Support comes from Soweto Kinch, MOBO-nominated alto saxophonist, winner of several Jazz accolades and freestyle MC. He’s got a new album out, the “Legend of Mike Smith”, a concept album that deals with the story of a young MC and how the seven deadly sins impact on him. Performing with a bass player and drummer, he plays an instrumental before inviting the audience to think up one word for each letter of the word “Brighton” so that he can freestyle around it while the band improvise a rhythm.
It’s good to see an artist with a range of influences and who comfortably stands in both the Jazz and Hip Hop worlds, making no distinction between good music. To me, the melding of Jazz and rapped vocals makes perfect sense (you only have to listen to The Watts Prophets, Oscar Brown Jr., Gil Scott-Heron or The Last Poets to hear that this is nothing new). The stage version of his concept album has been put together with old school UK Hip Hop artist and choreographer Jonzi D and I imagine would be well worth checking out. For now though, this is a good, entertaining set from Soweto Kinch who is a headline act in his own right.
Robert Glasper has recorded seven albums to date, most of them released on iconic label Blue Note. In the last few years he’s become more widely known by the mainstream for his last two albums “Black Radio” and “Black Radio 2”. These albums have a more R ‘n’ B feel and feature a host of guests including Lupe Fiasco, Meshell Ndegeocello, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Ledisi, Yasiin Bey and Lalah Hathaway (Donny Hathaway’s daughter).
The Robert Glasper Experiment consists of Glasper on keyboards and piano, Casey Benjamin on saxophone and vocoder, Derrick Hodge on bass, and Mark Colenburg on drums. Led by Glasper’s jazzy piano they play a great selection from the “Black Radio” albums. The Gospel roots in Glaspers’ work shone through in “I Stand Alone”, with an extended bass solo to make up for the lack of Commons’ verses on the album version. All the band members get a chance to solo, with particularly great fluid and syncopated drumming from Mark Colenburg. I did wonder what Casey Benjamin’s voice would sound like without the vocoder on every track, although it works well when they do a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. They also do a slowed down vocoder version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which goes down well with the sold out Concorde crowd. “Ah Yeah” from the first “Black Radio” album also proves popular, with Vula Malinga coming on to do a spirited duet with Benjamin. The singer from Hackney has previously sung with Basement Jaxx and possesses a powerful voice that more than does the song justice.
My favourite cover version they perform is at the end, with Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” prompting another audience sing-along. This fusion of Jazz, Gospel and R ‘n’ B melded with Hip Hop drumming and bass lines is a winning formula, something Herbie Hancock has previously dabbled in and the sort of thing I like to think Miles Davis would have had a go at.