SXSW Music Live: British Jazz

U.S. Immigration can’t keep great jazzmen/women down

The United States government cast a cloud over this Wednesday night showcase for UK jazz acts by revoking the ESTAs for multiracial acts United Vibrations and Yussef Kamaal, preventing them from entering the country. Fortunately, the remaining acts filled the gap, dedicating songs and sets to their brothers and delivering knockout performances.

Refresh Jam Band played all-star tribute to the missing United Vibrations and Yussed Kamaal (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Drummer Sarathy Korwar began with a spectacular set of tunes fusing jazz with the Siddi tradition of Indian music. Keeping the rhythms in constant motion and joined by saxophonist Binker Golding, Korwar steared guitarist Giuliano Modarelli into East Africa, India, and America.

Manchester’s GoGo Penguin fielded a traditional piano trio lineup, but not a traditional vision. Ivory tickler Chris Illingworth laid down minimalist chords and classical runs, allowing drummer Rob Turner to translate electro beats to his acoustic kit and bassist Nick Blacka to take the solos to rapturous applause.

London’s Native Dancer played music closer to R&B than jazz, but keyboardist Sam Crowe and saxist Josh Arcoleo kept the improvisations alive. Late addition and tenor sax hero Shabaka Hutchings stepped in for United Vibrations, joined only by drummer Moses Boyd and tuba player Theon Cross. The trio blew for 30 minutes straight – one of the most impressive and athletic sets of the night.

Cross and Boyd remained to anchor the Moses Boyd Exodus with Golding, trombonist Nathaniel Cross, and guitarist Artie Zaitz. Boyd pushed funky backbeats and traditionalist melodies, letting his musicians generate the heat and providing one of the most thrilling sets of the night.

The night closed in solidarity for United Vibrations and Yussef Kamaal, as Hutchings, Boyd, and members of the Exodus and Native Dancer jammed for nearly 40 minutes. Hitting peak after joyful peak in a free-flowing line of musicians that never descended into chaos or atonality, the British jazzers made magic for the enthusiastic crowd in perfect tribute to absent friends.

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GoGo Penguin, Native Dancer, Shabaka Hutchins, Moses Boyd Exodus, SXSW, SXSW Music 2017, Sarathy Korwar, Binker Golding, Giuliano Modarelli, Chris Illingworth, Rob Turner, Nick Blacka, Josh Arcoleo, Sam Crowe, Theon Cross, Nathaniel Cross, Artie Zaitz

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