Having released the funky fabulous This Is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos, alongside The Mighty Mocambos back in 2009, Gizelle Smith is back with her first solo album Ruthless Day, which comes out at the end of this week - we got to celebrate its upcoming release and hear some of the tracks at the launch party on Saturday 24th of March...and we can't fault a thing!
It was held at Archspace, which is a medium-sized, minimalist venue underneath, you guessed it, some railway arches, just off Kingsland Road in Haggerston. Staff were welcoming and calm, and you were never waiting long at the bar in spite of the big crowd. We were warmed up by a Jalapeno - esque selection of tunes while the venue filled up (there was no support act, but this gave everyone a chance to mingle). Top notch.
Gizelle and her band played a mixture of older work, like the feminist anthem, 'Working Woman', and 'June', as well as new singles from the album such as 'Hero' and 'Sweet Memories'. Smith's work is an homage to funk-based, retro styles, with rhythmic wah guitar and afrobeat trumpet riffs, whereas tracks like 'S.T.A.Y.', also from the new album, feature unmistakably contemporary UK beats that you might find in a garage or jungle tune.
This magnificent blend of styles not only came together seamlessly but were executed with unbelievable skill by the singer and her band. Ms. Smith's voice is un-faltering - not once did she let up in terms of strength, accuracy or expression. She has the strength and sweetness of a young Jocelyn Brown in her Change days. Gizelle was backed by a full band, including two backing singers and a percussionist. The sound was full, and we were also treated to long, hypnotic instrumental solos - particularly that of the drummer and percussionist - wow!
As if the immaculate performance wasn't enough, Gizelle's honesty about her own path to creating the album was insightful and added to the power of the performance. The piece that really took our breath away was the title track, 'Ruthless Day', which confronts Smith's battle with mental health and overcoming personal obstacles. There are no words to describe this song other than EPIC. You can't wait for this.
If you are lucky enough to be in France next month then you can catch Gizelle Smith at a number of dates around the country: Montpelier, Paris and more - find the full schedule here. The new album will be released on Friday 30th March 2018 - pre-order it here and have a cheeky preview of some of the tracks here.