REVIEW: Multi-lingual jazz-pop trio put on a quirky show

Chico Chica at The Hawth
Chico Chica at The Hawth

Chico Chica, The Hawth, Crawley, February 8

Sometimes, if you’re willing to take a chance with a band you’ve never heard of, you can see some real gems live on stage.

Chico Chica is a likable jazz-pop trio who perform songs in English, French and Spanish, alternating between spicy, Latin-tinged tunes and slower, more romantic ballads. One number, forming part of their set at The Hawth’s Studio, is actually an Arabic folk song from the 1570s, performed in its original language.

The band’s tunes are largely vocal driven with the three members – Hilary Cameron (voice/piano), Tom Hannah (voice/guitar) and Barbara Snow (voice/flugelhorn) – sharing singing duties throughout the set.

It’s enjoyable, easy-listening music, but their quirky style seems to have a niche appeal and there aren’t many people in the Studio to see the band.

However, it would be unfair (and illogical) to judge the quality of the show by the small turnout, especially when the band’s musicianship is of such a high standard. Hilary Cameron is a deft and accomplished pianist who plays with confidence and flair while Tom Hannah is a skilled guitarist who also performs spoken poetry numbers with an amusingly eccentric edge.

Barbara Snow switches between percussion and flugelhorn as effortlessly as she switches between languages in her passionate vocals.

In fact, all three band members are pretty good singers, harmonising with each other in ways that are tuneful, well-timed and effective.

They have an off-beat manner too, which comes across particularly well in the song A Scientific Fact.

It’s a jaunty and uplifting number about scientific studies into how singing, playing and dancing can make people happy.

Tom Hannah demonstrates what he means during the song’s instrumental section, stepping away from the mic for some ironically awkward and low-energy dancing, which consists mainly of jerking his shoulders and pointing. Overall, the gig is an unconventional Friday night out but it’s light-hearted fun in a comfortable atmosphere.

It’s also a refreshingly unpretentious show for a band playing in a ‘jazz’ genre.

It’s a shame there isn’t a bigger audience at The Hawth gig because, despite their apparent niche appeal, Chico Chica deserve to be heard by anyone who’s into smooth and expertly performed alternative music.

By Lawrence Smith