Afro-beats combined with jazz breaks and solos was a real musical joy with these revamped Shanghai-based group of musicians.
The Lincoln Jazz Center is a state of the art live venue in the mould of the Blue Note, Ronnie Scott’s etc… and it does create that serious vibe for serious music (hopefully not too serious mind – feel free to dance people). The sound and audience experience the center creates at least does chime with the more intimate, introspective music lover (decent negronis too, albeit at Shanghai prices). It could have done with a few more smiles from the venue staff, but the emphasis being on COVID safety perhaps removed that facet. That said, the venue creates a highly exclusive experience with a real closeness to the musicians to the extent you feel that any on-stage go-between between band and audience was never going to be lost (and was encouraged by this particular act).
Obviously, the center was designed to attract the best of international jazz musicians to rival the other big two in the city i.e. Blue Note and JZ club. Of course it has not been able to fulfil that dream of seeing an international influx over the past year, BUT this locally based troupe were an easy fit for the world class venue. I was told that this was a reimagined, ramped, reunited group from the JZ stalwarts Neukiller, who frequently performed jazz, funk, soul sets ‘back in the day’ (no more than two years ago, but nevertheless a long time in the Shanghai scene).
Over two sets the band created a journey through rhythmical afro-beats to jazz breaks. They were able to surprise along the way, without falling into jazz cliche and constantly urging the audience to be drawn into their music, which they did. They never kept this simple, shifting between time-signatures with sublime ease and then genre shifting between tracks. The afro-beat vibe was evident from the start with complete percussion played with warmth, joy, smiles and passion. The show was generally instrumental, but when vocals came it was more a case layering upon the track with stunning effect (unfortunately the mix wasn’t quite right to bring these out in the first set, but the sound guys pulled it off for the second).
Although the audience was relatively reserved the final number brought (some) people to their feet driven by an impromptu Zumba performance (or was it a lesson?). Soooo, it wasn’t an international touring act, but actually it does show that we don’t always need those flashy names with this kind of talent just a didi away outside the front door…