Tony Kofi's Future Passed Trio At The Hideaway, Streatham last night was the first time in a fair while I had been down to the Hideaway. Sadly I had to note that there was a change that was anything but for the better. The comfy leather sofas and stools for non-diners in the main room had gone to make room for more tables and chairs! This had been far and away the best feature of the Hideaway, giving it much of its individual character.
While I can understand the need for clubs to get as many 'bums on seats' as possible (although where all the money goes these days is open to question - certainly not to musicians, who seem to be generally more badly paid than ever!), it is precisely such distinguishing features as comfy sofas that attract a lot of 'bums' who come for music not food and would love to sit in comfort, in the first place. These kind of features add considerably to the general atmosphere of a club. Take them away, and it becomes a club like any other...
Anyway, Tony Kofi's Future Passed Trio At The Hideaway, Streatham. What an occasion! Tony Kofi had re-formed his Future Passed trio with Anders Olinder on Hammond Organ and Winston Clifford on drums on account of overwhelming public demand. And a very good thing, too! It is now seven years since the original Future Passed album, one that has remained a firm favourite here. Of course, it is thoroughly understandable that in the intervening years Kofi somewhat neglected his own personal projects in favour of pursuing (ongoing) prestigious international associations such as with the World Saxophone Quartet and Abdullah Ibrahim.
His account of the latter, in a chat before the show, was particularly fascinating and moving. Ibrahim, and bear in mind Ibrahim is nothing less than some kind of demi-god like figure, by chance overheard Kofi practicing his bari in a dressing room at some occasion, and was so impressed that he hired Kofi as bari for his big band. Understand that of all saxes, the bari is the most awkward one to play really well, and furthermore, that it is of course not even Kofi's prime instrument, which is alto and soprano, and to impress the old master would have been quite a feat!
The chain of coincidences did not stop there. It took another one of Ibrahim accidentally overhearing Kofi practicing his alto for Ibrahim, who had not realised Kofi was an altoist, to make him first alto, and also play in smaller groups with him. Later this year should see Kofi also recording with Ibrahim, and I can hardly wait for a review copy! Like any Abdullah Ibrahim album, this should be a must have for any jazz aficionado.
Although we had not previously met in person, Kofi turned out to be most affable, charming and unpretentious - in short, one of the nicest 'musos' you could hope to meet. Proud father that he so obviously is, his favourite topic turned out to be his eldest son's awards as a young footballer. Jokingly, he had told him to keep going like that and one day soon he would be able to support his dad and subsidise his music.
Sadly, the first set of Tony Kofi's Future Passed Trio At The Hideaway, Streatham started somewhat late. But when it did start - wow! about says it best, I think. If the album Future Passed of 2006 had been sensational, last
night's performance was even more so, it was just breath-taking and mindblowing. In the intervening years since the album, Olinder, Clifford and particularly notably perhaps Kofi himself had grown tremendously, matured and evolved, as indeed one would expect.
Whether on alto or soprano, Kofi was sheer joy to hear, one of the very finest world-class jazzers this country or any other has ever given rise to. A giant, no less. His improvisations were appropriate to this, and a sheer delight. Also, he amply demonstrated that he has to be the undisputed master of circular breathing in jazz, a particularly difficult technique used by wind players where they inhale through the nose while simultaneously exhaling in continuing to play, usually by means of air stored in the cheeks. Like Gilad Atzmon, Kofi is also a master of playing alto and soprano simultaneously, a technique first used by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. (The latter played up to three horns simultaneously.) Over all, Kofi's performance last night was something out of this world and sheer class.
There was the same incredible mix of styles that Kofi drew on on the original album, blues, bebop, soul, funk, Latin, African, Gospel and more, and a mix of tunes from the album and new ones. The former included Suibokuga, A Song For Pappa Jack, and Jubilation (For Bod), while the latter included the unbelievably funky Soul Food, which also utilised a breath-taking amount of circular breathing, and Lotus.
The soloing all round was as amazing as the ensemble playing, and Kofi was never less than generous in letting Olinder and Clifford shine as well. Excellent and even exquisite as Clifford is, his solo drum intro to the second tune of the first set and his main solo in the second set opener Passion Dance were truly incredible displays of Coltranesque improvisation, in which he completely lost himself only to find himself.
In the same Passion Dance, Kofi's circular breathing on a two-note tremolo was of the same Coltranesque order, keeping that two-note improvisation going for an immense length of time in his quest, and overall delivering perhaps one of the most exciting and brilliant pieces thus far.
Next came a song with special guest, soul singer Giovanna Rotunno, who did not impress as out of the ordinary and, on the basis of this one song, perhaps not quite worthy of such hallowed company as Kofi & Co.
Sadly, due to things running terribly late and resulting transportation problems, I had to leave after this and miss the rest of the second set, including the promising sounding special guest guitarist Matt Chandler.
However, based on what I heard, over all I cannot describe Tony Kofi's Future Passed Trio At The Hideaway, Streatham as anything less than spectacular. Kofi was nothing short of sensational and a special kind of class. Make sure you catch one of his upcoming gigs, also with other projects. You'd be bound to regret missing out on such a rare opportunity to catch the brilliant Tony Kofi!
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