering the best jazz-oriented music from the best stars of today and tomorrow.
It was an incredible night from start to finish, full of satisfying and profoundly melodic boogie-woogie tunes, that made our feet tap and fingers click before we knew it.
Ben Waters, from Weymouth UK, was voted Europe's Number 1 Boogie Woogie piano player in 2016, nominated by Jools Holland as one of his top 10 pianists of all time and is hailed worldwide as 'The King of Boogie Woogie Piano'. After seeing him perform for myself, I can certainly see why! Boogie Woogie runs through his veins. He's previously stirred it up with artists including The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Shakin' Stevens, Jools Holland, Ray Davies, Leo Sayer, PJ Harvey and many other greats.
He was supported on saxophone by the extremely talented Derek Nash, a member of the Jools Holland Orchestra since 2004. Previously, Derek has collaborated with Eric Clapton, Amy Winehouse, Paul McCartney, Solomon Burke, Annie Lennox and Tom Jones to name a few.
Joining the Waters and Nash for this leg of the tour are drummer Ash Davies, and bassist and singer Sweet Felicia. Davies, a highly sought-after session musician, composer and drummer from Melbourne, and the extremely talented Sweet Felicia, the 2011 Blues Performer of the Year, Victoria Australia, and Semi-Finalist International Blues Challenge 2011 Memphis Tennessee USA. Both these talents accompanied the band flawlessly and created a unified and voltaic ensemble.
Clearly, some of the crowd knew what a treat they had coming. We heard that a large group of them came from the UK to be there to support him and enjoy the show as part of a rock and roll tour they were on.
The set began as Waters played an up-tempo rendition of Swanee River, a perfect choice to get the show started and one which the crowd loved.
Waters smiled and told us that today was his birthday and proudly held up the gifts he received from his fans, featuring Oreo cream sandwich biscuits, which he told us were his favourite and sung a hilarious blues song about them to prove it.
Nash then joined him on stage and explained they have decided to play a much cleaner version of an old Jelly Roll Morton song "Winning Boy Blues".
Ben Waters and Derek Nash
Tenacious and indefatigable, Waters and Nash jostle it out over the coming hits, including 'Caledonia' and 'No Particular Place to Go' both almost becoming one with their instruments. It was such a pleasure seeing them play together, easily leading the room on a journey of rhythmic melodies, notes flying off the stage into the whistling, shouting chorus of fans enjoying the levity brought about by such gifted offerings. Nash's solos were simply incredible, leaving us in amazement that his talent that could summon such a sweet sound so easily. Couples, dressed the part, rose from their tables and began rock 'n' roll dancing in whatever space they could find. I'm sure if there had been the room, more would have danced.
While I watched the dancers, I was told Water's lifelong dream was to one day play the Sydney Opera House, and he was about to do just that – The night after we were lucky enough to hear him play, he played two shows at the Opera House. His tour will continue on to New Zealand and back to Europe.
During the second set, the room sung a loud 'Happy Birthday' to Waters, who continued the set with crowd favourites including 'C'est la Vie' and "Shake, Rattle and Roll'. Sweet Felicia belted out a few swinging tunes straight from the heart, rich and playfully powerful. Towards the end of the set, Waters invited a member from the crowd to play the piano and together they belted out 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On' before the show ended. The crowd decided they hadn't had enough and sung for more. Waters returned to the stage, brought the night to an end with Chuck Berry's hit 'Little Queenie' and thanked everyone for coming out.
Derek Nash and Sweet Felicia
Waters certainly brought a unique swagger to the piano and it was a fun-filled night to remember. If you get a chance to see him in the future, do it, you won't regret it.
If you love jazz, Foundry616 is dedicated to keeping Australian jazz centre stage and jazz generally on the arts radar.