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Friday, January 11, 2019

Matt MacKellar Band @ the Black Swan - Jan. 10

Ben Lawrence (keyboards); Andy Champion (double bass); Matt MacKellar (drums); Niffi Osiyemi (vocals) 
(Review and individual pics are by Russell/group photo on the left is courtesy of Mike Tilley).

A new band, a first gig, would anyone turn up? You bet! The Black Swan did good business long before the advertised start and when the Matt MacKellar Band took to the stage it was standing room only.

Drummer Matt, home on leave from Berklee, handled the announcements with no little confidence. Enlisting pianist Ben Lawrence, himself taking a break from undergraduate studies at Durham University, was a good move and securing the on-loan services of bass supremo Andy Champion proved to be a shrewd piece of business in the January jazz transfer window. Student medic Niffi Osiyemi traded stethoscope for retro-chic microphone to add a touch of neo-soul vocal pzazz. 

Matt declared that Robert Glasper would figure large and so he did. Giving the American a run for his dollar tonight was keyboards wizz - that's keyboards plural, Nord and Roland - Ben Lawrence, playing with confidence, creativity and an ear for the band's collective neo-soul sound. Yes I'm Country opened the show and the Glasper tip continued with the introduction of vocalist Niffi Osiyemi singing Gonna Be Alright as Ben cajoled a convincing Fender Rhodes' sound from his Roland. Yes, this was more than alright!

In recent times Terence Blanchard has acquired a new, young fan base and here at the Black Swan the Matt MacKellar Band's contemporaries were into the E-Collective's Breathless. Jazz, hip-hop, the young ears were open to it all. Anchoring the whole thing was Andy Champion. if you're going to put together a band why not go for the best around? AC duly won mid-tune applause - not the done thing on this sort of gig - on Glasper's take on Moonchild's Every Part (for Linda)

Ben's as yet untitled lyrical tune opened up for man-of-the-moment Matt to take it out, cymbals fizzing and sparking. Niffi rejoined the boys to close out a fine first set. It was noted that several Early Birders, past, present and, perhaps, future, were on the premises. The baton is slowly but surely being handed on. 

Second set. Robert Glasper's Let it Ride hit new heights as Matt roared off into the distance at a killer lick. This is why we go to gigs - tremendous, simply tremendous! The US of A claims Glasper, Britain boasts Floetry. They may be no more - who knows? - but they did give us Say Yes. Matt knows his stuff and his audience. Two standards - Old Folks and Stella by Starlight (arr. R. Glasper, featuring Ben Lawrence, you'd hardly recognise it!) - either side of a J Dilla selection maintained the standard.

Matt called Niffi back to the stand one last time as they went out on Nate Smith's Pages. Drummer Smith the composer, it was little wonder fellow stickman MacKellar had some fun knocking out a first-rate solo. The Black Swan crowd wanted more...Alright then, said Matt. A scratch band winning an encore, say no more.      
Russell

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