Djabe – Live in Edmonton review by Jozé

Djabe – Live in Edmonton

GR1993 Records, 2020

Djabe, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020, released this year’s first album, a double CD on 19 March.

These 25 years pack outstanding producing and releases, even on a global scale. With over 100 releases Djabe stands for a sounding and production quality on par with those of King Crimson, Yes or Zappa. Attila Égerházi and his team could even take it easy for a while, but they just keep pushing forward.

After various digipaks the recordings of the last North American tour made its home in a double jewel case packaging. Live in Edmonton recorded during the Edmonton International Jazz Festival in Canada, on 26 June, 2019 on the stage of the Yardbird Suite. The material comes from two succeeding concert, both full house. The two performances have completely different content, thus released on separate discs.

The first CD sports the “early show”, while the second disc features the “late show”, both highly enjoyable and in sync with the quality Djabe listeners are accustomed to. In Edmonton only the 5 musicians of the band performed so here we have a release where we can listen to Tamás Barabás (bass guitar), Attila Égerházi (guitar, percussion), Péter Kaszás (drums, percussion, vocal), Áron Koós-Hutás (trumpet, flugelhorn) and János ’Yancha’ Nagy (keyboard) without any guests or extra instruments.

The sets performed at North American Tour ’19 is primarily from Flow, thus the two discs of Live in Edmonton shows us the actual live iteration of the 2018 studio album. Besides the titular piece Return To Somewhere, Turtle Trek, Bubble Dreams, White Bears can also be heard, with a Deep Lights extended with 10 minutes and stirred up with solos, vocoder and singing by the audience. This last piece of the first CD stretches 16 minutes and an acme of the album.

The double CD also features a then almost new song, Buzzy Island of the album Sardinia Tapes, co-credited to Steve Hackett (guitarist of Genesis) and Gulli Briem (drummer of Mezzoforte).

From older compositions Djabe had a best of-type bunch prepared for the North American concerts, all of which made it to this album. Evergreen classics like Clouds Dance, Butterfly, or Lava Lamp, extended to 17 mins with crazy improvisations and solos, take a fresh form. These are the highest points of Live in Edmonton, standing as a statement for this 2016 “New Dimensions line-up” of the band, showing the musicians’ skills and willingness to redo themselves and their good old classics from tour to tour, and stirring up even the fresh ones. This new release is an excellent example of how perfectly Tamás put this new production together both musically and sound-wise.

The discs sound shockingly fantastic! Despite the fact these are “only” concert recordings, and even digital ones. Tamás once again showed his genius. Due to its brutal sound quality, Live in Edmonton not only beats one or more level to the average Hungarian CD but can easily be on podium among the international cutting edge. In fact, it can squeeze even an average LP! Therefore, it is very likely that with the Edmonton concert recordings, another Djabe release (this time a CD!) will soon makes it to the Hi-Fi and High End showrooms as a test disc.

Jim Pepper’s evergreen “Witchi Tai To” was also performed on the second CD during the June evening. Incarnated in this 2019 version with vocals by Attila and Peti, the North American audience could also get a taste from the atmosphere of the March surround minitour in Hungary.

Among the melodies of the old concert favorite Distant Dance, the musicians smuggled a cozy detail from another classic, the festival favorite song Omachule, and then at the end of the piece, returning to the ’distant dance’, we can also admire Yancha’s keyboard improvisations. These last few amazing minutes are also among the highlights of the live album.

Of course, the live release also includes the unmissable momentums of all Djabe concerts, the angklung improvisation with audience participation called here Edmonton and the bass guitar improvisation of Tamás Barabás, this time entitled Saskatchewan Water.

Together, this evokes the atmosphere of Djabe’s concerts of recent years so well that it can also serve as a kind of essence. For example, what styles a Djabe gig features; what is the musical freedom described in a certain Ashanti language about; how a Djabe tour show is structured. Thus, the recording of the two Edmonton concerts can be useful for immersing oneself in the art of Djabe, as well as an excellent summary for getting to know it. A kind of inviting gate, entering the world of Djabe. Highlighting its more festival-compatible, playful, popular side too.

From this point of view, Live in Edmonton may also remind us of the 1976 King Crimson selection. Although the latter consists of studio recordings and the new Djabe is a double concert album, the two still show some kinship in the parade of the main strokes of the previous oeuvre. Thus, the first release of the 25th anniversary, in addition to a worthy archiving of Canadian performances, can also play a kind of role in ’A Young Person’s Guide To Djabe’.

Highly recommended, quality listening in all respects!

Jozé 2020

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