thu 13/06/2024

J-Sonics, The Hideaway, Streatham | reviews, news & interviews

J-Sonics, The Hideaway, Streatham

J-Sonics, The Hideaway, Streatham

Rocket-fuelled groove-jazzers take off into sonic space

J-Sonics – Latin fire and jazz invention

Last night Latin jazzers J-Sonics confirmed their reputation as one of the most compelling proponents of the delicate art of fusion with a deeply grooving, deeply addictive performance of their propulsive repertoire.

Their two Brazilian-flavoured sets were characterised by supple instrumental interplay, including from the singer Grace Rodson, a regular performer with the Roberto Pla Ensemble, whose taut, rippling vocalising rhythms and sumptuous tone were as crucial within the band’s instrumental textures as her solos, which smouldered, then burst into hot Latin fire.   

When it lacks discipline or imagination, fusion music can often end up being less than the sum of its parts, a flaccid tangle of incompatible clichés. But when it yokes the the groove, colour and melody of (as played last night) Brazilian music to the improvisational sparkle of contemporary jazz, and drives it foot-to-the-floor, it’s the music of rictus grins that can get the sullenest London crowd dancing like the carnaval.  

As an instrumental sextet (plus singer for some tracks), with both drummer, percussionist (on congas, shakers and assorted Latin instruments) and electric bass as well as trumpet, guitar and saxophone to lead the melody, there was plenty of firepower, and it was deployed with slick, grooving energy from the start. Last night’s line-up contained two stand-ins, trumpeter Mark Perry replacing Andy Davies, and Will Fry taking Jon Newey’s hot percussionist's seat. Both filled big boots superbly.

Grace RodsonTheir arrangement of jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s tune “Mr Clean” was one of the  stand-outs, in a an evening of rampant funk mood, and a great example of their method. The original 1970 version has an outstanding line-up of fusion jazz musicians, including Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and Jack DeJohnette, but it’s still a distinctively jazz recording of brilliant overlapping solos characterised by nimble-fingered harmonic and rhythmic invention. The J-Sonics version has the virtuosic solos too – first a monster from Mike Flynn on bass, oozing fat wah-wah sounds, then a gunfight between Mark Perry’s trumpet and drummer Gabor Dornyei – but the mind-warpingly funky mood gives the piece a completely different feel.

The second set was overwhelmingly and outstandingly Brazilian, and starred singer Grace Rodson (pictured right), who joined the band for just over half the numbers. Unlike some singers, who float around waiting to be given the solo stage, her voice is a complete instrument, and she vocalised with the band, showing beautiful rhythmic control, then when the time came exploded into song. Rodson’s solo on Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada” was a sensational blast of passion, raw, tender and sublime by turns. Baden Powell’s “Bermibau”, which closed the first set, was a lilting delight, with Clement Regert’s guitar leading into a dance between trumpet and Matt Telfer’s muscular sax.

J-Sonics have been building a following with appearances at last year’s EFG London Jazz Festival and this summer’s Love Supreme Festival, with regular London gigs in between. Their versions of these songs had more sly hooks than an angling championship, but so much more action. The individual generic elements J-Sonics draws on are all familiar enough, but the blending is rarely done with such skill, at the level of either performance or composition, and the result, a series of irresistibly adrenaline-packed, hard-grooved tunes, makes them an unbeatable live gig.

Their versions of these songs had more sly hooks than an angling championship, but so much more action


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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