ALFA MIST | London, Queen Elizabeth Hall

No summer is short of music festival opportunities, but sifting the so-so from the spectacular takes a specialist skill set.  When the acts are curated by three-time Grammy Award-winning composer, performer and icon of the music industry Nile Rodgers you know the heavy-lifting is in the safest of hands.  The Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival listings read like a playlist that shuffles through favourites and new discoveries to soundtrack your summer.

Alfa Mist’s blend sits in the welcome blurred line between jazz and hip-hop; an easy lean-back splays most of his piano chords with a tempo that pushes at the tight urgency laid down by the drummer.  It’s in that tension that the groove is born: the closely rhythmic bass, the disjunct rhythms and the faultlessly carefree comping. “Thanks for coming out tonight, it’s nice to have a seat sometimes, isn’t it?” acknowledged Alfa Mist to a sold out concert hall.  It’s not always easy to feel the funk with the luxury of a pair of arm rests and good lumbar support, and nobody wants to sit still to hip-hop (the clue is in the name), but the energy of the music transcended the comfort and a glance across the audience showed a silhouetted sea of heads bopping in unison.

The bass clarinet is a stranger to both the jazz and hip-hop worlds, but a solo that whirled from the sonorous to the adventurous felt entirely congruous.  Alfa Mist pivoted between electric and grand pianos, at times the latter bringing a welcome edge to the texture and clarity to the harmony.  The greatest dynamism was in the horn and guitar solos that roamed deeper into jazz influences and tugged at the groove that rooted them.

Alfa Mist confided that tonight’s concert was the first time his mother and heard him play music taken from 2017’s Antiphon and 2019’s Structuralism: it was worth the wait.

Nile Rodgers’ Meltdown continues at the Southbank Centre until 11 August – more details can be found here.

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