Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Brandon Allen Groove Band : 1 Kew Rd 14/05/23


Good to see that Richmond has finally got a decent live venue in the form of 1 Kew Rd.
A place that was historically known as the Crawdaddy Club where the Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds used to play in the early 60’s along with countless other big name acts.

Tonight was not about early Brit R&B though - something a little more refined brought to you by Off The Rails (Funk & Jazz Promoters) determined to give this leafy suburb quality live music.

The Brandon Allen Groove Band features an evolving line-up of some of the country’s best musicians and this enterprising outfit got down to business real quick, with a varied programme as the band hit the ground running. It was unbridled improvisation bound by strong themes and heads. The ensemble enmeshed in playing, featured Jamie Murray’s crisp and inventive drumming, Allen’s fiery sax, Mike Outram’s superb guitar work and Jim Watson’s measured keys and moody soundscapes.

It was a shame not to see recently departed Laurence Cottle on bass (big shoes to fill) but Dave Jones has taken over and did a superb job (especially soloing on the gospel tune, more about that later)

Opener, ‘Pandemic’ (a theme that crops up once or twice during the set) was a brisk work out, Head Hunters in feel, paving the way for the earthy Nola / Garibaldi groove of ‘Dirt On My Shoes’ switching from alto to tenor saw Allen take the reign as the beat intensified and Watson’s energetic electric piano took a mighty hold on proceedings.

The spikey edge of ‘What’s it All About Then’ suited Outram’s gritty and expressive solo and the cross stick blessedness of ‘Eddie’s Funky Chicken’ with a blistering guitar freak out, gave way inevitably to skin with a thunderous drum solo. ‘Lost Worlds’ crossed into Wayne Shorter territory and the world of modal fourths as Allen went postal on soprano.

Being Sunday, the pure gospel of ‘I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You’ added some light and soulful respite and hit the sweet spot with Allen going into King Curtis mode - this guy can play a melody as well as his histrionic adventures followed by Watson’s charged solo was to put it bluntly, Donny Hathaway on steroids.The ultimate blow tune of the set.

The onslaught continued with ‘Slippery Nipple’, brimming with on the one funk bass bravado reminiscent of the Miles era with Marcus Miller, saw the band take off into top flight cruise control especially as Watson took it to ‘lost In Space’ dimensions with his furious fusion packed synth solo. A tune that developed into euphoric expansionism with a ‘Music Of The Mind’ Stevie Wonder like coda.

Suffice to say, BAGB are a classy jazz-fusion band, combining a sophisticated rhythmic approach that brought the night to an impressive culmination. This is marvelous and cohesive band work, anchored by solid musicianship, diverse repertoire and dynamic arrangements. Stylish material that twists and turns with vivid textures and colours, deep harmonies and bold improv as Allen proves he is adept at reinventing himself with his own hip takes on fusion. Tonight he reached deep between the diatonics to pull out some pearls of pure joy.
Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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