Playing a first gig for a year alto saxophonist Camilla George was introducing new material from her next album Ibio Ibio.
George, even before her 2017 debut album Isang when she was playing with Jazz Jamaica and follow-up The People Could Fly, distinguished herself in a specific space, a little Tia Fuller-like with her distinctive timbral dexterity but more to the point feeding her own Nigerian Eket heritage into the mix. And this manifested itself on the new material played last night. There was quite a gathering of excellent players on stage. Renato Paris on Nord keys and a fine singer (vocalising like he's a horn player) into the bargain was later joined by Sarah Tandy on another Nord, Tandy taking a piano solo later and doing a featured duo ballad with George as one high point.
Winston Clifford was on stage the most senior player of all and gave a certain gravitas to the groove. Clifford you'll know from his work with Orphy Robinson on the vibes great's Blue Note 1990s album The Vibes Describes for instance and on the Birmingham jazz icon saxist Andy Hamilton's Jamaica By Night to name but a few.
Ibio-Ibio is about Camilla's tribe from south-eastern coastal Nigeria, a certain walking with the spirits, with one piece themed around a shrine and musically steering a path that cut interestingly across bebop, sheer groove and Afrobeat stylings. On bass guitar Daniel Casimir was one of the stand-out players, even Bernard Edwards-like in one passage (no mean feat). George's band featured a guest kora player Kadialy Kouyate who came on with the horn players trombonist Nathaniel Cross and Sheila Maurice-Grey on trumpet from Kokoroko who was superb breaking free. Bookended with 'Intro' and 'Outro' the band sound was flavoured by the Grant Green-influenced nattily behatted Artie Zaitz known for his work with Moses Boyd's band Exodus. As usual he was a sizzling presence in the rhythm section.
Camilla mentioned in a brief chat to marlbank before the gig that Jazz Jamaica will be back on the road in July with dates doing Trojan material including at the Royal Festival Hall. So put 18 July in your diary for now. Watch out too for the build-up when it begins in due course to Ibio Ibio because the scintillating sounds heard here (especially the 'God of Heaven' and 'God of Earth' pieces) augur well. SG