AfroJuLa – Live Music Review

SOMETIMES, life throws up rather pleasant surprises. The majestic music club that is 606 has a habit of delivering them for music lovers in spades – primarily because of the eagle ear of owner Steve Rubie and his nose for extraordinary talent. You don’t perform at the 606 Club unless you’re bloody good and you’ve passed the ‘Rubie test’.

On Wednesday night (October 5), while most of south west London’s attention was on avoiding the traffic chaos caused by a combination of train strikes and Chelsea Football Club hosting AC Milan, 606 served up a musical treat.

It took the form of ‘new’ band AfroJuLa, playing (together) live for the first time. A band put together by Roland Perrin, a New Yorker by birth, but now plying his trade in London.

Perrin, a jazz pianist among many other things, is renowned for his love of world music – and it showed in the composition of the band and the music it played.

For the record, AfroJula stands for Afro, Jewish (Ju) and Latin American (LA) music. Clever.

Accompanying Perrin were Nigerians Ebernezer Oke and Stanley Ohios on guitar and drums respectively; Aurora Mannola (Spanish parents) on bass guitar; and a magical Williams Cumberbache (Venezuelan) on percussion (what a phenomenal array of instruments).

The result was an eclectic mix of music, embracing  Afro-beat, Latin Jazz and Klezmer. The audience were quite literally transported across the world – making up for the lack of public transport which made getting to 606 quite an achievement.

One moment, they were in the heart of Africa, the next transported to the Middle East. A marvellous musical journey.

There wasn’t a weak link in the set – Oke demonstrating why he is considered by some as Africa’s answer to George Benson; Mannola all focus and concentration; Ohios exuberant on drums; and of course Cumberbache’s box of musical tricks (everything from a triangle to bongo drums).

Perrin ‘orchestrated’ proceedings with aplomb from his piano – taking time out between compositions to demonstrate a sharp wit and huge doses of self-deprecation (the audience were encouraged to take home one of his CDs, provided they left a contribution, however meagre).

With Oke showcasing a couple of his own compositions (including a meandering and quite marvellous Soul Africa), and Paul Taylor popping up on trombone to add to the mix (excelling on Mazel Miserlou, Blue Trane and Feel The Heat), it ended up a rather fabulous night.

Me thinks we haven’t heard the last of Perrin’s AfroJula. More musical delights, please. And thank you Steve Rubie for serving up such a treat. 



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