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Samara Joy Dazzles at London’s Iconic Roundhouse

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April showers are pouring down in central London but inside Camden’s iconic Roundhouse, it’s warm and the atmosphere is relaxed as a seven-piece jazz band take to the stage, and we wait for the imminent arrival of tonight’s star.

Transporting us back to the golden age of jazz, Samara Joy, who is only twenty-four, dazzles the crowd with a two-part evening full of unique and enthralling arrangements of the work of the jazz greats who have come before her. Echoing the sound of the greats through masterful arrangements created by her band, Joy is a once in a generation talent, and with multiple Grammy Awards (including Best New Artist in 2023) and a chart-topping album under her belt already, she’s well on her way to becoming one of the all-time Jazz greats.

Samara Joy dazzles at London’s iconic Roundhouse, transporting fans back to the golden age of jazz by echoing the sound of the genre's greats.
Samara Joy dazzles at London’s iconic Roundhouse, transporting fans back to the golden age of jazz by echoing the sound of the genre's greats.

Her voice was smooth and commanding as she opened the show a cappella with her version of ‘Reincarnation of a Lovebird’ by Charles Mingus before her band joined her – of course, the crowd went wild. The set list continued with her invigorating and progressive re-imaginings of old school classics, thanks not only to her, but to her band as well, whom she thanked throughout for their work. The crowd cheered instantly as she announced her next song, ‘Linger Awhile’, the 1923 Owens and Vincent piece, which her second studio album was titled after. Feet are tapping all around, many members of the audience singing along with her.

She’s effortlessly confident on stage. She moves smoothly and commands the room’s attention with her powerful jazz vocals. Taking a moment to talk about the past few years, she tells us of a teacher she had who taught her via Zoom during lockdown – that teacher was jazz legend Barry Harris. Diving into her version of his track ‘Now and Then’, it’s clear through the way she is so intentional about her performance of this song that her connection with him truly means something to her, and how she has taken his guidance and passion with her.

Samara Joy dazzles at London’s iconic Roundhouse, transporting fans back to the golden age of jazz by echoing the sound of the genre's greats.
Samara Joy dazzles at London’s iconic Roundhouse, transporting fans back to the golden age of jazz by echoing the sound of the genre's greats.

For the end of the first set, she asked everyone to dance – and indeed they did. From the floor seats right by the stage, to the upper levels of the tiers, the room was a-buzz with passion and excitement, with dancing in the aisles abundant. She started the second set off strong as well. She dived straight back into it with ‘Sweet Pumpkin’, which proved to be a real crowd pleaser, followed by a delicate start to her next song, where she visibly found her grove as she sang.

“There’s a place I know where the sycamores grow, and the daffodils have their fun.”

— Samara Joy, Sweet Pumpkin

Her voice reached an almost operatic energy as she performed ‘Peace’ by Horace Silver in duet with Conor Rohrer, her pianist. She also performed a song written by one of the all-time greats, Billie Holliday, and pianist and composer Mal Waldron. Despite Holliday never having performed the song, Joy was channelling her spirit as she easily performed ‘Left Alone’, making this a true highlight of the evening. She also took the time to talk about iconic American jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln, who clearly is a personal hero to Joy. She followed on with an Irving Berlin track before she ended the night on a high with ‘No More Blues’ and ‘Guess Who I Saw Today.’

Brought back on for one final song by thunderous applause, the audience’s passion not only for Joy’s work, but for the jazz genre and the monumental musical icons that came before her is palpable. Her show is not only a celebration of what Samara Joy has achieved (to win three Grammy Awards by the age of twenty-four is ground-breaking all on its own) but of what jazz has always meant to people.

She’s joy by name, and joyous by nature. Samara Joy is a privilege to see live, and judging by what she’s already achieved, there’s much, much more to come.

Show Date: 04.27.24 // London, UK @ Roundhouse // Samara Joy Dazzles at London’s Iconic Roundhouse
Photos & words by Annabel Claire

Annabel Claire
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About author
I'm a photographer, writer and music lover from London, UK! Aside from music, I love literature, fashion, film and hiking.
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