This is the first gig I’ve been to at the Jazz Cafe where all eyes have been focused on the stage, on the artist, on Meshell – heads nodding, shuffling and yet a respectful, reverential silence during the songs. Meshell delivered a supreme performance with her laid back persona exuding an essence of cool and an enviable serenity. Her band, introduced early on in the set, included Dean Taylor Parkes who really excelled and at times totally mesmerized with a master-class on drums, Chris Bruce, her collaborator on guitar and ?? on bass. The band was also the studio band that she wrote and worked with on the ‘Devil’s Halo’ CD. This comes across as you experience that very natural rapport between them.
Her distinctive tone was immediately recognisable as she thanked the audience for coming and then began to work her magic. First track, “Truth”, was definitely at the mellow end of her repertoire with philosophical spoken word evoking the essence of truth. “Let Me Love You Down”, from ‘Devil’s Halo’, continued the mellow flavour of the evening. Until this time, Meshell’s bass was poised centre stage as her bass player took on bass duties and Meshell switched between duties on mic, centre stage, and the piano. But it was time to put her bass to work on a funked up version of “Satisfy Me”, from the ‘Bitter’ CD, easily surpassing the CD version. Rapport was established with the audience during several interludes. When a female member of the audience shouted “I love you Meshell!” she joked, “Not if you knew me today”. It was clear that Meshell’s partner was not feeling her artistic temperament.
Meshell, in all her work, has the ability to move effortlessly from jazz to funk to rock, fusing these different styles and moods, often all in one song. She did comment, at one point, that the ‘Bitter’ songs were being revisited and she hoped we were not too depressed. In reality, the Jazz Cafe crowd seemed to be in a mellow trance, chilled out and loving it! This was the night that she took her songs like “Jabril”, “Grace” and “White Girl” to another level. We were treated to an outstanding drum workout on “White Girl”, along with two covers. The first cover was a Eugene McDaniels song called “The Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse”. Interesting title and simply amazing! The second, an inspired and updated version of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, evoked huge applause and deservedly so. There were so many high points to this gig, but THE moment was when Meshell joined her bass player for a bass duet on “Fellowship” from ‘Comfort Woman’ and all I can say is you really needed to be there to feel the passion and quality musicianship. Returning to the stage for encores which included “Outside My Door” from ‘Plantation Lullabies’, with just Meshell and Chris on guitar, and a fun song called “Lola” which was a stompin’ funky rock workout to bring proceedings to a close. I was truly blown away and left the Jazz Cafe feeling that we had witnessed something truly beautiful. Gig of the year for me.
About the Writer
Terry Joe is a London-based has led bands as a vocalist, releasing cds and regularly performing. His favourite artists include Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Ledisi, Nathan Haines, Me'shell NdegeOcello and many more.