MIJF PERFORMANCE REVIEW: AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE


Pictured: Ambrose Akinmusire (2010) performing in New York City Photographer: Joe Kohen/New York Times

This year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival has, once again, brought a range of incredible talent to our city, and ‘bandleader’ Ambrose Akinmusire, is regarded in high esteem. Hailed as a 21st Century jazz innovator, the genre-busting album, Origami Harvest, was the focus of the show at 170 Russell Street in early June.

Ambrose Akinmusire (Ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) cuts a hip-hop sound with a string quartet and trumpet, only to bemuse the listener into true enlightenment with this contemporary jazz music of today. When Akinmusire puts the jazz experience with the Grammy-nominated rapper Kayaki, one can only contextualise this street scatting rap into the context of the great African-American Jazz cannon with artists such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. This voice of Kayaki connects time: as ‘historical time point of jazz’ that meets gangster rap and our ears both agree that this stuff is very hot.


Before we start throwing out accolades and Grammys in Akinmusire’s direction, we can note that this guy is here purely for the sounds. Holding a Masters, having been to The Herbie Hancock Institute, and winner of the two most prestigious jazz competitions in the world, it is time to hear the creative sound that Akinmusire has checked in to construct.


Suitably, The Melbourne International Jazz Festival has enabled this artist to give expression to their craft. This craft was fully appreciated by the Jazz listeners and enthusiasts in the know, at this gig, from Melbourne and abroad.


Pictured: Ambrose Akinmusire (Photo supplied by the MIJF)

With the fourth studio album ‘Origami Harvest’, Akinmusire reveals that ‘Origami’ refers to “the different ways black people, especially men, have to fold, whether in failure or to fit a mold”, and ‘Harvest’ refers to the repeating cycles that recreate these hierarchical structures in society.


Akinmusire as the leader of this outfit exhibits generous leverage to the fellow musicians to articulate the music into performance. Silo String Quartet has a large role to play in the ambience and Sam Harris has the piano keys to compel. Jazz drummer Kweku Sumbry keeps the arrangement down to beat and enacts precision with the score.


The opening Sydney act, Brekky Boy, is worth a mention also, as they give a tongue in cheek performance to start the evening off with a jazz fun feel. Taylor Davis on piano, Rob Hamilton on Bass, and Liam Hogan ripped it up on the drums.


Rating: 9/10