Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss and Jason Yarde know each other well. They share links with Jamaica, and a common musical heritage as alumni of the movement started in the 1980’s as the Jazz Warriors. “We’re catching up, musically,” said Watkiss to open the proceedings. “Imagine you’re in our front room, and we’re going to let the conversation begin.
This was a fascinating evening, but not mainly because of the wide array of instruments they were using. And not, in the end, because of their impressive achievements with building sounds with effects pedals, vocoders and looping technology either.
No, what held the attention throughout was three musicians communicating with ease and with warmth, to each other and to the audience. Orphy Robinson had brought along a small portable vinyl record player for playing 45rpm singles, he would burst out into chuckles as the others recognized the tunes.
Equally memorable was when Watkiss told stories of his father giving him a hiding, in rhythm, to the accompaniment of Jim Reeves on the record player.
And equally touching was hearing audience gently singing a response to the song “Ilangole” (spellcheck?) – we almost sounded as if we’d rehearsed.
The over-riding sense was of musicians who are at ease in themselves and with their musicianship, with each other and their heritage. The visuals from SDMA added to the experience, and Kings Place has a very good sound crew, all of which helps.
The show is bound to develop as it gets repeated, which hopefully it will. The first half was around 75 minutes, and the memories seemed to be allowed to flow at their own pace. The second half, without the narratives or comedy, was shorter. If the first half had the feeling it would segue straight into a party, the second brought the sense of having arrived at serenity. I guess these things aren’t fixed, and, who knows, on another occasion the party-ward momentum might be allowed to be be taken up a few notches further with some guests.
I’d readily go again to hear this show again, and from the expression of the audience around me I think I was far from alone in having that sentiment.