Dingwalls 2013

By Michael J Edwards


Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews

It’s 2PM on 24th November 2013 in Camden Town… And that can only mean one thing – it’s time for ‘Another Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls!’ All the usual suspects were there i.e. the Dingwalls’ faithful, who have been listening and dancing to the jazzy, soulful, rare-groove and two-step vibes that DJ’s and Dingwalls’ stalwarts Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge have laid down over the years.

The headlining act was none other than Brownswood Records’ leading lady Zara McFarlane, supported most ably by New York’s trumpet and vocal troubadour Leron Thomas. Zara’s set kicked off with the punchy and infectious ‘Angie La La’, a duet between herself and Leron which she later informed us was to be her first single release from her fourth coming album on Gilles’ aforementioned record label.


Zara McFarlane – vocals
Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews

The third song in Mme McFarlane’s set was a most beautiful Brazilian/Latin/Salsa-esque tune called ‘Trouble’. Zara’s velvety vocal tones complimented her band perfectly.


Leron Thomas – trumpet/vocals
Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews

After finishing her fabulous set of four songs, Gilles picked up the positive vibe from the crowd and implored her, and featured guest Leron Thomas, to give us one more tune before they departed the stage. Although caught on the hop, Zara managed to compose herself and organise the band for another dose of ‘live’ Dingwalls magic. Mr Peterson was quick to announce afterwards that the whole set had been recorded (hopefully) for future release/broadcast.

And so it was that the party continued. With Gilles hunched characteristically over the turntables, he proceeded to inform the crowd that back in the day Dingwalls was not only known for playing jazz dance classics, but that soul, two-step and boogie were a very big part of the Dingwalls experience.


Donald Hutchinson
Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews

As soon as he had uttered his final word, he dropped the needle on the record and the most welcome rare groove sound of Luther Vandross’ ‘You’re the Sweetest One’ vibrated every single particle of air within the building. Cue audible crowd acceptance and appreciation – head nods and plenty of soft shoe shuffling on the dance floor!

Four minutes in and the DJ upped the anti by segueing into the 1977 classic track from drummer Idris Muhammad called ‘Could Heaven Ever Be like This’. Gilles P seemed intent on not letting the sweat dry on anybody’s brow on this particular Sunday afternoon!


DJ Gilles Peterson & DJ Patrick Forge
Photos: Courtesy of Jason Plews

The tone was well and truly set as the movers and shakers took to the dance floor to strut their stuff. The Semi-darkness, illuminated only by red neon lights and combined with the unique Dingwalls mood music created a special atmosphere. And that ‘Special Atmosphere’ was heightened even further when Mr Peterson dropped Horace Silver’s ‘Song for My Father’ followed by a verbal introduction to Willis Jackson’s classic slab of black vinyl ‘More Gravy’.


Norman Jay in da house
Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews

As soon as the needle hit the record, the patrons began to demand an instant rewind and Gilles duely obliged. From then on it was each man and woman for themselves. It was as if an electric current had passed through every individual in the building and stimulated them into life.


Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews


Norman (Normski) Spence
Photo: Courtesy of Jason Plews

The good vibes continued long after this scribe had departed prematurely to be entertained by another African American great, Archie Shepp. However, the sweet vibes emanating from the venue and wafting behind me as I strolled away, left me in no doubt that the essence and spirit of Dingwalls is alive and well, and will continue to be so for many years to come.