London Jazz Festival – Etienne M’Bappé & the Prophets

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Etienne M’Bappé (five-string electric bass), Arno De Casanove (trumpet), Hervé Gourdikian (tenor saxophone), Clément Janinet (violin), Anthony Jambon (guitar), Christophe Cravéro (piano) & Nicolas Viccaro (drums)


Reviewed by: Julian Maynard-Smith

Reviewed: 19 November, 2015
Venue: 606 Club, 90 Lots Road, London SW10

Etienne M’BappéPhotograph: www.etiennembappe.com / Ian HervierWhat a difference in terms of venue from the Hiromi concert the previous evening in the vastness of the Royal Festival Hall: the red-walled basement of the 606 Club, where band and audience can see the whites of each others’ eyes and hear the clinks and chatter of diners and drinkers. But this was a well-behaved capacity crowd, respecting the pre-performance request to switch off mobiles and refrain from talking.

That said, talking would have been hard once this septet kicked off – especially when Etienne M’Bappé’s silk-gloved fingers slapped the frets and shook the ceiling. Big, bold and brassy, the group’s performance defied categorisation: an African township feel reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim one moment, Blue Note-like brass fills the next; slinky rhythmic vamps behind a sidewinder tenor solo, then cranking up the energy with funky wig-outs hinting at 1970s’ Miles Davis.

The soloists provided plenty of contrast: from harp-like guitar, to legato violin that grew more agitated before a climactic ensemble finish, to a contrastingly introspective piano solo, to a high-octane drum solo. Together, the band was tight, several tunes ending with breakneck unison passages that stopped on a dime. Impressive, as M’Bappé told us his young band (most of the members were suggested by his son) had been together for only a year.

M’Bappé proved a good raconteur, and drew a supportive cheer when he said, “We live in Paris, and Paris is a great, great city” before dedicating a ballad called ‘How Near, How Far’ to migrants. This was a touching reminder, like last Saturday’s Soriana concert, of the healing power of music.

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