Rebirth 2
Photo courtesy of Lily Lau

Last Tuesday night saw the premiere performance by the ‘Rebirth of The Cool’ project at the Blackheath Concert Halls, South-East London, as part of the London Jazz Festival 2009 (in association with Trinity College of Music’s regular ‘Beats In The Bar’ showcase night).

‘Rebirth…’ combines the forces of some of the UK’s brightest young talents for further sonic exploration of the auspicious union between Hip-Hop and Jazz. The project is organised by Rolling Sound, a media training provider for the young. At the helm of ‘Rebirth…’ is respected urban maestro and DJ, Eric Lau. Other illustrious names to have contributed to the Project include rapper TY and the award-winning jazz musician Finn Peters. During intense rehearsals spread over the course of nine weeks, ‘Rebirth…’ participants composed six original tracks to be performed for the first time at Tuesday’s gig.

Thankfully there was an impressive turn out for the Project’s maiden voyage. It was encouraging to see so many people come out to support them. The evening started off with some Bebop improvisation by a fantastic (as yet unnamed) Quintet, all students from Trinity. The skill of these gifted young musicians had the amazed audience dribbling into their drinks with admiration.
After a short break the Rebirth crew got ready to do their thing. The sizeable line up includes vocalists, rappers, musicians and DJs. Those doing the honours on the night were future queen of UK soul/jazz Kersha Bailey, leftfield singer/songwriter Beth Mburu-Bowie, vocalist Xei and rhymes provided by Fidel Cashflow and poetic spitfire, Kate Tempest of OneTaste Collective fame (with Fergus Ireland on Bass, George Bird -Drums, Laurie Erskine – Keys, Max Johnson (Sax), DJ Julian Prentis and Budgie on Production).

Rebirth 1
Photo courtesy of Lily Lau

It was most evident that the ‘Rebirth…’ team enjoyed being on stage; performers having a good time is as an integral part of an entertaining gig as hitting all the right notes. In particular Kersha Bailey, easily one of my favourite singer/songwriters to emerge this decade, was loving every minute of it. With her oodles of energy and arresting vocal ability she is an out and out showstopper, whether performing solo or in a group. Her penchant for effortless scatting was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show. Make no mistake however, ‘Rebirth…’ is definitely a group effort. There were no Beyoncé/Diana Ross scene-stealing antics at work and each rapper and vocalist got their moment to shine. The highlight of the Project’s set came in the form of their interpretation of Slum Village’s ‘Fall In Love’ a tribute to the late producer-wunderkind J Dilla. Beth Mburu-Bowie’s performance on the track especially, was a revelation. Those, like myself, by now used to her alternative/folk-ish vocal styling were in for a pleasant surprise as she demonstrated her more soulful side.

All in all there was a lot of fun to be had at the show. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, the full enjoyment of ‘Rebirth’s…’ set was hampered by the poor way Blackheath Concert Halls handled the sound system. The audience struggled to hear some of the vocalists and MCs properly and the dodgy set up of the mics meant there lacked a uniformity of sound which affected the musicians as well. In addition to that the Halls, despite having a perfectly good elevated stage for some reason decided that the artists wouldn’t use it, performing at ground level instead. Once the venue was full it was difficult to get a decent view of the show unless you remained standing or sat at the front.

That said, the ‘Rebirth…’ gang made the most of it and considering they had to contend with all the venue’s cock-ups for their first gig, they put on a hearty show. There was enough raw talent on display to pique the interest of all present and have us looking forward to whatever performances the Project have lined up for the future.

Review by Tolita

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