Attending the final night of the Reykjavík Jazz Festival, I did not expect much. Stórsveit Samma (Sammi’s Big Band) has never excited me much and Brooklyn’s Antibalas was totally foreign to me. Jimi Tenor was the only artist I’d enjoyed prior to this show.
I reflected on Sammi’s body of work and his hard workmanship, ambition, consistency and search for the ultimate cool. Despite never enjoying his music to the fullest, I have the outmost respect for his passion. The guy can’t stop playing, writing and putting big things together. This night was no exception. His Big Band featured 19 players, 13 of which played various horns. They sounded larger than life. The songs and arrangements played like music for a classy thinking man’s action movie.
Add to this an element of surprise that was the appearance of Jimi Tenor, better known for his work for Warped Records. Here, he displayed an eclectic know-how of jazz music and surprised most of us with skilled flute playing, keyboard skills, rather good singing (although his voice was a bit too “small” for these big arrangements) and basically multi tasking on a level I did not expect. Turns out he’s been a player in the Finland jazz scene for years when not working on his Warp side.
As a live band they delivered but at the same time they bored me. It felt like a glimpse into a band rehearsal late at night when most of its members would rather be at home and preparing to go to bed. And they played way too long to keep me interested. Dragging out the set like this is a big no-no. Make it snappy and go for it. Don’t be polite.
This was not the case with the afro-beat political party mob Antibalas. Boy, was I glad that I went to this show expecting nothing. Although I admit, learning they were from Brooklyn, I imagined a band with diverse influence and origin that would make for an exciting and happening music spectacle – a melting pot of many good things. I was looking for energy.
My jaded ass got that and then some. I use the term “into it” a lot. That’s because I rarely see bands that are truly into it play shows in Reykjavík. Antibalas were into it. They were into their own creation, which is something I admire. I’m pretty sure that if there were only 5 people there they would still have been into it, sweating, dancing, banging their heads etc. Antibalas attacked the stage with sheer positive enthusiasm and within seconds they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Pretty much everybody was tapping their legs and a good number of people lost their signature “pose” and started dancing. They communicated with the crowd. They shared with us. They made me want to be there and not miss out. That’s all I can ask for. Go see this band and buy their shit. Support bands that are into it.
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