Afronaut Zu and the Melanians
Afronaut Zu and the Melanians. The Hospital Club, London, 24th of February 2018
Genre: "Progressive Space Dub"
(A baffling, frenetic, wonderful mash up of Reggae, Funk, Grime, Dubstep and believe it or not, Jazz Fusion).
Q. How often do you go to a gig that not only blows your socks off, but your shoes as well? Where a comfortably chilled and seated crowd, sipping cocktails at an exclusive London members club, is on its feet applauding wildly by the end of the first number and DEMANDING an encore at the end of a short but explosive set? I think the answer is "not very often". The 'Greats'? I've seen a few.... As someone who's enjoyed the ambiguous pleasure of celebrating their 56th orbit of the sun recently, I have at least had a few more years on this earth than the younger members of the audience. And during that time I've managed to see some of the 'greats' of Afro/ American/ European music up close and personal including Tina Turner, James Brown, Salif Keita, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Hugh Masekela, Sonny Rollins, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. And some did 'sock blowing' shows. But I can honestly say the performance I saw by Afronaut Zu and the Melanians at the Hospital Club on 24th of February was right 'up there' among the best gigs I've ever been to. Why? Above all, the energy and freshness of the music and the performance. A baffling, frenetic and wonderful 'mash up' of Reggae, Funk, Grime, Dubstep and (believe it or not!), Jazz Fusion. Imagine Miles Davis in "Bitches Brew" days, collaborating with a cosmic George Clinton and a heavily spliffed out Lee Perry with a gene spliced hybrid of Keith Moon and Sly Dunbar on drumsgoing "10 Red Bulls" crazy. If you can, you're starting to get there.... When I had the pleasure of speaking to Mr Afronaut himself after the gig, I suggested giving his unique hybrid genre the name"Progressive Space Dub". He seemed pretty pleased! But is this "Jazz"? And why is this band being reviewed on this website, with the name "jazzinc"? Well, if you're looking for 'traditional' Jazz in the sense of Billie, 'Bird', Bud and Basie, Afronaut Zu ( vocalist with Rudimental), isn't going to fit your bill. Not a moody Black & white photo or a pork Pie hat in sight....But ALL thye names above were genre-busters (and definers) in in their time, the 'shocking new kids on the block' upsetting the apple cart of tradition. If instead you take a wider view of Jazz - a constant experiment in the reinvention music of Africa, America and Europe, it fits right in! Bebop appropriated show tunes (which apparently some of the original writers detested!), Miles Davis brought in psychedelic rock (again, the purists rected with horror) , Marcus Miller celebrates jazz via the medium of funk. And it's all 'Jazz'.... Throughout the decades, Jazz has not only absorbed but reinvented its musical and cultural milieu. So, to deliberately misquote the late, great King Curtis, Afronaut Zu have created and are serving up a delicious UK based dish which I call "Shoreditch Dub Stew". They seem to have chuckedeverything London has to offer into the pot and come up with something super hot and tasty! The afterglow.... So how good did this short set leave me and my friends feeling? In a word, buzzing! Despite the Arctic weather conditions outside, I shunned the last train home and remained at the Hospital Club till the early hours chatting to the band and audience members, all enjoying a collective sense of "did that really just happen? (it did...) And even after cycling home for an hour into a headwind fresh out of Siberia (I usually love biking at night but not in sub-zero conditions!), I was still buzzing. Thanks Afronaut Zu - can't wait to see you perform again!