The Souljazz Orchestra @ Webster Hall [Show Review]

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing when you think the opening act is the headliner. Aside from the sparse crowd at the beginning of the show, Williamsburg-based Zongo Junction could have just as easily been the main attraction. They describe themselves as “BKLYN Afrobeat” and that’s exactly what you get; an intriguing mix of those notorious BK hipsters and the adapted sounds of afrobeat grandfather Fela Kuti. They created the perfect space for The Souljazz Orchestra, the actual headliners, to step into for the rest of the night.

As the six members of the Canadian band filled the stage, the obviously adoring crowd cheered in anticipation of their set. Between the faces of the band and the super-mixed audience, it felt like this show could have just as easily been at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. Most people were in their 20s and 30s, all ready to have a good time and dance the night away. And that’s exactly what they did — the players of Souljazz kept your feet moving the entire show, with a special dedication from frontman Ray Murray to those who “haven’t shaken their asses yet” about 3/4 into the set. That announcement palpably energized the crowd and the band masterfully rode the good vibes all the way through their encore piece.

This performance at The Studio of Webster Hall was part of an international tour promoting their most recent album entitled Solidarity. With an apparent mission to bring afrobeat to a new generation of music lovers, The Souljazz Orchestra exists as part of a tradition of politically charged but decidedly make-you-get-up-and-dance sounds. They definitely delivered last week and we look forward to hearing more from them in the future. Check out their website for album information and to keep up with what they’re doing. Also, if you produce, use some of these as your backbeats, it’d be dope. Just a thought…