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Live ReviewsNightshift November 2005
The Spin Nov 10
Zubop's music is very much like their name. They combine exuberant, highly danceable global rhythms with jazz improvisation. World rhythms are not a superfical gimmick with them; they have paid their dues but perhaps because all bar one number tonight is composed by them, the band's sound is their own.
Flute and alto player, Ricky Edwards' Brazilian style, "Life is Magic" with the refrain, "Celebrate, celebrate" very much sums up the gig.
The turnout is respectable even though Courtney Pine is in town tonight. Zubop is not the usual Spin menu of a strong resident rhythm section plus guest, playing established jazz numbers. There is a some resistance but the audience is won over by the second half and there is even the rare sight of some dancing at the Spin, for which congratulations to both band and dancers.
The band's front three is versatile. They go from the pleasing brassy, clean, punchy sound of two saxes and trumpet or valve trombone on the S.African and Ska influenced numbers, to atmospheric playing of clarinet, flute and value trombone for their samba, cumbia, N.African and klezmer influenced compositions.
Will Embliss on trumpet and valve trombone is the night's star. He is constantly stretching the envelope when he solos, particularly on his valve trombone.
Throughout Zubop are fresh and lively even though they have been gigging together over a decade. On this showing long may they continue entertaining with their Zubop music.
The Shetland Times, March 23, 2001.
Zubop keep the crowd on the hop at Voe
It's not often that you hear a Londoner describing a night out in Brae and Voe as the best they've had in years. But when Zubop cancelled their gig in Gulberwick on Friday due to poor ticket sales they were promptly snapped up to play in a squad for Brae Up-Helly-A'.
A circuit of halls, dizzying array of costumes and the customary profusion of alcohol and dancing hit just the right spot. Bass player Duncan Noble described it as the best night out he'd had in the last four years.
The irony, of course, was that the Brae festival was the main reason behind Friday's ticket slump and resulting cancellation.
But at least the group knew what to expect from the crowd when they headlined Saturday's hop night concert in Voe Hall.
Doors opened at nine and people assembled slowly - due to the revelling of the night before no doubt. When support group The Red Vans took the stage an hour later only a handful of people took to the dancefloor.
I have to admit that I've only heard the Vans once before a couple of years ago. However on hearing them a second time I was struck by how good they sounded. I'm not a big fan of country music and there are undoubtedly elements of country in there. But the majority of songs had a folksy feel and the crowd clearly loved it, filling the floor after four or five songs.
Worthy of note was vocalist and harmonica player Rory Gilles. I could have listened to his expertise on the mouthpiece all night.
The only disappointment was that the imminent appearance of Zubop threw out any chance of getting the Red Vans back on stage for an encore at the end of their hour-long set.
But when they did appear the seven-piece headline act quickly took command, capturing the audience's attention with a heady mixture of funky, mellow tunes.
By this time the crowd had split in two groups, those who were there for the dancing and others who, the next day, would have a hazy recollection of the night.
One of the latter, a giant of a man with a tattoo on his upper arm the size of my head, spent his time stamping loudly and falling on the floor like some deranged Russian dancer while clutching three cans of Budweiser - all for personal consumption.
Another crowd spent a lot of the time at the bar laughing, grabbing passing women and throwing lager over each other.
But the majority of people were there for the music and I should say at this point that Zubop were, in my opinion, one of the best bands to play in Shetland.
It was difficult to pin the music down to a single but influences included jazz, latin and afro-caribbean traditions, salsa and ska. The range of instruments included saxophone, trumpet, keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and a hoard of unidentified percussion instruments. During the course of most songs the musicians would throw down one instrument in favour of another, creep around the stage shaking strange percussion objects, presumably filled with rice, or twirl around in unison.
A brief aside. Did anyone else mistake the keyboard player, Philip Clouts, for the BBC's Louis Theroux but with hair control?
Now back to Zubop and their wonderful music. Perhaps it was the band's world-wide influences or the imminent approach of Spring, but if you closed your eyes it was easy to imagine sitting on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails.
The length of the tunes and the band?s occasional tendency to make forays into surreal freestyle jazz also made me wonder if Zubop were using only alcohol to fuel their performance. At the end of the set when saxophonist Jon Petter and trumpet virtuoso Will Embliss twirled around and danced as they played, the same question passed through a few other minds.
But then what could be more surreal than being in London and playing for a squad in Brae Up-Helly-A' that night?
A final thanks must go to Shetland Arts Trust for bringing Zubop to Shetland. They may not have catered for every taste but surely the folk festival committee will be kicking themselves for failing to free up a slot for the band. Another year then? - E. B.
The Birmingham Post, March, 1999
Zubopping the night away
Zubop, Fiddle & Bone, Sheepcote Street
Still pushing 'Hiptodisiac', their third album , released about a year ago, this London based six-piece has continued to pin various global styles onto their funky jazz framework. It soon became obvious that this was a band well versed in the art of audience communication.
When I arrived at 8.30pm they were already two numbers into the first of three sets, a heavy duty reggae groove prompting early dance action. If a band has the atmosphere charged up so soon, you know you are in for a frazzling gig. The Bone soon filled up with a fairly wild crowd, Zubop managing to cram the front space, turning it into a makeshift dance floor.
Their trick is to utilise elements of South African township music, Zimbabwean folk tunes, Brazilian samba, rock and funk, but never simply copying theses styles, instead folding such extraneous matter into a personalised band sound.
Ricky Edwards takes his saxophone to the edges of free jazz bleating, while trumpeter Will Embliss has a softer touch, when playing what looks like a flugelhorn, but turns out to be a valve trombone.
Since the album, guitarist John Blackwell has become a regular member, contributing several scything solos, rising to psychedelic on the aptly titled 'We Come From The Universe Like The Dolphind and Frogs', swirling in the blue depths, then lifting up, repeatedly returning to a bubblegum-chewing, drum bashing garage band chorus.
Zubop had the atmosphere buzzing with their electric emissions. - Martin Longley
The Times Tuesday August 23rd 1994
Zubop, a London-based sextet, dispense a lively, danceable brand of music often referred to as "worldbeat jazz". All too often, such a term refers simply to any band which plays the occasional samba or whose front line are wont to swap their horns for exotic percussion instruments and forced smiles, but in Zubop's case it is singularly appropriate, reflecting each member's experience in a wide variety of musical contexts.
The three-man front line play seven horns between them, and each of these instruments is of significance both in contributing a special texture to the band's overall sound and in evoking a particular style of music. Thus Will Embliss' trumnpet flares out in jaunty Latin-based nyumbers, while his valve trombone contributes lazy sonorousness to the South African township jive. Jon Petter's light but gutsy tenor saxophone is especially effective on funk, and his clarinet imbues the group sound with a melancholy plangency more often associated with Jewish klezmer music. Ricky Edwards' flute evokes the penny-whistle stridency characterisitic of much South African music, his alto screams out over a ska beat or a mambo, and his bass clarinet imparts dark warmth to the odd eastern flavoured piece.
The rhythm section - Cape Town-born keyboard player Philip Clouts, electric bassist Duncan Noble and drummer Sean Randle - also have experience in everything from straight-ahead jazz to Cajun, trad to Tex-Mex, so the band's extraordinary eclecticism is totally inforced.
In concert at the Sterts Arts Centre, a cosy, intimate, open-air venue situated just north of Liskeard in Cornwall, Zubop had the children in a healthy-sized audience on their feet dancing from the off. Most of the music in the band's two hour-long sets came from their latest CD "Freewheeling", but the studio is not their natural milieu; their sparky, infectiously rhythmic sound shines in a live setting.
All bases, from South America through the Carribean andAfrica to India, were touched in a joyous and immediately accessible concert, but Zubop's real strength lies not in the magpie-like versatility of their borrowings but in the power of the jazz-based improvisations which spring from them. Unlike a number of superficially similar bands, whose inalbility to bring cogency and individual character to their world-music plunderings renders them musical tourists, Zubop are the genuine article: musical travellers.
The West Briton and Royal Cornwall Gazette, Thursday, February 2, 1995.
If you'd gone along to Truro's William IV pub at Sunday lunchtime expecting to hear jazz in the modern, traditional or mainstream style, you would have been disappointed yet happy.
There on the stand were a group of musicians called Zubop, direct from North London, who were dishing up a different sort of jazz seldom heard in these parts with a strong afro theme - and it was really good.
The group, who have played all over Europe and have featured several times on the radio, were truly masters of their art, playing essentially happy music.
Yes, it was Afro all right, but it could have been Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean or any other international link such was its infectious tone and rhythm, and the assembled jazz buffs loved it.
And the vocals of Chris Dennis were, like his squash, er, simply stunning. - JB