Archive for April 2016

Gig review – Introducing, KOKO, 22 April 2016

One of the finest musical moments of the 1990s was DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut album, ‘Endtroducing’.  Endtroducing was a unique beast in that it almost entirely consisted of samples.  At the time you would have found it, probably rightly, in the hip-hop section of your local record store.  But Endtroducing was so much more than your typical hop-hop album. It brought together elements of rock, funk, soul, metal, jazz and was cinematic in its scope.  The album also featured snippets from interviews, e.g. with musicians, and from TV shows, e.g. Twin Peaks.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster but was the total opposite, a classic album.

Endtroducing

(Source: djshadow.com)

I went to London’s KOKO, a wonderful building that opened on boxing day in 1900 (as the Camden Theatre), to see the album played in its entirety by live musicians.  I was intrigued not only by how it would work but whether the band could pull off the feat.  Introducing (gettit?), the band in question, had in fact done this a number of times so success was perhaps guaranteed.  The band are chameleon-like and have also performed, under different guises, the work of Daft Punk and Mr Scruff.

The band consisted of two vocalists (male and female), keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, alto sax and turntables.  The album kicks off with a sample, so any secret as to how the band would replicate the album was short lived: the vocalists, not the DJ, did the honours.  Suffice to say that the band did the album justice, which is not mean feat.  There are many tribute and covers bands out there but bands playing albums is a bit different.  You could take the view that why not just stay at home and listen to the actual album?  But hearing it live, played by musicians for which the project is a labour of love, makes you appreciate the album that much more.  The album, despite being made up of samples, stands the test of a live band playing it and, more importantly, the audience diggin’ what they’re hearing.

Introducing, live at KOKO, April 2016

(Photo: Nick Skates)

One of the highlights of the evening, alongside the drum break in ‘Stem’, and the Organ solo in ‘Organ Donor’, and my personal favourite, ‘Building steam with a grain of salt’, was the band playing the entirety of the tune ‘Grey Boy’ by Human Race, which DJ Shadow sampled for the track, ‘Untitled’.  Check out the link here to appreciate both DJ Shadow’s use of sampling and a gem of a funk track.

If you’ve never heard DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, treat yourself and check it out.  If you love what you hear, or even if you don’t love it, check out Introducing if they’re in town.  You won’t regret it.

Gig review – Kenny Barron trio, Ronnie Scott’s, 29 February 2016

This gig held two firsts for me: my first time at London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club; the other, the first time I’d seen the equally legendary Kenny Barron.

Barron, now 72, hails out of Philadelphia and is a highly regarded pianist, having been sideman to many jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter and Stan Getz.  In fact, one of my favourite albums is ‘People Time’, a live, double-album featuring Getz and Barron in duo.  Barron is of course a leader in his own right and it was in this guise that he’s recently been touring, as the leader of the Kenny Barron trio, promoting his new album, Book of Intuition.

0073-v6-PRESSE-Kenny-Barron-Trio-2015-Copyright-Philippe-LEVY-STAB

(Photo by Philippe Levy-Stab)

The album is a straight-ahead affair, including mostly Barron originals spanning straight-ahead swing, latin, ballads.  The album also features tunes penned by Charlie Haden and Thelonious Monk.  As one would expect with a Kenny Barron album, the playing is impeccable and he’s ably supported by Kiyoshi Kitagawa on double bass and Johnathan Blake on drums.  However, while enjoying the album, for my tastes it’s too polished, too straight and I was hoping that the live experience would be a slightly different affair.

Moving to the gig itself, ‘Ronnie’s’ was a perfect venue for the pianist and punter alike, achieving the right balance between the size of the venue and the intimacy of the performance.  As a pianist myself, it’s always a bonus to be seated so you can see the pianist’ hands, as if by osmosis one could capture some of the magic in those figures!  Both sets featured tunes from the new album and only two other tunes, the standard ‘I can hear a rhapsody’, and the closer to the gig, Barron’s own ‘Calypso’.  The gig featured virtuoso performances from the trio but didn’t fire my appreciation as much as I would have liked.  The best analogy I can make is to cars.  The trio was like a Rolls Royce; sophisticated, smooth and able to reach top speeds without breaking a sweat.  You just wished that the Rolls Royce would go off-road for a bit.  Though I wouldn’t expect this one to do 360’s or the ‘doughnut‘!