LOCO IRONICO: THE SECOND REFERENDUM | London, PizzaExpress Soho Jazz Club

Loco Ironico’s The second referendum demonstrates all of the unique hallmarks of the Joe Cang / Matteo Saggese partnership. The lyrical pyrotechnics, the rhythmic fusion and exquisite arrangements, as ever deftly drawing from a number of traditions and their unique sound, blending latin, jazz and reggae into a red-hot, slow-cooked, sonic stew.

Featuring some of the best live players in the circuit, Loco play from the rich seam of their recent albums Mambo Gambo (2017), The Covers (2018) and their fantastically titled debut Carpe Afternoon (2016), not an acquatic pun as Cang explains but rather a rebuke to Horace’s lack of chill.

The whole evening feels akin to reaching a lush oasis in a desert, both sonically and lyrically. Given the theme of the evening, Cang’s one-liners felt like icing on the cake with familiar titles revealing rather more satirical meanings, particularly ‘Always Remember You (/EU)’ and the ironic dedication of ‘Beautiful Land’ (about a ship’s band pining for land as they capsize) to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Beyond providing a much needed cheering solvent for dark times, here is a music that knows where it comes from and what it has to say. From the rip-roaring ‘El Bandito’, with its distinctively syncopated latin brass licks and its sharp political satire (“they want your money cos they’re El Bandito / Monsanto, Diablo, Bandito Bad!”); to the whimsical ‘Fit and Healthy’, a Bourbon-soaked tribute to dreams of perfect health; the integrity of the artistry and musicianship is self-evident.

Off-the-cuff moments led to some of the best of the evening. A power-cut in the first few songs brought proceedings to a peremptory halt. But the moment the power was back on, the band picked up from the precise moment they left off, launching back into a trumpet solo that made it hard to sit still without some appreciative and altogether embarrassing facial convulsions.

Another inspired moment was an off-the-cuff rendition of the exquisite ‘Paint on a Canvas’ after an audience request (which proved to be a profoundly affecting evocation of loss). Throughout, Saggese’s powerful harmonic stylings on the piano and Cang’s rich tone twinned beautifully with the band, from robust syncopated bass-lines and verbal dexterity to hauntingly complex harmonic phrasing and intimate, plaintive melodies.

Veterans of the game (their careers spanning work with everyone from Ian Dury to Il Divo), Saggese, Cang and the band are a cut above. With their albums recorded in a single take and mixed by the legendary Jerry Boys of Buena Vista Social Club fame, it is little wonder that Loco Ironico deliver so comprehensively live. Rich, alive and with roots in sounds that have been sorely missing from an homogenising landscape, Loco Ironico are the real deal.

Listen to Loco Ironico online.

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