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Thursday 2nd
posted by Morning Star in Arts

The Camilla George Quartet The Lescar, Sheffield 4/5

WALKING down to the Lescar pub in Hunter’s Bar in Sheffield, the TV screens in the front rooms that I pass are full of the egocentric prancing and formulaic sonics of the Brit Awards.

Luckily, I’m going to hear a very different music in an entirely contrary setting — the back room, intimate session of the marvellous Camilla George Quartet, performing tunes from their debut album Isang — the word for “journey” in southeast Nigeria where the saxophonist was born.

The room is packed and the sounds hot, with Afro-beat drums specialist Femi Keleoso, plunging bassist Daniel Casimir and Sarah Tandy making her electric piano swing and surge in the South Yorkshire night.

They begin with the calypsoinspired Lunacity, featuring a subterranean opening chorus by Casimir, as if he were delving into all the sunken mines beneath the city.

George’s alto sax dances before the four launch straight into standard The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, where Tandy’s keyboard saunters, then rocks, through her expressive solo.

But the most moving and beautifully essayed tune of the evening is George’s Song for Reds, dedicated to her late Grenadian father. Her melodic lyricism sings evocatively from her horn and her bandmates are with her on every note.

The unity of the sound of these four young troubadours is deeply inspiring and as they play Mami Wata, George’s tune imagining a mythical Nigerian mermaid, it was as if Africa, the Caribbean and Sheffield, bonded by music, are as one.

And, as Keleoso’s drums boom, roll and billow in an explosive solo, the Lescar audience’s senses leap in surprise and joy.

This luminous foursome complete their British “isang” at the Vortex in London on March 2 and they’re very well worth catching.

Chris Searle