Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Brandon Allen Groove Band : Spice Of Life Soho London 6/10/22

BA1 Ba2 Ba3 Ba4 Ba5

Good to see The Spice Of Life Jazz back after their summer break.Paul Pace and his team have been running this for many years and the autumn programming looks fun and enticing.Tonight’s act was The Brandon Allen Groove Band. He has assembled the cream of the UK crop and it was fairly obvious right from the start, that he had put together a unique meeting of minds.

The evening was a superb blend of diverse improvisational and stellar ensemble interaction featuring Jamie Murray’s deep abstract drumming, Allen’s incendiary sax playing, Mike Outram’s superb guitar flurries, Jim Watson’s adventurous keys / soundscapes and finally, Laurence Cottle’s expansive and muscular basslines. There seemed to have been alternating themes going on between explorative sequences such as ‘Lost Worlds’ and the sterling latin fusion of ‘Exit Planet Earth’ and then some chill out meditative sounds ( inspired by the film ‘ Blade Runner’ and possibly ,subconsciously Dick Morrisey )

‘Slippery Nipple’ was a particular highlight starting with some muscular, on the one, funk bass, a solid tune of two parts that certainly had some Miles Davis ‘Decoy’ influences before it ramped up a gear into
euphoric expansionism. There is no glass ceiling with this outfit, they can hit a peak and top it at a drop of a hat- it was a mind-expanding voyage into the cosmos. Allen’s compositions have the element of surprise,harmonic depth and really great heads to boot. The pure gospel of ‘I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You’ was forthright bolstered by a well built bass solo and the earthy ‘What’s This All About Then?’ elevated on many levels too with its twisted, angular vibe of the Fania All Stars meets Devo!. The second set of their only second gig saw the bands stature rise especially on ‘Drones’ kicking off with a peach of a plinky plonk Outram solo who was getting those Scofield and Frisell harmonics off to a tee before it modulated for a fiery soprano outburst and Watson’s lush synth solo.

Final tune of the night was a showstopper even though it got off to a pensive start. A rip roaring and surging version of The Temptations ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’. Allen’s imperious sax drove the tune to rapturous energetic peaks driven by Outram’s funky rhythmic strumming before all hell let loose with an incredibly inventive drum solo that saw the band put down their instruments and just watch.
So, summing it all up, It’s good to see this extremely talented artist branch out and do his own stuff as he has unleashed twenty years of craft into this. Judging on tonight I’m sure his efforts will pay off handsomely.
Words Emrys Baird

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