January 29th | Trinity
Photos: Luke Macpherson
“Nice to see you, to see you nice,” shouted lead trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey: a nod to Bruce Forsyth’s well-known catchphrase – a remembrance of past popular entertainment. Yet, the catchphrase represents everything Kokoroko aren’t. For the eight-piece jazz act are youthful and exuberant. Their rousing horn-fuelled rhythms burst at the seams and ignite a joyous explosion of self-expression and spirited dance moves. Their beaming smiles and infectious energy light up the room and leave the audience exhausted but utterly enthralled. A pure delight to behold.
The UK’s jazz scene at this current moment is roaring. From the intense celestial power of The Comet is Coming to the guitar-led intricacies of Nerija, jazz is deservedly at the peak of its powers. The fact that Kokoroko, with just one 24-minute EP to their name, can sell out Bristol’s Trinity Centre is proof of not just its growing magnificence but also its growing popularity. The crowd is littered with all ages – from bearded thirty-somethings to energised older couples. The band’s spirit to unite and simply entertain is outstanding.
The group kickstart the night with ‘Uman’, a darting cacophony of horn-inspired left-field turns and silky guitar tones. At the front of the stage stands Sheila Maurice-Grey on trumpet, flanked either side by the boisterous sound of the saxophone and trombone. Together in unison, they create an earth-quaking racket, a racket to loosen up to, tap your feet and sway your hips. From the offset, energy levels are launched to devilish heights as the crowd cheer every last saxophone trickle.
Yet Kokoroko are far more than just their front horn section. Each individual member is given their chance to shine and show off their masterful skills. Pianist, Yohan Kebede, was on startling form, wowing the audience with his every move. He summersaulted his way through the evening from softly caressing the keys in a soulful tender embrace to manically pulling off fast-paced melodies. Guitarist, Oscar Jerome was equally superb. Jerome sported a rather laid-back look, not to be seen without his circular, tinted shades. Yet for a man who oozed a chilled sense of cool, his guitar solos were ferocious. ‘Adwa’ saw Jerome emphatically shred his guitar in a frenzy of Afrobeat mania.
Kokoroko’s rhythms darted just about everywhere with an untamed sense of buoyancy. Just as their songs seemed to die down or when the audience believed they had finished, it was simply just a tease. Without even allowing the audience a chance to catch their breath, they launched back into a never-ending cacophony of saxophone swirls and hip-swinging bongo drums. A joyous spirit was unleashed as everyone, everywhere was dancing – a carnivalesque jazz spirit to bind and unite in a joyful escapist flurry.
The smooth soul of ‘Abusey Junction’ wrapped up the evening after a captivating 1 hour 50-minute set. It was the perfect finale for a gig that achieved it’s one true aim – putting a smile on everyone’s face.
See Kokoroko play ‘Abusey Junction’ live here: