Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1088

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The Soul Immigrants: Pizza Express Dean Street, SOHO, London 19/05/2018

The Soul Immigrants: Pizza Express, Dean Street, SOHO @bluesandsoul.com
The Soul Immigrants: Pizza Express, Dean Street, SOHO @bluesandsoul.com

Pizza Express seems to be thriving these days they put three gigs on this particular day and it ran as smooth as clockwork, kicking off with Esther Bennet and Duncan Lamont at lunchtime then early evening with The Soul Steppers then the late show with The Soul Immigrants. No wonder the place has such a terrific atmosphere, it's teeming with music all the time.

The Soul Immigrants led by irrepressible frontman Emrys Baird, were a potent mixture of musical ideas tonight, fusing soul jazz, gritty P-funk, and latin. Right from the off the 'up for it' audience roared with delight as drummer David Bouet whipped out a ferocious breakbeat drum solo in the middle of "Sunk Without The Funk" a number that also heavily featured special guest, Entropi's Dee Byrne whose imperious, fiery and frenetic alto sax was a sheer delight - for a four piece, this group make a big sound.

Baird seems to specialise in making his guitar sound like anything but a guitar, great swathes of funk filled synth like noises emanate out of his emerald green guitar and when he does settle for more recognisable sounds he seems to enjoy channelling Ernie Isley's "Summer Breeze" and "Who's That Lady?" vibe impressive stuff and his scatting skills aren't too shabby either on the down-tempo blessedness of "Shoot's Lament" complete with an audience call and response that demonstrates Baird's canny knack in engaging an audience and getting them swiftly on side.

Al Gibson seems to have drawn the short straw as he is constantly to'ing and fro'ing from bass to keyboard a juggling act that demands precision! His Bootsy type bass solos, heavily funky I might add, are highly musical and are a winner with the crowd this is a band who like to dismantle things, strip it down and build it slowly back up again, musical car mechanics!

A largely original set was on hand but the band are obviously fans of The Meters too rattling off a barnstorming version of "Love The One You're With" and "Come Together". Perhaps the highlight though was "Sorrow Man Blues" an unusual bossa nova inspired groove that builds with a slow burning intensity and a ferocious climax of exploratory sax and wailing guitar.

The band has a propensity for working out new ideas, sounds and rhythm tricks in the moment which detail a band in step and sync with one another and that, good people, should be applauded. A top night in Soho with melodic funkateers who are still at their best!
Words LEO ISAACS

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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