A Taste of Africa at Satchmo
To celebrate UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, Satchmo Jazz Festival in its 3rd edition provided an exciting platform to thrill lovers of this genre of music, as well as initiate a new generation of enthusiasts.
Indeed, jazz draws its roots from Africa, and unsurprisingly, what started out as a cosy evening of listening to evergreen songs from some of the jazz greats, as well as contemporary tunes, took a twist, to end up in Africa, where the originators of jazz trace their ancestry.
The festival created an atmosphere experienced by jazz fans in France during the 1940s and 1950s when luminaries like Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) performed at cafés in Paris. Even at the Othello’s Lounge in Victoria Island, Lagos, away from the usual larger venue, Eko Hotel, the excitement and fun was not dampened.
To achieve this, the organisers put together an excellent team, which constituted the right combination of depth, age, musical influences and variances, provided by six performers. The instrumentalists and singers were backed up by the famous Sharp Band and took the audience through a transcendental, yet groovy journey from 7pm on April 29 to 3am on April 30, incidentally the International Jazz Day.
Among the performers on the evening were Jesse Taiwo Ibidun, Phebean, Ella Nnabuchi, Brian Coy, Adeh Gbolahan and Etuk Ubong Ibidun, on a hard horn, which he plays in addition to composing and arranging his own music, and leading the Jetaibid Jazz Quintet. He has featured at Felabration and the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Jazz Night, as well as recently released a two-song EP. The playful way he switched from speeding up to slowing the notes on his wind instrument started a frenzy that eventually enveloped the audience. He made his time on stage interactive with a ‘call and response’ approach, turning ‘onlookers’ into ‘participants’ with many trying to mimic the sounds of his trumpet. He also thrilled with Nat King Cole’s Autumn Leaves, a rearrangement of one of the biggest-selling jazz singles ever titled Take Five, as well as his own composition titled Home, and Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia.
Taking a detour to Afrocentric, soulful and energetic jazz, saxophonist, Phebean took to the stage. The lady with the sax is multi-talented; she sings, acts and scores songs for musicals. Phebean who will be releasing her debut album this year gave a preview of what to expect from her first project. Her delicate jazz infused interpretation of Afrobeat king, Fela Kuti’s African Woman ushered in the sweetness and elegance of her next numbers; a 1929 jazz classic Ain’t Misbehaving, to which she sang and played the saxophone at intervals, and My Favourite Things, a medley from the classic film Sound of Music, which she molded with some popular Yoruba gospel tunes. She rounded up her performance with Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love for You.
“You can bring anything into jazz that is why I love jazz music,” she said with glee, in-between blowing into the mouthpiece of the saxophone.
Pushing on with the ‘girl power’, singer/songwriter Ella Nnabuchi took to the microphone and just blew everyone away with her vocal strength. A lead singer of an adult church choir at the tender age of 9, going professional at just 16 was the signal that this 3rd runner-up of the popular Project Fame West Africa was destined for greatness.
Her debut is scheduled for the second quarter of 2017, but the audience had the chance to enjoy Ella’s rendition that included Etta James 1960 song, At Last, Beyonce’s cover for the never aging song Fever, George Michael’s Never Dance Again, and Jill Scott’s Golden and Long Walk.
Grenada-born, Brian Cox is an electric bass guitarist extraordinaire. He has worked with a wide variety of musicians from all around the world on studio sessions and at live performances. In the last 4 years, he has been playing in several jazz and alternative music venues in Lagos with his band, Inner-city Jazz. Cox has learnt a lot in his time in Nigeria, and could even pass for an Igbo man. He is Nigeria’s version of the great B.B. King, strumming wave after wave of notes in harmony with his band, to produce a ‘jazzified’ hiplife and Azonto beat made popular in Ghana.
After Cox, was another guitarist, or if you like Nigeria’s version of Carlos Santana. Adeh Gbolahan is a guitarist who has performed at many venues and events including Felabration 2015 and 2016 and the Bayelsa International Jazz Festival 2016. He has an album to his credit, ‘Kingdom Call’, and is presently recording his sophomore album. He did not disappoint but kept up the tempo of scintillating jazz performances, wooing the audience with songs that hardcore fans of Carlos Santana, Kool and the Gang, Stevie Wonder, Sir Victor Uwaifo and Wizkid could embrace.
The audience assumed that prolific trumpeter, composer and bandleader Etuk Ubong would bring down the house to end the 8-hour music fiesta. The maestro who plays both the trumpet and the flugelhorn just gained a scholarship to attend one of the greatest music schools in the world, the Berkeley School of Music in the United States.
With his most remarkable breath control and stamina, Ubong’s rendition on the trumpet is like combining Duke Ellington, Satchmo, Victor Olaiya and Bobby Benson in one. Ubong provided the penultimate crescendo with his own version of Fela Kuti’s Water No Get Enemy and Spain, an instrumental jazz fusion composition by jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea.
“Jazz musicians all came from here. This is where jazz started from in Africa” said the surprise guest artiste, Gloria Ibru. She sang a number from her upcoming album, then John Lennon’s Imagine before switching it up with highlife and Gospel medleys and signing out on behalf of the organisers.
This is just the appetizer, as Satchmo’s Jazz Café are serving the main course in November. Watch out for it.
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