Left to right: Adam Stoler, Etienne Stadwijk, Ernesto Simpson, Richard Bona,
Robert Quintero, Taylor Haskins
I travelled up to London at the weekend with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was on my way to see a concert that I was greatly looking forward to. On the other hand, the last gig I had attended at the Barbican (Maria Rita) was ruined by appalling sound mixing. I need not have worried. The sound mix was spot-on for the whole show.
The evening's music was kicked off by the excellent Danilo Perez Trio. Under other circumstances I would have enjoyed their set considerably more, but it really did not fit the mood of the evening. Never-the-less, the musicianship was of a very high order and the other members of the trio - Ben Street (bass) and Adam Cruz (drums) - integrated perfectly with Perez's playing, complimenting every twist and turn within the music. Despite some light-hearted attempts at audience interaction by Perez, the trio never really took charge of the proceedings. However, I would not hesitate to go and see them perform in their own right. Here's a clip of them performing 'Alone Together' at Arturo Sandoval's club last year.
The problem was that most people were anticipating more of a party atmosphere - which was exactly what they got when Bona and his band took to the stage!
There was an immediate sense of - what I can only describe as - security as the band commenced to play. The audience knew that it was in safe hands for the rest of the evening, and the groove was so immediate and insistent that you could practically feel the Barbican resonating in sympathy. This was not achieved by volume but by the sheer infectious precision of the musicians. The programme notes included a quote from a Guardian review which sums it up beautifully -"...music that makes you smile, moves your feet and touches your heart in ways that more celebrated music personalities can only dream about."
Bona is a virtuoso electric bass player who has - as did the late Jaco Pastorius (the man that inspired him to take up the bass in the first place) - the ability to play exactly the note you want to hear at exactly the moment that you want to hear it, only you don't know that that's what you want to hear until you've heard it! He also has a beautiful voice and writes most of his own material which he sings in (I think) his native Douala language (he is from Cameroon). The songs utilise an eclectic selection of grooves, moving freely between Latin, jazz-funk and African beats. Bona's bass and voice were complemented by a superb band whose unbeleivable tightness kept a big grin plastered more or less permanently on my face. They were :- Adam Stoler - guitar; Taylor Haskins - trumpet; Etienne Stadwijk - keyboards; Roberto Quintero - percussion and Ernesto Simpson - drums. It is difficult choose a favourite moment from the evening but if pushed I would nominate the band's version of Jaco's 'Liberty City' (see the previous posting for a YouTube clip of an earlier line-up's performance of this tune) and the moment when the band left the stage and Bona transformed himself into a choir with the aid of 'sample and hold' technology. At the end of the evening the performers were thanked with a standing ovation which brought them back for an encore,provoking yet another standing ovation, but this time a -no doubt exhausted - band stayed in the dressing room. This, for me, was undoubtedly 'gig of the year'.
Here are another couple of clips. First, here's the 2006 line-up perforing one of Richard's songs at the Stockholm jazz festival -
and finally here's Richard performing another of his compositions -'Dina Lam' with Bobby McFerrin'
Roll on the new album!