The trumpeter, the bassist and the drummer awkwardly walked on stage, before a roar of applause filled the room as Valle confidently followed, waving to the expectant audience and clearly enjoying the attention. Despite his trademark long blonde locks, now turning a tinge of grey, Valle’s black leather jacket, slim physique and spirited charisma made him seem youthful.
When the applause finally died down, Valle sat at centre stage in front of the keyboard and softly said to the audience, “let me play a little one before I speak to you”. The room fell completely quiet with anticipation as Valle played a few notes of his keyboard, before he called the rest of the musicians in one by one and they proceeded to play the instrumental 1997 track ‘Bar Ingle‘, quite fitting translated as ‘English Bar‘. What strikes you immediately about the venue is the sound. In the same way that many dance tracks can only be appreciated on club speakers, the same can be said for jazz and soul at places such as Ronnie’s Scott’s. Never have I’ve heard a trumpet sound so triumphant, a bassline so full or a voice so rich with character. I understood now why this place is so iconic and widely cherished.
It was an impressive and humble start; instead of showcasing one of his most well-known tracks, Valle simply choose a track which would show off the incredible musicians which surrounded him. It was clear from the start that tonight would not be simply the ‘Valle’ show; he wanted to pay respect to the countless musicians who helped to shape his career.
After greeting the audience warmly with a beaming smile, Valle introduced the night’s next song, ‘Samba de Verão’ (Summer Samba), which he introduced as his first ever ‘hit’ record. Whilst it may not be my favourite song of Valle’s, played live in the dimly lit surrounding of Ronnie Scott’s it sounded sublime and was one of the night’s early standouts.
After playing some more of his iconic samba material, Valle was joined by his wife Patricia Alvi onto the stage. Alvi elevated the evening to greater heights as her rich soulful singing gave the songs a greater warmth and character; providing a perfect complement to Valle’s weathered voice. Their first song together was the classic ‘Baby Don’t Stop Me’, a brilliant funk track which Valle wrote alongside American icon Leon Ware, one time song writer partner of Marvin Gaye, in the 1970’s. Performed to perfection, Valle’s decision to showcase different styles and genres over the course of the night payed dividends as he kept the audience utterly captivated.
As we reached the interval, Valle and his band broke out into a jam. The atmosphere became increasingly animated and even the bartenders began cheering as the saxophonist and drummer each performed one of the most incredible solo’s I’ve ever seen. It was a perfect way to leave the crowd wanting more.
Yet after I came back to my seat, for the first time Valle left me feeling underwhelmed. I hoped to hear more of the jazz fusion and funk material which he played before the interval, yet he relied too heavily on slow samba numbers and unfamiliar newer material. Despite this, Valle undeniable charisma and boyish charm still carried the show. In between songs he often made jokes with the audience and his band (and one point even pretending to forget his bassist name) and talked about the influence of his music; “you know my work has been sampled by people such as Kanye West and Jay Z”. The music may have become slightly less engaging, but Valle’s showmanship and clear love of his craft, was a joy to behold.
Things picked up considerably as Valle played possibly his most famous tune, ‘Estrelar‘. Since seeing a rather surreal clip on Youtube from 1983 of the Brazilian legend singing the track in yellow tracksuit surrounded by scantily dressed girls, confetti and multi-coloured balloons I had a faint hope this would be relived at Ronnie’s. Whilst there was tinge of disappointment as I soon realised this was not to be, aided by a sublime trumpet solo, ‘Estelar’ was the clear standout of the night. From this point, Valle and his band had finally recaptured the energy of the first half of the night’s proceedings and finished the show with beautiful renditions of ‘Nao Tem Nada Nao’ and ‘Crickets Sing For Anamaria’.
After a standing ovation, Valle and his band played a second rendition of ‘Summer Samba’. It was a fitting and emotional end to the night as Valle celebrated his fifty year career by ending on the song which made him a star all these years ago.