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Thursday, April 12, 2018

GIJF Day 2: The Electrio and Kokoroko - Sage Gateshead, April 7

(Review by Steve T/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew)
As we were herded out of Sage One, the whole of the building seemed immersed in this large sound coming from the band on the concourse. Roz had forewarned us of a Jazz-Funk band from Leeds by the name of The Electrio, which seemed entirely appropriate to follow funk maestro Maceo Parker at a Jazz Festival, but this was most definitely distinctly, specifically Azymuthesque.
It wasn't just the volume that was large - though it was - but the sound, like a big band or a big rock band, and I knew they'd find an audience on Tyneside. Like George Benson selling out Sage One in record time, after years of being Uncle George at Julies Night Club, the Boys from Brazil are in the water around the North East. Billy Walker was a major promoter in Stanley and Newcastle in the eighties, with a dance-floor free remit at the Hilltop and downstairs in Walkers, and never missed a chance to slip in some Azymuth. Paul Cook was one of the big club DJs across the region in the seventies and eighties, but liked nothing better than some smooth, funky Azymuth. Well maybe Marvin Gaye. They were the cause of my first trip to Hoochie and I believe they've been back since.
I longed to go over and ask them if they'd heard of Azymuth, but thought they may be offended or even honestly say no; crazier things have happened in this strange world of Jazz. 

Dipped in and out of Sage Two for Skeltr, though I have to admit, as is often the case, I preferred the Concourse. Good arguments on the way home though, as we debated whether it's more novelty, and whether anyone will care five years from now or will they have moved on to 'the next big thing.' If you missed them, you can decide for yourself at the Durham Jazz Festival in June. 
For my money (or free entrance), the highlight of Saturday night, and after the Arkestra, the whole festival (or as much as I did of it) was Kokoroko, who followed Skeltr.
I was disappointed that Tony Allen, one of the godfathers of Afrobeat, had barely touched upon it during his tribute to Art Blakey. This band started off slowly too but by the second song were getting right into it, some brave souls trying a few moves. Within a couple more, large sections were up and at them, maybe not on, but around the tables.
The original plan was to remove all furniture, but poor sales had caused a rethink and the decision was taken to make it cabaret. They should have realised the cool, young people (and me) would turn up at the last; electronics and Afrobeat are a big deal to the underground studenty crowd.
Drums, percussion, guitar, bass, keys, the lady trumpet player taking the lead, another lady (are we still aloud to say this?) on bone and a chap on sax taking the best of the solos and getting appropriate applause.
Then that old trick, you get everybody up dancing then close it down with a slow one. Perhaps a little more flexibility in the set-list, but we were given one last chance of a shake and just about everybody took it. It's my guess they could have played all night.  
Steve T. 

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