A SELECTION OF EARL OKIN REVIEWS
THE INIMITABLE EARL OKIN
RYE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
2nd September 2021
Earl Okin bringing live music to the Brewery Yard Club.
How does one categorise Earl Okin? It’s a hard task, perhaps impossible. He is a performer and entertainer, a singer and instrumentalist, a songwriter, a satirist, a philosopher, a political commentator, a comedian, a fount of knowledge,
a raconteur and quipster, a thought-provoker and perhaps the last wearer of spats in the country.
After eighteen months away from the performing platform, because of the ban on live concerts,
Earl Okin returned to the Rye Jazz and Blues Festival last Saturday, August 28 and delighted a packed Brewery Yard Club in Rye with a magical programme of songs linked by a commentary of dead-pan and self-deprecatory brilliance.
He ensured that all of us had, for future use, an appropriate description of the A21 (the ‘Battle of Hastings’)
and remade My Way for all pianists (“I want a Steinway”).
He altered our perceptions of “One for my baby and one more for the road” by singing it from the barman’s point of view and in the barman’s voice and he reminded us of the genius of Hoagy Carmichael and Duke Ellington. Many of Earl Okin’s song performances are greatly enhanced by his skill with accents and especially by his ability to become a jazz trumpet of beguiling charm and sweetness.
As always, an Okin set not only entertains to the full but also informs to the utmost: who knew that Bossa Nova means ‘new twist’ or ‘new way’, or that the expression ‘stride’ piano came from the left hand of such as James P. Johnson ‘striding’ across the keyboard? Was anyone aware of the true subject of The Girl from Ipanema? I didn’t and wasn’t and I guess that, of the enthralled audience, very few were any more informed.
One of the features to me of Earl Okin’s performances is his sincerity; he truly loves the music he plays and thinks of music as one of the real joys of life, even when the music and songs are sad, perhaps especially then.
It’s a hard task, perhaps impossible, to categorise Earl Okin but really there is no need because he is unique.
Review of Earl Okin by Sarah Ellen Hughes
Pizza Express Dean Street.
My pre-gig research about singer/songwriter/Jazz singer/musician Earl Okin had come up with just two things: one was a quote from legendary producer Buddy Bregman : 'One must see him in person to get him.' And the other thing: that Okin is apparently a force to be reckoned with....on the mouth-trumpet.
Well, Buddy Bregman is right, there's no doubt about that. I was struck at first by Okin's ability to sing to every member of the audience - not with a fixed stare but with a knowing look - especially to the noisy table who had, it seemed, misinterpreted the 'silence' policy. They soon quietened down.
He was wonderfully engaging. He spent almost as much time talking to us as singing or playing, which was no bad thing. The tales he told about his career were spellbinding. His Portuguese was faultless, and truly charming within the context of his favourite style of music, Bossa Nova.
He also makes you laugh: You're My Thrill had a brilliant injection of comedy. "Here's my heart on a silver platter - yuk!" I found myself still chuckling about that one several minutes later.
And then there's that mouth trumpet It's easy to think of it as just a gimmick - something to be marvelled at but ultimately not to be taken seriously. But it was every bit as good, and as musical as I'd heard. In fact, it was better. I found this instrument to be as integral to Earl's performance as his singing, or piano or guitar playing.
He has an extraordinary ability to sing a solo which really sounds like a trumpet, with accurate pitch and timbre, vibrato, even halve-valve sounds, and a characterful attack and articulation. It was so appropriate to each particular style - whether it be a haunting ballad or swinging standard. At one point my guest turned to me and said, "He can play the trumpet better than I can!" And she's a trumpeter.
A few tunes stood out for me: Butterflies - a delightfully mellow self-penned Bossa Nova; Lotus Blossom - a luscious and moving piano solo (by Billy Strayhorn). After an introduction into the origins of stride-piano, he treated us to an enthralling performance of Ellington's 'Black Beauty.' He took particular pleasure in singing a version of Georgia On My Mind, which he had sung with saxophonist Benny Carter in the very same room 30 years ago.
Okin is a skilled singer. He sings effortlessly, with a captivating subtlety. During his last tune he ended a phrase with a note that lasted and followed through an entire blues sequence of twelve slow bars.
The recordings I've tried are definitely worth hearing, but to see Earl Okin live is the only way to go. If he'd been on for a second night I'd definitely have been queuing up to hear him again.
Grappelli And Friends
The following write-up was written at one of Earl's earlier Jazz performances, alongside some very distinguished company.
Earl Okin is Britain's answer to Woody Allen - or as near as the most restrained temperament of these islands allows. Diffident, bespectacled, neat in the English rather than the American high-school sense, constantrly aware that the light at the end of the tunnel could be that of an approaching train, he holds the audience in his hand and glances at them sideways as though surprised to find them there.
He sings, plays the guitar, scatters delayed-action throwaway lines about the stage, provides his own trumpet accompaniment by mouth alone and breaks off to give a witty, iullustrated account of stride piano...and who else could get an entire audience to join in with their own mouth-made jazz-trumpet riffs?
He achieved all this - diffidently - at a concert at St. John's, Smith Square (London), alongside such stars as Stephane Grappelli, Adelaide Hall and Larry Adler, a three-hour concert that culminated in a spell of brilliant improvisation, the entire company skidding round hairpin bends in a medley of popular Jazz classics.
EARL OKIN , 'THE PHEASANTRY' AT THE PIZZA EXPRESS
EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017, 19th November.
This was the last night of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival and it was a total pleasure to be at the closing event of the The Pheasantry, The Pizza Express contribution to the festival. I was not able to make it to earlier gigs at the Kings Road venue, but what I saw tonight was one of my highlights of the whole festival!!
In my previous review I spoke about a future true Jazz treasure well in this gig we definitely had a not just a true Jazz treasure but a real living legend in the form of EARL OKIN. This unique London character, is a real artist totally at ease with himself on and off the stage, delivering two sets of pure magic! You could literally hear a pin drop throughout the gig, with Earl having the audience spellbound!
I know there was a young singer in the audience who was so captivated by Earl's stage presence.
EARL also invited in each set a very special guest Paul Ryan who was joined at the piano by Kenny Clayton.
The contrast between the Earl and Paul was noticeable, as Earl presented a varied mix of numbers on both his guitar and piano, swapping between the two, while Paul stuck to his tried and tested crooner formula of the straight ahead standards. The audience demanded a encore and Earl invited up both Paul and Kenny to join him on the final number.
The packed out house was treated to two sets of a masterclass in how to deliver a show! With over 1 million YouTube views and countless TV appearances to his name Earl performed a gig that will live long in the memory.
Reviewed by Anthony L Steinberg Entertainment Consultant, fANTastic Entertainment @antthestein64
'Jongleurs' is probably the UK's biggest Comedy-Club chain. Earl hasn't performed there since it turned, as he calls it 'wholesale', but here's a typical crit. from the time that he did...
Earl looks like a rather fastidious accountant, dressed in a three-piece suit. His spats are immaculately white, his hair sculpted into place and a handkerchief in his top pocket gives him a rather dandified air...
...He climbs on to stage and sits down with his guitar. He looks totally out of place and the large audience continues talking, chatting, laughing among themselves. Earl remains quiet and unassuming. I want to leave the room. How utterly dreadful to see someone's public demise.
Suddenly, Earl has had enough and begins to play his guitar. As he sings, the audience begins to quieten down, fascinated by the unusual figure and his seductive music. The song is slow and Jazzy (as well as very funny) and we are drawn forward to him, craning to savour every note that is sung. When all attention is captured, Earl starts to play a trumpet, using only his voice as the instrument. The impression is brilliant and the crowd breaks into a spontaneous round of applause.
Earl has a pecular knack of making people think that he is singing solely for them. Looking round at the women in the audience, I am amazed. They are all staring, enchanted by the voice which does, I admit, sound fairly in keeping with melting honey. Is Earl Okin really going to be the next sex-symbol?
His act is soothing and easy, yet somehow fitting perfectly into the atmosphere of late-night drinking...a mixture of wit, originality and music. What strikes me most about seeing him on stage is how charming he is, how unashamedly human and accessible. As his set comes to a close, Earl receives wildly drawn out applause and has to return for an encore. To my intense relief, he is the most popular act of the night, neither threatening, tedious or self-indulgent, but totally unique and a true entertainer!
EDINBURGH FESTIVAL REVIEWS.
Earl Okin: Nothing To Do With Sex Whatsoever!
This is Earl Okin's 10th anniversary in Edinburgh and once again he stands out among the other cabaret performers on the fringe. His material is marked by his wicked sense of humour and delicious insight.
What makes him really exceptional, however, is the music and lyrics that make up most of the evening. Okin starts the show on guitar and roughly splits the time between that and his piano.
He also manages to produce horn sounds from non existent instruments.
A set of Jazzy tunes is delivered in a carefully measured manner which is an utter delight, whether it be in his irresistible take of , 'My Way', aimed at all theatre managers. or on to the 'fruitier' numbers!
EARL OKIN: Nothing To Do With Sex Whatsover!
The Festival is really under way. Earl Okin is back for his 11th consecutive year. He is, if anything, funnier than ever, just as amazing on both guitar and piano, and his 'trumpet' style is still mind blowing.
To a most appreciative audience he exercised his magic again. Age does not matter for he appeals to all from 17 to senility.
This year's show is 'Nothing To Do With Sex Whatsoever' and if you believe that you'll believe anything. For much of the time you think he's only ad-libbing, but slowly realise that you are in the presence of a master of the art of cabaret.
The man is unmissable as singer, songwriter, Jazz musician, comedian and, possibly my favourite this year, as a dance-track singer.
He's a joy! He is classic! He is a must!
EARL OKIN: The Kiss of the Horny Man
The Fringe wouldn't be the same, would it, without Mr. Okin? Thus is his 12th successive visit and, for me, it's his most enjoyable show so far. With his nonchalant chat, sophisticated humour, witty lyrics and perfectly economic guitar/keyboard work, he still has an air of the strolling troubadour doubling London accountant about him.
And in case you don't particularly like the show: 'I want you to know that I have the best pre-show background tapes.' Ella Fitzgerald appropriately enough, with a song called 'How Long Has This Been Going On?' and Nat 'King' Cole entertain before curtain up.
There's Okin simulated trumpet too. Hence the show's title, although he is wickedly saucy with it. Don't go home without hearing his riotous send-up of Antonio Carlos Jobim and, as he put it, for the man who is not getting his share, a song he calls 'Try Me Soon'. Can I award a SIXTH star?!
EARL OKIN : Nothing To Do With Sex Whatsoever.
Earl Okin seems never to have stopped performing his urbane, faultlessly musical comedy shows in both mainstream and fringe venues, and this latest hour long entertainment is relaxed and assured. Blues, Jazz and Bossa Nova songs are interspersed with his own , including a take on 'My Way' about bad stage pianos.
His vocal imitations of trumpet and clarinet solos are both funny and soulful, and his extended introductions give him the air of a Dennis Nordern of 20th century popular music.
His guitar and keyboard playing are a joy. Long may he ramble!
THE EVENING POST
Mango and Other Delights.
NEW ZEALAND FESTIVAL OF ARTS.
Earl Okin is a hoot!
A pom on the fringe of greatness, Okin has a neat line in understated patter to punctuate his music making. Glib, naughty and sometimes daft, this Londoner massages mediocrity in a way which not only makes it acceptable, but which makes it funny, very funny.
He also has the ability to make very good music, and does that with panache. And you get him on the cheap, he has in his musical storehouse a trumpet, cornet, Flugelhorn, Clarinet and Trombone, all done with his mouth, and he is so good, you would swear he uses electronic aids. Okin moves from blues to swing to Bossa Nova on Guitar and piano. His version of Ellington's 1928 Black Beauty was brilliant!
The highlight was his hit Mango, a juicy number of implausible but very innuendos.
His encore disco version brought the house done, and the applause was deserved.
QUEEN'S FESTIVAL, BELFAST
(Jazz at 'The Harp')
...Earl Okin was on cracking form. Using a mixture of material from his acclaimed one-man show 'Hoagy' together with other material, he gave an evening of high-class entertainment. His between-song banter had people crying with laughter and the famous trumpet-impressions received spontaneous applause every time he used them.
Earl's ability to change the mood without losing the thread of the performance was brilliant. Because they have so many good 'home-made' artistes, if you don't measure up, a Belfast audience will talk right through your set. While Earl was on, you couldn't hear a sound from the crowd and it was no real surprize when one encore wasn't going to be enough.
When called back a second time, Earl played a gentle Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn number to close the evening; the perfect end to a perfect performance.
Only the best is good enough for Belfast. How long is it going to be before England (not to mention the rest of the world) wakes up to the fact that they have one of the best on their doorstep.
WEST HOLLYWOOD CONCERT, LOS ANGELES
"You are quite a genius you are - you have managed to find a niche in Cabaret I have never seen nor heard before - you are simply brilliant. Hard to categorize - musician/comedian or what - I guess you are anything the audience wants to categorize you as long as they book you.
One must see you in person to "get you" - even though your musicianship is fantastic!!! Your guitar and especially piano playing is thrilling in all the genres!
One thing I gleaned from your performance is that one must "experience you" - live - "where you live - you need an audience! Those little nuances you have in your "kit" needs people to experience them.."
(Legendary producer/arranger of the Ella Fitzgerald 'Songbook' series, who has worked with just about everybody..from Sammy Davis Jr. to Bing Crosby, etc.