The Prickle (@ThePrickle) November 19, 2017
‘We’re going to teach you to do three things at once: smile, clap and sing,’ exclaims Seckou Keita, and if we are to learn through mimicry then he, Omar Sosa and percussionist Gustavo Ovalles have just delivered a masterclass. The three spent the best part of 100 minutes on the Milton Court stage grinning, jumping and whooping through their album Transparent Water in one of the most touching and joyous performances of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival.
Taking the stage dressed in various permutations of white vestments, the mysterious glowing cup in Sosa’s hand indicated that something special and not entirely straight-forward was about to take place. Starting with contemplative piano and a cold blue light, the introduction of Keita’s kora correlated with a burst of warmth and colour —both audio and visual— that brought a relentless positivity and cheer to the hall. With infectious Cuban piano interweaving between Senegalese sounds and rhythms, the progression through the water-inspired pieces flowed with elegiac calm and purpose.
Acting as both the rhythm guitar and bass of a more conventional set-up, the mystical kora is the perfect vessel to channel the message of earth preservation. Through the music, Omar explained that they are paying tribute to the fundamental element of water. Indeed, the water was at the literal forefront of this performance in the form of one of Gustavo’s instruments of intrigue: a portable waterfall to evoke a dripping rainforest’s pitter-patter on the stage. This was just the tip of the percussive iceberg. Rarely is a stage treated to such a vast and ideal array of drums, sticks, bird-chirruping gizmos and sonorous tubes. Every time Gustavo took up a new position in his menagerie of toys something fresh and wonderful came forth.
It is abundantly clear —transparent even— when a group of musicians are revelling in each other’s talent and company. The bond between the artists was evident in the grins and laughter, the yelps and cheering, the body language both sitting and grooving. Equally, there’s no real need to analyse an audience response when there is such an abundance of smiles, conversation and serenity at the end of a gig. This was a special one and (just like our planet’s water) should not be taken for granted.
The 2017 EFG London Jazz Festival continues until Sunday 19 November.