Jazzfest Berlin – Johannesburg
Side Bar // Koma Saxo
The members of Side Bar are not only widely respected figures on the local scene, but they have also made international inroads as The Ancestors, a project led by British reedist Shabaka Hutchings. Berlin’s Koma Saxo is the sound of surprise for jazz in 2021, viewing each performance as an opportunity to explore new terrain.
Live stream from Johannesburg (time-shifted) / ca. 30 min
The members of the agile quintet from Johannesburg recently coined their unit Side Bar, but there is nothing ancillary about this sturdy combo which blends hard-hitting post-bop with the spiritual yearning of late John Coltrane, while coming up on a steady diet of the South African jazz-rock band Batsumi and the legendary free jazz pioneers The Blue Notes. Yet they have taken those ideas to forge a sound all their own. The combo features some of the city’s finest musicians, most of whom previously worked together in the Amandla Freedom Ensemble, but their career path shifted around 2015 when the UK saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings visited their city and engaged with the musicians. He enlisted them as his band The Ancestors. That group has provided crucial, polystylistic support on two superb albums, including last year’s remarkable “We Are Sent Here by History”. But while the same rapport and depth they reveal in The Ancestors surely carries over into Side Bar, they are intent on carving out their own space, and this performance will surely feature music from a debut album the quintet is currently in the process of making under the direction of percussionist Gontse Makhene.
Tumi Mogorosi drums
Ariel Zamonsky bass
Gontse Makhene percussion
Mthunzi Mvubu alto sax
Siyabonga Mthembu vocals
This concert is part of Jazzfest Berlin – Johannesburg
Live concert in Berlin / ca. 50 min
Led by Berlin-based Swedish bassist Petter Eldh, Koma Saxo has been turning heads since emerging a couple of years ago. Those lucky enough to have seen the quintet can testify to the group’s visceral power, and as their recent album “Live” makes plain, the experience is joyful, sweaty, and soulful, with the musicians pushing hard against the strictures of its indelible themes, which collide post-bop, Scandinavian, folk, and hip-hop rhythms in unexpected ways. Eldh and drummer Christian Lillinger play with the groove like putty – stretching it, tearing it apart, and endlessly reconfiguring it – while reedists Jonas Kullhammar, Otis Sandsjö, and Mikko Innanen coalesce into a punchy horn section and operate like free agents. The band functions like a live remix, using its repertoire as a jumping off point. The group’s 2019 debut featured Eldh’s masterful application of hip-hop production techniques without watering down the band’s furious post-bop energy, while their third album features contributions from pianist Kit Downes, singer Sofia Jernberg, and cellist Lucy Railton, who help send the group in a new direction with a more lyric, contained, and contemplative side. In the band’s Jazzfest Berlin debut, Eldh promised to play some electric bass and craft live beats with his MPC.
Petter Eldh double bass
Otis Sandsjö saxophone
Jonas Kullhammar saxophone
Mikko Innanen saxophone
Christian Lillinger drums