Protect the Beat

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16/08/0007 Pete Sargeant (Fair Hearing Music Review)

GOOD GRIEF ! - It's jazz !....and it's ALIVE
- Protect The Beat rock the house

Sooner or later, every strand of music can get a little staid and predictable. Too hung up on its own cliches and self-imposed parameters, perhaps. It's that syndrome that draws me to mavericks such as Rachid Taha the 'World Music' phenomenon happily mixing up Rai, Arabic, French traditional, punk, blues and hardrock into something unstoppable and in a live setting completely irresistible. Its what makes Jill Sobule and Taj Mahal such fascinating characters.

And so , roaring into town here in London we have jazzfunk experience PROTECT THE BEAT, five guys on a mission to mix up styles and drive audiences into happy submission. Heaven knows, the jazz world needs acts like this to up the ante for new crowds and new generations to be weaned away from the evil machine-churned pop and dance that too easily finds funding and airtime. Descending pretty directly from outfits like the Yellowjackets and Crusaders BUT with the amphetamined drive of James Brown and Funkadelic, Protect The Beat are currently in need of nothing besides a chance to reach more people. Their second album 'Intrepid' is set to shoot them forward into what I regard as their rightful place on the music scene. I say 'music' rather than just 'jazz' because folk who 'dont like jazz' (ahem) can be seen dancing and punching the air at the close of their shows. A blues afficianado I know well brought her pals along to a gig by the river at Boaters, Kingston and texted me the next day raving about the fun they had at the performance. Fun ?? Well Roland Kirk knew about entertaining without compromising his skills, here are his spiritual heirs...

Started by Jools Holland Band saxman Derek Nash, PTB allows him to stretch out in fiery company. In style, I reckon the only close contender might be the luscious Candy Dulfer (whose own 'Candy Store' current set is a fine listen) as they are both balladeers par excellence and roaring theme deliverers. Nash, however has a British take on the classic Atlantic sound, in that his octaver use evokes the medium's great melodicist Eddie Harris. The fact that he has control but doesn't let it dull his style is a key factor in this band's sound. As is the keyboard and Milesian trumpet work of Arden Hart. We have never had a label here called Red, White & BlueNote..but if we DID... happily he contributes some original compositions to this release. In fact, all the tracks are the band's own save for a bittersweet reading of Annie Lennox' 'Cold'. And if you listen to the guitar on the original, by a karmic twist, PTB's axeman features...

Guitar is in the hands of Tim Cansfield. Looks of an actuary, sound of a Larry Carlton holed up in Chicago on a tour with Curtis Mayfield. Vast experience with various key figures in Europe and beyond has honed his craft to a subliminal chugging and snarl, perhaps best heard here on closer 'JBH'. If this man ever sticks his foot on a monitor and shows off, we have entered a netherworld where Bruce Willis will portray sensitivity and John Stewart will believe what politicians say.

At the back...well the rhythm cats in this group are truly the trump card. Bassist Winston Blissett can play better with one hand than I can with two. Damn his soul!! Seriously, Winston is a powerhouse lownote bandit. He will burst into Chic riffs then stalk Hart's Rhodes like a man on a vengeance mission. Often touring with dance/ambient funksters Massive Attack, Blissett smiles his way though live sets like a man born to boom. Disquietingly modest offstage, this family man is a popular player hereabouts as much for his approach as his stunning playing. Alongside him and still only in his twenties, drummer Darby Todd is nothing less than a series of controlled explosions. Mercilessly mocked by Nash during between song chats, Todd uses every part of the kit to dynamise what is flowing and tumbling around him. The band will throw him into brief solo's and see what bursts out of him. Followers of Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Cobham and others will take to Darby's attack. But having seen Tony Williams with Lifetime alongside Jack Bruce wayyyyy back, it's Williams' alternating bliss and vehemence that most comes to mind when I hear him. If he passes you in traffic it's as likely his car stereo will be blasting Tool as Stanley Clarke...

Excuse me now while I once again play the cut 'Draggin' On The Ground'- a sinister tread of a tune looking for a cop movie nightscene to score. I think you get the picture - this writer suggests you try www, protectthebeat.com and hear the samples and buy the album. Skill and fire combined is a rare commodity. They're dancing close in this band

Pete Sargeant
Fair Hearing Music Review


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