(Jazz re:freshed: The Sounds of 2020, Jazz Cafe.11 January 2020. Review by AJ Dehany)
An energetic mover in the acclaimed Brit Jazz explosion, the Jazz re:freshed organisation hosts a busy programme of activities including a weekly live residency, a record label, an annual festival Re:FEST, a film club, band development programme, club night, workshops and outreach activities. It was set up in 2003 by Justin Mckenzie and Adam Moses, embracing alternative hip hop, electronic soul and broken-beat orientated music, and has made a name for itself as a hot spark in the crucible of the new jazz.
Presenting “The Sound of 2020” a sold-out Saturday night showcase at the Jazz Cafe included DJing from from Harry Pepper, live painting from Dora The Drawer, and performances and EP releases from violin maestro Johanna Burnheart, the band Golden Mean, and trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, whom Adam Moses introduced with both respect and humour: “He’s a member of UK Jazz’s first boy band, Ezra Collective. Just come back from the United States for a second time last year, which is no mean feat.” Their performance on the West Holt stage at Glastonbury 2019 was a highlight of the festival, and their album You Can’t Steal My Joy has drawn a lot of positive attention to the five-piece from within and without the jazz scene.
At the Jazz Cafe, Ife Ogunjobi’s crisp phrasing and bright articulation on the trumpet brought a lyrical signature to an impressive band including Reuben Goldmark on keys, John Jones on bass, and Zoe Pascal is on drums. The 18-year old drummer isn’t much older than Jazz re:freshed itself. On Peace of Mind he brings a pumping beat, battering the toms under a syncopated hi-hat. Goldmark’s dense chords of the keyboard on an electric piano setting add a rich verticality to complement the horizontal drive.
The group, as much as Ezra Collective does, obeys groove, with discernible influences from jazz, afrobeat, hiphop and RnB, but perhaps the new group is freer to portray its engagement with jazz influences. Crazy Race is a tribute to neo-soul/jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove whom he saw here at the Jazz Cafe. There’s a continuum recalling the music Miles was making or moving towards in his last years influenced by pop and RnB. After the intense unsettling opener Inner Turmoil, the band introduced the perfect duo of vocalists Cara Crosby and Nathan Mills, a combination that is both smooth and powerful. The style recalls acid jazz with expanded influences from afrobeat and grime to bring grit to a solid core of soul that broadens the appeal of some serious playing to audiences outside of art music.
Ife Ogunjobi made an effort to include and whip up the crowd, asking “Is that it? It’s Saturday night people, we’re in the best city in the world, let’s make some noise!” and encouraging the “two-step” dance move where you bounce off one foot to the other, “to the left, to the right.” There were lovely moments when Ife Ogunjobi played a phrase on the trumpet and the crowd sang it back. The refrain of A Better Place, “I’m dreaming of a better place”, is characteristic, reaching out for positivity in a negative world. The crowd was loud and involved in the euphoric climax of From A Distance. The music is liberational, in the best sense motivational and uplifting, with a seriousness and youthful energy not content with punky dissatisfaction but keen to present fresh, positive and unifying visions for a better world.
AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk
EPs by Burnheart and Golden Mean are released by jazz re:freshed.
Jazz re:freshed are presenting Chelsea Carmichael at Olby’s in Margate 25 January.
Tickets go on sale soon for the annual one-day festival RE:FEST in Brighton on 25 july.
Adam Moses assures us that a batch of the very fetching black and gold sweater he was wearing will be available soon too.
Categories: Live review