King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys burst onto the stage with the promise of a night of great swinging music, and the exhilarating set at the Cornerstone certainly didn’t disappoint: the boys don’t just do what they say on the tin (sorry!), they exceed all expectations, and thrilled a rapt audience with their showmanship.
The 6-piece rhythm and blues ensemble has been on the road for 30 years, playing not just in Europe, but across the USA, and the Middle East, recording 11 albums for Big Bear Records along the way. Their impressive resumé includes opening shows for B.B. King, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles, not to mention touring with the original Blues Brothers Band. Add in their innumerable TV and radio appearances, and King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys are truly the kings of swing!
It isn’t just their instinctive rapport with the audience which makes their jump jive and swing show such a rollicking success: they are all hugely accomplished musicians. The band lines up with King Pleasure (vocals and baritone saxophone) and Bullmoose K Shirley (guitars) as the two band members who have been there from the beginning, alongside Big John ‘Boysey’ Battrum (alto and tenor saxophones), Mighty Matt Foundling (piano) and Gary‘The Enforcer’ Barber (percussion). Shark Van Schtoop (double bass) proved to be the comedy act for the evening, and it was a measure of his musical proficiency that he could simultaneously play stomping bass (from every conceivable angle!) and keep the audience laughing at his antics, all the while maintaining the most deadpan of expressions.
From the first chord, the band’s boundless energy shone through as brightly as their trademark electric blue suits, and they proceeded to party their way through a set packed with jumping rhythm and blues numbers, both their own songs and covers of classics made famous by artistes such as Louis Prima and Jackie Wilson. A rousing version of ‘Tequila’ showcased the talents of the individual musicians with the opportunity for soloing on piano, sax and guitar, and the infectious enthusiasm from the band had the house clapping and singing: King Pleasure actually came and sat in the audience at one point to encourage us along! Sparkling versions of ‘Oh Marie’ and 'Shake, Rattle and Roll’ saw Mighty Matt’s fingers flying across the keyboards, and had the audience captivated by the musical inventiveness of the whole ensemble. And King Pleasure is not only a fantastic vocalist, he has possibly the world’s most expressive eyebrows, deployed to great effect in the bluesy ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Stuff’.
A fantastic evening was had by all, and for those who missed it or who just want more (and who wouldn’t?), this ridiculously talented band will be hitting the stage rocking when they return to Oxfordshire in August for the Cotswold Brewery Festival. And a final aside: King Pleasure himself is also a professional artist, exhibiting throughout the world- so much talent!