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Tunde Jegede & The Art Ensemble of Lagos

Tunde Jegede

Tunde Jegede & The Art Ensemble of LagosColchester Arts Centre

24th July 2017

What to expect from the above? Classical music from Nigeria perhaps, avant garde jazz in the manor of The Art Ensemble of Chicago maybe? Answer to both, no.

Let’s deal with the facts as we know them: Tunde Jegede is a fabulous kora player and musical director of the outfit, the other seven members of The Art Ensemble, presumably, have some connection with Lagos although this wasn’t directly addressed during the concert. In fact, other than titles, very little was said at all, and the music was left to speak for itself, how wonderful for all concerned if I could do the same!

However a boring review that would make, but a whole lot easier than trying to describe the wonderfully shifting soundscapes cast by the ensemble as they took us down a wide lazy river flowing twixt the scrub and farmland of sub-Saharan west Africa. For this struck me as being music nurtured in the flux and flow of rural life, way before the advent of the mega cities such as Lagos and Dakar.

It may be my tired imagination but I can’t conceive of the kora as anything other than a rural instrument, add to that African percussion, western drum kit, bass, guitar and rather wonderful trumpet solos then you have a band to die for. Yet there is more, add to the mix soulful jazzy vocals and, all of a sudden, the choir of angels become redundant, especially on the gospel flavoured “Our own vibration” and the headstone shaking encore “Lord I will follow”.

But it would be so very wrong to cast The Art Ensemble of Lagos as one trick ponies as they possess so much more, from the refined elegance of the opening “Song of the morning” through the jazz instrumental “The Traveller” with its trumpet solos evoking Miles Davis in “Sketches of Spain” mode, and then there was a left turn, into Orchestra Baobab territory, with the Cuban influenced traditional piece “Yarabi”.

You see, so much more – an evening in the company of such talented, classy musicians so clearly in thrall to their creations can never be anything but a joy, and this, most clearly, was a joy, although undiscovered by all but the enlightened few.

Nonetheless, huge credit must go to the hosts and the musicians for an uplifting evening, and I long for more of a similar ilk.