It’s funny how religion was all around me when I was growing up in (supposedly religion-free) Cuba. My late grandmother was raised a Catholic and never lost the faith. My father was a (closeted) Freemason and my mother was not averse to dropping Christian-themed snippets of wisdom while bringing me up. All this punctuated by regular visits by a babalawo (a priest in the Yoruba religion) to my flat in Havana. Yet, I became an atheist and still consider myself one.
Except when it comes to music. Music (and art by default) is the closest I’ve come to becoming a worshipper of any kind.
This has been the case with Ninety One Living Room. This is a venue in east London that has converted me. To what it has converted me is not the point, the point is the unorthodox nature of the programme that has converted me.
Ninety One Living Room’s Jazz Lates is the brainchild of Cuban musician and promoter, Orestes Noda. In its short incarnation (it only got going in autumn/winter 2018) it has shone a much-needed light onto some of the more exciting talent the UK’s up-and-coming jazz scene has to offer.
Based in the heart of hipster east London, Jazz Lates has hosted some of the finest contemporary jazz musicians. Along the way it has also contributed to some unforgettable sessions. This is helped by a format in which musicians play two sets; the first one usually featuring their own material and the second one showcasing a mix of original songs and covers of jazz classics.
The beauty of this set-up is that at the start the audience is exposed to a sound with which they might not be familiar. This builds a sense of trust from the word go, which allows lesser-known acts to grow into their performance on stage. It also ensures that the band or singer’s own compositions are the focus, instead of how they tackle yet another version of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.
That was certainly the case with Sahra Gure, a Berlin-born, London-based, vocalist who has taken London by storm. She performed at Ninety One Living Room recently. Still very young but already showing lots of confidence and pizzazz…