We went to see Quantic and Alice Russell the other day, here is our review:
James: I only realised a few days ago that Quantic (Will Holland) and Alice Russell were coming to town, which immediately put paid to my resolution to stay in all week and be productive! I first got into Quantic’s music (as well as the Quantic Soul Orchestra) a few years ago and subsequently discovered Alice Russell through collaborations such as the brilliant ‘Pushin’ On‘. I was originally drawn to the rich combination of sampled and instrumental funk and soul although, in line with Holland’s relocation to Colombia five years ago, the sound has evolved in a more Latin direction in recent times.
First of all, this was, unbelievably, my first ever time in Lucerna Music Bar. I can see why it’s a popular venue for live music. I particularly like the way the stage juts out into the standing area, allowing a level of intimacy between performer and audience that is not shared by all venues.
Adam: The show began around 9:30pm. Presented before us were 6 men of all shapes and sizes and ages – Quite an unexpected sight to the one I had envisioned. On drums there was an old style Latino looking man – Malcolm Catto, with a great Mexicali moustache who later we found out was from Hackney, London. On Bass was a tall dark gentleman – Fernando Silva, with broad shoulders who provided the funky groove throughout the evening. On the congas was Freddy Colorado – the happiest most energetic little man you could ever hope to find! He was always smiling and banging the congas with such enthusiasm you would think he would bounce right through the ceiling! On keyboards providing the soul element was Alfredito Linares who looked as old as my grandpa but who had the finger speed and dexterity of the legendary Bill Evans. Up front was a giant of a grizzly man – Mike Simmonds who defied expectations by showing the most softness and sweetness of touches from the violin. Holding this ensemble altogether was the sometimes rather bemused looking Quantic who stood centre stage coordinating the diverse group of men to make some great sounding music.
James: I was sold on the music from the first note as it quickly became apparent that here was a set of musicians who live for playing live and putting on a show. Although tight as a unit and highly accomplished individually, it’s the perma-grin on the face of violinist Mike Simmonds, the sheer passion of Peruvian pianist Alfredito Linares and the visibly mutual appreciation and joy in each other’s playing that will stick in my mind as much as any individual song.
Adam: Their music was a fusion of styles which could be classified as salsa, bossa nova, soul, funk and jazz. The first song was an instrumental aiming to get the crowd moving and warmed up and it seemed to do the trick. Then Alice Russell beamed onto the stage with an injection of energy. The whole room got a lift and the group burst straightaway into the next song. Alice’s strong vocal shone through immediately with its soulful edge and she worked the crowd getting people dancing and feeling part of the whole performance. Her voice soared high and low displaying her obvious talents. Then to the conga player, Freddy Colorado…
…James… As well as leading a mid-set conga line around the dance floor and jumping up and down on his drums, what I loved most of all was that he fulfilled the most essential requirement of any self-respecting conga player: enthusiastically giving the impression that this was certainly the first time he had ever actually set eyes on a pair of congas whilst making them sound as if he had in fact been playing them all of his life.
In terms of the songs played, a personal favourite was the group’s rendition of The Stranglers’ Golden Brown (I had to include a link to the original as well, one of my all time favourite songs). Holland pulled out the accordion for that and several more songs afterwards, coaxing an amount of funk from it that I hadn’t realised was possible. Alice Russell has a wonderful voice and energetic presence that is ideal for this type of music and I pretty much fell in love with Linares’ frenetic piano solos, the musical equivalent of a child running across a motorway, dodging cars. The drums and bass held everything together nicely by combining Amen break-inspired funk to the Latin flavour of the melodic instruments.
Adam: Their musical prowess really became apparent during their slower numbers. At one moment there was a beautiful exchange of melodies between the keyboardist and violinist. The violinist showed a real talent on the remarkably difficult instrument, elements of gypsy folk songs coming through. The sweetness of tone produced and the catchy little licks showed we had a master performing in front of us. He delicately interchanged parts with the honky-tonk tones produced by the Alfredito on the keys. They were not merely repeating a well rehearsed song, they were playing with real feeling and genuinely enjoying the moment – Mike even letting slip a small smirk to himself when the keys played a remarkable little twinkle during their fun exchange.
There’s a lot more that we could say but it’s probably better stop there and leave you with a single piece of advice: if you ever get a chance to see any of these guys live, do not miss it!
James & Adam