After the tension of three Euro 2016 footballs matches back to back, the Bega Blues Band – on Wednesday 15th June – was thankfully on hand to defuse the evening at Richmix Shoreditch.
The Bega Blues Band’s sound was unapologetically steeped in its genre’s roots and reminded us of the merits of what would now be labelled ‘traditional jazz’ – as defined by the likes of Quincey Jones, Herbie Hancock and, before them, Miles Davis. On stage the ensemble soothed the mood with an unstinting fusion of Romanian folk and transatlantic jazz, a mix with just the right amount of funk, uniquely spiced by Maria Chioran’s vocals – expressing the act’s Romanian musical heritage. Complimenting Chioran was Lucian Nagy’’s command of flute and tenor sax, which released an understated seductive rhythm. An added edge to the ensemble’s repertoire was Mircea Bunea’s spine-tingling electric guitar: able to raise the tempo while maintaining the relaxed air of a track.
The Richmix set was also an occasion for the band to showcase their latest studio album Brassica Soup. With one possible translation of Brassica being cauliflower, the title readily invoked an air of folksiness, yet this was an elegant folksiness, with album tracks like: Soup a la Blues and Borangic de Mozambic – Borangic meaning organza, a luxurious clothing fabric favoured by
women. Each track had a nominated member of the ensemble to bring it alive: Brassica Olerecca was epitomised, on stage, by Chioran’s improvised scat-like delivery; State of Soul by Bunea’s electric guitar solo; and Song for Sacha, in spite of being written by bassist Johnny Bota, was soothingly defined by Nagy’s tenor sax.
The succinct, sweet set ended with Bota’s arrangement of Mongo Santamaría’s jazz classic Afro Blue, also the last track on the Brassica Soup album. Sublimely delivered by Chioran, it stirred up the exotic images Santamaría’s lyrics sought to conjure. The day might have been stoked by competitive nationalism, but the arrangement of Afro Blue put it gently and harmoniously to bed.
Scores for Scores by the Bega Blues Band (15 June 2016) was organised by the Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in partnership with EUNIC London, and supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute. Brassica Soup is available from iTunes at £5.99.