When Aisha Met The King

Two excellent bands went head-to-head at The Coventry Jazz Festival.

Aisha makes The King an offer he won't refuse
Aisha makes The King an offer he won't refuse

It was 90 degrees in the shade at The Leofric Hotel on Thursday 26 August 1999 when the Coventry Jazz Festival put King Pleasure and The Biscuit Boys head-to-head with Blue Harlem. The result was a highly honourable draw, with huge additional points for the unscheduled encores, when the two bands combined. The ballroom was packed with Gloucestershire

JazzJivers, Birmingham and local cerocers and even a few London Lindy Hoppers made it up there. The dancers were added entertainment for the large crowd who preferred to remain seated at their tables, or watch from the balcony.

Simon Selmon held a class before King Pleasure hit the stage at 8.30pm, and together with partner Kate Keller, performed his wonderful 'Lady Be Good' routine between the band sets. Everyone was then invited to join in The Madison, followed by The Shim Sham, this time to the version of Stompin' At The Savoy by The George Gee Make-Believe Orchestra that features Frankie Manning calling out the moves and freezes.

Both bands were on top form throughout the evening, but undoubtedly the highlight for seasoned Pleasure/Harlem aficionados was when The King joined Blue Harlem's Aisha Khan for several numbers at the end of the latter's set.

Having exhausted the numbers like Shake Rattle and Roll that they both knew the crowd brought them back for one final time. With members of both bands on stage, KP and Aisha then proceeded to improvise around Every Day I Have The Blues. This included the vocalists doing some swing dancing and serious snogging during the many instrumental breaks. By the end, Aisha was calling for 'someone to get me a preacher!' and King Pleasure had decided that he 'didn't have the blues anymore'.

JazzJive's James Hamilton took care of the post live-music duties, with an excellent selection of medium paced swing and jive, much to the gratitude of the now-exhausted dancers. It was a stunningly enjoyable evening with two of this Britain's top swing/jump-jive bands, and full marks to the organisers for having the imagination (and funds) to promote it.

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