Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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The Soul Immigrants: Jazz Cafe 18/03/11

John Turrell Featuring with The Soul Immigrants
John Turrell Featuring with The Soul Immigrants John Turrell Featuring with The Soul Immigrants John Turrell Featuring with The Soul Immigrants Emrys Baird & Katarina Sandel (The Soul Immigrants) The Soul Immigrants Emrys Baird (The Soul Immigrants) Katarina Sandel Featured with The Soul Immigrants Emrys Baird & Katarina Sandel (The Soul Immigrants) Emrys Baird & Katarina Sandel (The Soul Immigrants)

When I heard The Soul Immigrants were in town I couldn't wait to get to the Jazz Cafe to sample a slice of this — much talked about — funky sensation! This band had a reputation/credentials to match the very best in the music world and It was definitely time to see what all the fuss was about. Formed in '92 but not played the Jazz Cafe since '96, it was high time this distinguished venue had a repeat performance, and from the very moment I stepped through the door you could tell it was going to be a special event.

It was a night which ran hand-in-hand with the JAZZ FM stamp of approval and saw a packed Jazz Cafe greet the band with high expectations. Looking sharp, with a funky horn section in red attire adding a distinctly sporty contrast to the proceedings — these funk filled champions where here to set a personal best!

First out of the bag was a jazz funk workout which featured the classic O'Jay's bass-line, 'For The Love Of Money'. On reflection a good move (sorry, a VERY good move), as it's one of the most distinctive grooves out there, incorporating it into their first tune seemed to fit naturally — organic sampling (for want of a better expression) seemed to be happening right in front of my eyes… and ears. And as the night started to heat up the ever strong tenor sax from Ian Bailey brought this track alive, as did the deft sounds of Hammond organ magician Stu Ross.

Next tune chosen for our delectation 'Brother Where Are You,' Ralfi Pagan's supreme classic latin soul jazz killer of a tune was given a respectful rendition with the band all echoing the chorus "Dande Esta Yo Amigo!" It was at this point frontman/guitarist Emrys Baird brought the audience into play, encouraging them to sing this catchy refrain - and the audience, proving they were more than a match for their appointed task, while warming to the band just nicely, sang back without abandon.

Guest time, saw James F. Reynolds (from the band Braund Reynolds, who gave us 'Rocket-A Natural Gambler') donning a bluesy harmonica to a somewhat funky but original potboiler, called 'Immune To Love." Reynolds furious blowing seemed to alert the band to summon some extra funk and inject it into the proceedings - exactly what was required to get this evening moving along nicely and to get the crowd totally infused.

Baird's funky strumming coupled with some solid propulsive drumming courtesy of David 'Bam Bam' Bouet ramped up events just nicely. Funk and harp! Not my favourite combination. But somehow seemed to work and continued the nights theme with the Neville Brothers' 'Yellow Moon' as it was given a New Orleans gumbo style meets Prince treatment. Curiously enough that worked too! A tangent I wasn't expecting but I have to admit, their style mixed with their ability to deliver swung it for me.

The guests kept rolling on and off the stage as Ross Anderson, an old cohort of Soul II Soul, twanged his beautiful looking red Stratocaster to Eddie Harris' 'Listen Here'. It seemed like the cruise control was now on with the horns sounding sublime, 'Lady Dee' squealed on her alto sax mercilessly giving a rawer edge to the band, just like Maceo was famed for. And as the band mixed original tunes with lesser known covers, this combo seemed to be the order of the day. Single in the making 'The Ghetto, There's No Way Out,' '60 Min Man' and 'Sunk Without The Funk' (A Craig Charles fave) continued the momentum. Second guest guitarist Robin Bannerjee (Rox, Amy Winehouse) then gave it that twin AWB vibe …with pretty frills and a lick that kills!

Swedish Gospel Diva Ms Katarina Sandell, looking/sounding hot in a beautiful black dress and flaming red hair totally bought the house down with a towering version of Gloria Jones 1976 version of 'Tainted Love'. The place erupted as the crowd were egged on to sing the anthemic chorus, and as Willie Shakespeare said, "I shall deny thee no prisoners" AND BOY she definitely wasn't in the mood to take any! A real tour de force who was born to be on a big stage....

Lastly, the piste de La resistance… Mr John Turrell (he of Tyneside giants Smoove & Turrell and lead singer of the formidable Fantasy Funk Band) was in the house and his Northern Soul take on Jackie Wilson-esque 'Light My Fire' was nothing short of magnificent! Well renowned lungs mixed with his focussed yet brooding intensity lifted the place to a crescendo. A first class performance, from a first class soul singer in his prime - Looking dapper, this jovial Geordie grabbed the band by the scruff and kicked their asses to keep up with him — and their response was instant! A towering performance from a band whose professional determination fuelled the flames of funk and left the Jazz Cafe smouldering in their wake.

All photos with thanks to Tim Bastable

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