Strong’s sound is characterised by a voice and arrangement similar to Buble, but with a far less mainstream feel. With a nod back to well-known greats such as Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong, Strong firmly places himself at the end of a long line of jazz and blues musicians.
Strong’s appearance was part of a weekly event run by Birmingham Jazz, Rush Hour Blues, whose premise is to afford its audience a chance to escape from the busy city life for an hour. As, outside, day turned to night, against the sound of traffic rushing down Broad Street, two hundred people in Birmingham Symphony Hall crowded round a grand piano, sipped wine, and were treated to the smooth stylings of Strong and his band. Strong has had no small amount of praise from several household names, with Sir Michael Parkinson stating that “He’s got a great deal of talent”, and Rod Stewart simply proclaiming that he is “amazing”.
Like Bublé, Strong possesses an extraordinary persona. His humour enables him to engage and draw the audience in. He seemed to be fascinated with the size of the Piano and he softened the audience by comparing it to a ship, shouting “A hoy there bassist!” Later, after discovering the range of the low keys he stopped the proceedings to experiment with the “extra especially low note” and in the following song made a point of over pronouncing the lowest key, which inevitably brought the house down.
Hisset is an undulating string of upbeat big band songs, followed by slower, more emotional pieces. Thus, he opened the show with a Big Band arrangement of “Delovely”, the title track of his latest EP, followed by Kurt Weill’s mellow number “My Ship”. The tranquil song stunned the audience with his exquisite voice and depth of emotion, and proved that Strong is capable of far more than simply belting out jazz tracks. He risked exposing himself again when he ordered his band to leave so that he could perform a solo serenade. In a beautiful moment of catharsis his exceptional skill as a pianist was illuminated in his introspective song “Learning to un Love you ".
Anthony Strong’s charisma, voice and piano playing will soon have Mums on both sides of the Atlantic learning to un-love Bublé, in order to fall head over heals with this new Jazz star.
Written by James Kinsey and Claire Jervis