A View from the Vortex
This was my first visit to the Vortex since it relocated from Stoke Newington Church Street in 2006. Very remiss of me as I pass by Gillett Square almost every other evening; so when a friend who likes jazz music asked to meet me, I immediately suggested the Vortex. We had meant to eat at the Little Sardegna Restaurant on the ground floor of the Dalston Culture House but they seemed to have lost their supply of gas so couldn’t cook anything; instead we ate at Somine, one of the many Turkish cafes on the Kingsland High Street serving fresh*home-cooked food.
It you’re planning your first visit, a word of advice before you settle yourself down at the small, round tables reserved with your named place setting: use the single unisex loo off a corridor at the back of the room and get your drinks in for the night because it won’t be easy to make your way through the maze of tightly squeezed tables later on.
The Bluebonics, billed as a piano-less trio from Boston, tune up on the small stage at the front of the packed room.
Jerry Bergonzi’s sax is all honeyed mellowness with a bittersweet tinge; urban music that echoes the half-lost landscape of Kingsland High Street and a skyline pierced by the jagged outlines of the high cranes looming over the continuing construction of the East London Link and Barrett Towers. Loss and hope. Hope and loss? Once or twice, just to confuse us, he wanders over to a piano and tinkles the keyboard.
Dave Santoro, like a huge grizzly, hugs his big bass and evokes the low zing of buzzing bees around a honey-pot while Andrea Michelutti closes his eyes and bangs those drums into a trance; taking one back to the far-away lands of the locals traipsing in a steady stream to Asorock’s Express serving ‘Authentic Nigerian Food’ or the still snipping Chicago Barbers next door.
The Dalston night owls preen across the catwalk below, dressed to go – in style. Tired day-trippers saunter back home to curl up on the sofa with each other or with a take-away.
Jerry makes a joke about beat up Bush and tries to raise a cheer for Obama but this audience only titters politely – too wise for wisecracks; into the music but not the politics. The Bluebonics play ‘O-Ba-Ma’ in upbeat fashion anyway. I prefer the bluesy tunes but can’t remember the names. Yes you can! Huh?
On the raised dais at the far end of the square a few floppy drunks finish off the dregs from their tightly held cans of cheap lager and wander off into the night to no one knows where.
The trio get an encore and play a couple more tunes to rapturous applause. Their CDs sell fast. “A new one is due out soon,” says the host of the Vortex, adding, “This club belongs to you, the people of Dalston – hope you enjoyed the show and continue to support the club.”*We did and we do.
This place. That beat. Our Dalston.