Sanjiv Ahluwalia believes he can detect the prospect of legend in these recordings associated with west London club the Mau Mau Bar
Great artists often have a home from home, a studio or more commonly a venue with which their name is always favourably associated. So Jimi (Hendrix) had Electric Ladyland (the famed recording studios in New York), The Beatles, Abbey Road and Prince, Paisley Park studios. Even more famous is James Brown’s where his shows at the (Harlem) Apollo cemented the legend. Jazz offers even stronger example; numerous jazz luminaries (Miles, ‘Trane etc) are intrinsically linked with the brilliant Village Vanguard in New York.
To this list I would Kaidi Thatham and the Mau Mau bar, specifically the Thursday Jazz refreshed night. That Mr Thatham and Jazz refreshed are mentioned in the same light as the aforementioned artists and venues is praise enough.
Make no mistake, Kaidi Kat (the cat reference is deliberate, Kaidi’s big single was “Feed The Cat”), getting ‘mad’ on the keys, throwing a riot of colour, sound and movement to a packed and appreciative crowd (memorably on one occasion he had the two hundred strong audience of all colours and types shouting the ‘Feed the Cat’ chorus) is a truly memorable experience. Add to the mix a warm, intimate venue (though let’s be honest when it is busy it can be a little too cosy) and with the friendliest promoters in London.
This is a standout album for two reasons. The first is consistency; over 26 tracks, there are no lapses in their quality. Secondly, the jazz Refreshed model of mixing new artists with older more experienced ones rings true.
CD 1 opens with the breezy, touching soul of Femi Temiwo’s ‘Wood and Things’ – a new name to me, this is an introduction to a bright talent, combing jazz guitar, scat, sweet soul and spoken word. The aforementioned Kaidi Thatham strikes (brilliantly) twice – first with the Herbie-esque (Hancock) ‘These Things Will Pass’, a fuzzy keys-laden dancer with rich electronic strings and a touch of rough, broken beats (as opposed to broken beat). He then returns under his Silhouette Brown guise (alongside 4 Hero’s Dego Macfarlane) with ‘Check It’, a beautiful, moody early evening sojourn into warm melody, here in its dub version and previously unreleased.
Two alumni from J-Life, probably the best British jazz group of the last twenty years, are both featured on the album as solo artists. Much vaunted pianist Robert Mitchell has been raising attention over the last couple of years, a just reward for someone who has been at the top of his game for the last 10 years. ‘Thief of Dimension’ is a mixture of slightly off centre jazz vocals and jazz fusion/prog rock (rest assured more Neal Ardley than some Seventies rock dinosaur). J-Life vocalist Julie Dexter returns on ‘The Race’ with beautiful vocals over funky, rolling drums and a raw, genuine soulful feel rather than the bland gloss that usually masquerades as soul. And a little gem hides itself away towards the end of CD1 – ‘The Song I Promised You’ by Taylor McFerrin is a wonderful floating jazz piece with hints of wistful soul
CD2 brings a storming jazz opening in the shape of the presence of Electrorganica’s ’3 Five Blind’, a powerhouse of a jazz track which is both raw and precise. Brazilian legends Azymuth are given the dance treatment by remixers Yam Who on ‘Wait for my Turn’, producing a cocktail of sunny, funky Brazilian bossa. Mark de Clive Lowe shows both his jazz upbringing and foot in the broken beat camp with the excellent ‘Three Four Sh!ft;’, a sculpted street jazz track with trademark disjointed (broken) beats. Much vaunted singer Rasiyah proves why her reputation is so high at such an early stage in her career with the excellent ‘untitled (my love)’. CD2 finishes as it opened, with some wonderful, free flowing jazz in the form of The Tim Collinson Quartet’s ‘Told You Once’.
All in all, a stunning compilation album from one of the world’s best jazz sessions. Buy the album and prepare to be amazed come a Thursday night in Ladbroke Grove.