LIVE: Josef Leimberg @ Band On The Wall | 07.11.18
WORDS BY PABLO BLANQUITO
A six piece jazz band comes on stage. Most striking is the electric bassist dressed in a half face mask, du-rag and leopard print leggings. Josef Leimberg himself appears to be wearing a blue turban. But they are from California so that can be excepted I suppose. Mr Leimberg is part of the extended West Coast Throwdown, a contemporary of Kamasi Washington et al and someone who has played on very many famous Hip Hop and Soul records. Someone many people will have heard play but could not name. But he arrives in Manchester as a Jazz bandleader and highly rated horn player.
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Spiritual Jazz / Jazz funk are mercurial musical forms. Sprawling, life enhancing and difficult to access at times. The disappointingly meagre 40 people in (the 350 capacity) Band On The Wall on a Wednesday night seem to be widely varied in their response. It has to be diffIcult for any band to come out to such a small crowd and still get the energy back to motivate their best performance but it also has to be the name of the game when you make music in a non commercial genre and you are trying to spread the gospel. ‘Astral Progressions’ was such an accomplished modern Jazz album and his role in the recorded output of ‘T Dot’ and the like so significant, that expectations should be high.
In truth, both sets are like pallid musical landscapes, primarily in a languid tempo. The palates being constantly touched at and dabbed by the deft drummer and pianist whose sparse additions serve as flourishes to the dominant and dread-locked saxophonist on the left of the stage. This is occasionally added to by Josef Leimberg‘s clear sharp trumpet runs. In these moments all becomes clear, vital and full of flamboyant life. But these moments are just not often enough and he spends a considerable amount of time with percussion instruments in hand sat on the floor or standing adding light touches to the overall sound. This is not what you might normally expect of a band leader.
In the second set something occurred very early on that sums up the evenings events. The elaborately dressed bassist (mentioned earlier) stepped up to do a very long solo which seemed pretty self indulgent . This came to a very sudden end mid note and without an explanation other than him declaring his hands were cold. He then continued into the next track, which was a gentle rendition taking in the motifs of Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ like nothing had happened. Quite odd indeed.
I should make special mention of both the excellent Saxophonist and the lead guitarist both of whom looked older but who played with great skill and delicious control of their respective instruments. They brought a well needed quality and maturity to a quite strange night. Overall I think the low numbers and tepid audience response combined to create an atmosphere that led to stellar musicians playing in a manner that suited the vibe. Stilted.