The Revolution Will Be Live: A Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron
(Jazz Cafe, London. 1 September 2021. Live Review by John Stevenson)
The spirit of Gil Scott-Heron reigned supreme at the Jazz Cafe on 1 September during a well-received tribute concert in honour of the emblematic poet, singer, and musician, whose highly acclaimed albums and performances of the 1970s and 80s pre-figured rap and hip-hop.
Scott-Heron was an outspoken anti-racist artist whose songs and poems stridently and uncompromisingly decried racial prejudice and the excesses of capitalism in America and apartheid-era South Africa.
The entertaining and informative London show was produced by Kim Jordan, Scott-Heron’s long-time former pianist and musical director, and spoken-word artist Malik Al Nasir, who also launched his new book, Letters to Gil, during the event (link to LJN review below).
A Scott-Heron protégé, Al Nasir (Malik & The O.G’s) opened the show in top form with hard-hitting and politically-charged reggae, funk and jazz-influenced numbers.
A witty and engaging wordsmith and a tall, imposing stage presence, Al Nasir’s compositions included reflections on the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (Shock and Awe-We Don’t Need No Re-Runs) and meditations on UK immigration (Immigrants) and civil liberties (Freedom of Speech).
Matching all of this was the high level of musicianship from the backing band.
Despite technical issues with the sound issuing from her electric piano, Jordan’s keyboard wizardry and vocals were stunning.
Scott-Heron band alumnus and multi-genre London-based drummer, Rod Youngs, was an impressive presence, masterfully punctuating the groove and getting patrons to shake and shimmy. Mo Nazam gave a splendid display of guitar pyrotechnics, alternately shredding like a rock god and offering funky rhythmic accompaniment. Bassist Tiago Coimbra nailed it all to the proverbial floor and took outstanding solos.
Noel McCoy, a veteran of the UK soul, funk, gospel and R&B scene, was superb as a backing vocalist with Malik & the O.G’s, and in filling the rather large shoes of Scott-Heron on anthemic tunes like The Bottle, Flashlight and (pièce de résistance) The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
Might the iconic departed bard have been happy with the homage to his art and soul?
Judging from the enthusiastic response of the Jazz Cafe audience, the answer is a resounding yes.
John Stevenson is a North London-based writer and jazz enthusiast. Website: www.keffiscribe.com
Categories: Live review