A Philadelphia Soul Explosion in London: Jaguar Wright and United Soul At the Jazz Cafe
by Winston "Stone" Ford
A buzz of British accents inhabit the room. The atmosphere at the Jazz Café of London???s north side is a very cool vibe. People of various ethnicities mingling and mixing together so characteristic of the true melting pot this great city is. More are steadily penetrating the doorways and pouring into the space in front of the main stage, a space soon to become an ocean of bodies flowing together in musical harmony.
Upon my arrival, I catch a glimpse of the Lady Jaguar. Her face is warm and familiar like the neighborhood girl on the block you grew up with. And suddenly, another gurst of wind from Philly comes into the place. The two-man soul sensation, United Soul, here to bless the mics before their sistren Miss Wright.
Band members have assembled on stage. The show has started. From a stairwell at the right side of the stage, US emerges toward us as if descending from heaven. They open with ???Bottom Dollar??? and the crowd is already feeling it, dancing, nodding with agreement, and even snapping a few camera phone pictures.
By the next song ???Reservations,??? the title track on the group???s independent debut release, it???s obvious that US gets much love in the UK. They follow with ???Soul Clap,??? another sexy love groove from the album entitled “Reservations,” and then a few covers of old and new.
Their version of Stevie Wonder???s ???Higher Ground??? gets the crowd real hype. But then they slow the mood down with a perfect rendition of ???Prototype??? from Outkast.
United Soul is certainly well-received well across the Atlantic.
Screams from the crowd signal that the assertive singer-songwriter from Philly Jaguar Wright is near. ???I???m a little taller than I was this afternoon,??? she says of her leg-lengthening high heels. She admits it???s been a while since her last time in London and that she???s starting over. Hence, no background singers. The blatantly honest songstress says she???s starting fresh. ???No help, just me,??? and that means ???no cameos on stage or on the album???.
She begins to improvise lyrics to the melody of ???I Can???t Wait,??? which featured another one of Philly???s finest Bilal on her 2001 debut album ???Denials, Delusions, and Decisions.???
The next song is a new one from ???Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul,??? Jaguar???s second release out in stores this Tuesday July 12. She passionately explains its title saying, ???There???s nothing new about soul music???. She even likens neo-soul to selling an old car for a new price. The song ???Ecstacy??? is a funky bass-heavy body mover about how sexuality is about confidence and goes so far beyond the physical. ???It???s all in here,??? Jag says pointing to her chest, ???and that???s what sexuality is about.???
Jaguar Wright sings with a force, a love for the art, and a vocal ability desperately lacking in so much of popular music today. When she performs, her blazing sensuality is almost startling but definitely attention-keeping.
???What y???all think of that?,??? she asks when the song ends and an explosive roar comes out of her fans.
As the night goes on, Jag reveals that there???s no set list for her show, that it???s totally impromptu from beginning to end. It???s a surprise to me and the other concert goers because Jaguar performs with such comfort and experience like she???s been doing this for decades.
A brief pause in the show as the band decides which song to play next. A man yells ???Self Love??? and so they play. In the middle of her SELF LOVE SELF PRESERVATION chant, Jaguar is possessed with the spirit of the Caribbean and starts singing in a Jamaican accent. The band swiftly follows suit in their instrumental prowess by conjuring up a funky reggae beat. The people go crazy and even I, in my cool writer???s corner, nod and think to myself, ???that was real dope.???
On stage, she glistens like a precious stone with just a bit of Philly???s grit showing on her shoulders. Dressed in a black halter top and capris, showing off her proud motherly figure, and adorned in silver bangles, Jaguar seems so at home here in London- talking to the audience, bearing her soul and sharing a crazy yet lovable sense of humor. She jokes about her ???alcoholism??? saying that her mother always wanted her to be a teacher but you can???t drink in the classroom.
???Speaking of drinking,??? she says, and then the musicians start playing yet another great song off the album called ???One More Drink,??? written with Raphael Saadiq, who???s also performing at the Jazz Café tonight. Consequently, a glass of red wine suddenly appears in Jag's right hand. The song features a verse from hip-hop veteran Common. Did someone say Common? All of a sudden this awesome band begins playing ???The Light??? and Jag rips the chorus real quick. This girl is bad.
In her singing of ???Country Song,??? Jaguar's talent flows all over the place touching everyone there and it???s apparent to me that despite a brief hiatus from the spotlight, this soul sister???s career will not miss a beat.
???Told Ya??? is another Raphael Saadiq joint and a tough love letter to women who stay in abusive relationships. Then out of no where, Amerie???s ???One Thing??? is suddenly blasting from the house speakers and Jaguar is doing her improv thang.
By the end of the night, Jaguar Wright has left us full from a completely satisfying and convincing performance. She wraps up our evening together by letting us get ???Free,??? the first single from this latest work of hers.