Butcher Brown – Live at Rich Mix, London

I walk into Rich Mix to meet a packed, smoke filled room of beer drinking, head-nodding twenty-somethings. The sickly scent of e-cigarettes lingers in the air. In the corner, is a lone woman sat cross-legged, her luxurious afro hair sweeping the floor as she stretches forwards gracefully, still bopping to the beat of the incomprehensible track playing in the background; it's uncanny.

Butcher Brown are in town 'for the first time!', Marcus Tenney gushes at his adoring crowd. 'What up London?' grins the multi-instrumentalist and frontman of the popular Virginian jazz quintet. In the moments after greeting the crowd, it seems a perfectly timed subliminal exchange plunges the boys into 'James River Tunnel Vision' – a track thickly-layered with abrupt imbalance in tempo, intriguing harmonic dissonance and beautifully clashing melodies.

Seemingly effortlessly, Butcher Brown call on their eloquent understanding of musical genres from Jazz and Funk to Hip Hop; intelligently informing their pioneering sound. Yet, there's something so inherently youthful, and modern about the product of their collaboration. Their use of nostalgia inducing 90's hip-hop melodies, is exciting and fresh. Their jazz is clearly inspired by the free jazz movement of the 50's and 60's – as the boys are articulate in the art of altering, extending and breaking down customary jazz convention; adding a funky, youthful flair.

Often, the soothing influence of reggae can be heard cutting through the dense instrumentation. This is due to each member of the crew having their own personal improvisation style. DJ Harrison commands the keys, charmingly jumping between melodies inspired by: reggae, jazz, hip-hop and R'n'B. Corey Fonville is magic on the drum kit, playing at light-speed, altering the syncopation of his drum-fills scattered all over tracks such as 'Fiat' and 'AfroKuti #3'. Andrew Randazzo's bass creates harmony in contrast with Morgan Burrs' electrifying guitar solo's, which showcase a profound knowledge of rock intonation and melody.

Marcus Tenney, when not providing us with oozing, funkadelic jazz melodies on either the saxophone or trumpet, stands at the back of the stage – carefully analysing every move his band members make; albeit, not in any way being patronising as opposed to carefully concentrating. Tenney, persistently engages the audience, whilst his contemporaries jam-out their improvisations in jubilant glee; grinning from ear to ear, and occasionally mouthing unintelligible jokes to one another, then bursting into laugher as they hit the climax of the next glorious crescendo.

The talented quintet will refrain from introducing any of their records. It's clear, their music doesn't remotely represent braggadocio, but simply a friendly environment in which you can get lost in music from all era's, cultures and influences. Butcher Brown's live show is full of free-flowing, groovy vibes that will assuredly get your head-bopping and your heart racing. As I leave Rich Mix, the sickly e-cigarette smoke has morphed into clouds of potent-smelling marijuana as our twenty-somethings gather outside the building. 'That was sick!' exclaims a gangly lad as he puffs away. I agree.

Tahirah Thomas

The Write Stuff

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