Review: Afuriko and Guarapo at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club

Some people go to the gym.  Some even have a gym at home.  My gym is the great outdoors.  Hop on my bike, or plunge into the sea.  Or just walk. Walking is wonderful.  Especially strolling to Swing Unlimited Jazz Club, where hot jazz and good company awaits.  There was plenty of exercise available last night as you really couldn’t sit still to the rhythms of Latin and African jazz.

Jazz the word and jazz the music have their roots in West Africa, brought over by the slaves to Louisiana, creating the first jazz capital, New Orleans. And tonight’s programme at the ‘hidden gem’ Swing Unlimited Jazz Club took us back to its roots, and then forward to the newest fusion springing from those roots.

Arriving at the club, I stepped into sounds that transported me back to my favourite haunts of Marseilles cafés, where Senegalese music is as delicious and spicy as the food on offer.  This was Guarapo.  It’s a superb band, featuring Cuban singer Jorge Eversly, showfully playing Cuban bongos, marakas and güiro.  From Monserrat, Asher Osmundsen playing a stealthy bass, and the UK’s Darren Shaw on Congas and Rod Adams on rare little Latino guitars – the tres and the cuatro – all mixing charismatic playing and singing.  With a little bit of Pat Piero’s improvisational trumpet thrown in this really set the night of with a dash of peri-peri sauce.  The sound was infectious.  The audience just couldn’t sit still to their music.


After the entrée came the main bill of fare, the fantastic Afuriko.  Jim Funnell, accomplished Anglo-French jazz keyboards player and  extraordinary Japanese percussionist Akiko Horii.  They brought their American training and love of West African rhythms from Paris, in two sets of incredible contemporary playing.  This was just the second gig in a whistle-stop tour of the UK.  Jim is a relaxed and jovial frontman and energetic and inventive player, managing three keyboards, with voices from glockenspiel to tuba.  Akiko is a percussive whirling dervish, sitting astride her bass, arms akimbo as her hands flew from chimes to congas, cymbals to cow-bells and shakers in true show spirit.  Original compositions were joined by those of their heros at the cutting edge of jazz beats, such as the name-checked Jebba.  They tunefully take rhythms from Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana and put their own colourful contemporary stamp on them.  The show built to an almost spiritual crescendo in their own composition ‘Boura’ meaning “on the far side” in Ivory Coast.  It was powerful and hypnotic music, mixing driving Ivory Coast rhythms with a terrific catchy melody.  Their much anticipated ‘Autumn Leaves’ was very fitting, as it was originally performed by Yves Montand as the French standard Les Feuilles Mortes.  One of my favourite songs, it was a joyful revelation hearing such a fresh and contemporary take on it.


Winding back out into the chill midnight streets, the audience had been totally blown away and transported to hotter climes, by world-class and extraordinary jazz music from the roots.  Amazingly spicy and warming fodder for lucky jazz fiends.  See you next week… Can’t wait, it’s Karen Pitt and her sextet with ‘the standards’ of Hoagy Carmichael and others.  Not forgetting, of course, their jazz roots.

© 2019 Scott Free – the Pink Sinatra. Built by 79nights.