Sometimes, some weeks just seem too good to be true. The sold-out gig at The Cockpit certainly set the tone, but Thursday’s follow-up at The Vortex matched it, if not blow for blow, then certainly in the good vibes department, like someone had turned up the serotonin tap in the right cerebral hemisphere. It was a time to catch up with old friends and to welcome new ones to this hallowed ground in Gillett Square.
I’d seen them just the once before, at the first night of London jazz week, where I caught the last 20 minutes of their set at Ronnies – that night, there had been a really strange atmosphere as the exciting atmosphere of the launch party collided with the jagged edge of real politik when the news of the massacre in Paris started filtering through.
Four months on, the memory of that performance was overlaid with a new experience; the band had requested that the club be laid out for a standing-only crowd, which could mean only one thing: this was going to be music for the feet, hips and arms as much as the head, heart and soul – the full sensory package. There’s nothing at all wrong with a performance of being seated round the candles, eyes closed, head on one side, a hand tapping the table – a mostly cerebral experience. But, winding back the millennia, one just feels that the DNA that evolved 100,000 years ago must have included adaptions to the fruitful effects on human relations of dancing; one almost senses intuitively that it has to have been central to many social ceremonies that were emerging and which were enriched and reinforced by shared experience of moving together, in concert, touching hand to hand, reinforcing the bonds of kinship, trust and love; although there may have been no words for these concepts then, their effect in facilitating the development of community and in ensuring the procreation of the next generation is centrally significant to the whole human story.
In the Ghanian tongue from which it comes Vula Viel meaning “good is good”. And the goodness flowed like an African river, strongly, which carried us along with it: a flow of sound that is multi-layered, polyrhythmic and infectious to the point where band and audience seem conjoined in a celebration of what it is to be alive and kicking, to be full of breath and energy, the base level upon which the commonwealth of our shared humanity is founded.
Also, there were special times on the balcony overlooking the square, where the music, and all subjects under the sun, were batted around to the accompaniment of much laughter and joy. With Dan Nicholls solo electronica set after the band, a great night was rounded off with some energetic dancing indoors.