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Jazz Café, Sat­urday 24th March 2018

The Low End The­ory is without doubt one of hip-hop’s finest albums with an influ­ence that is impossible to quanti­fy.  It is argu­ably the apex of the Nat­ive Tongues sound which dom­in­ated hip-hop in the late 80s through to the mid-90s and spawned a lim­it­less amount of jazz-influ­enced, exper­i­ment­al and avant-garde artists in the 25+ years that have fol­lowed.  A Tribe Called Quest have giv­en so much to hip-hop cul­ture but the 48 minutes of The Low End The­ory are prob­ably their most wel­come con­tri­bu­tion.

Fans young and old packed into the intim­ate Jazz Café to pay their respects to such a ground­break­ing, icon­ic album by watch­ing a selec­tion of London’s finest jazz musi­cians take on the unen­vi­able chal­lenge of doing justice to some of the greatest music the genre has heard.

Fron­ted by UK hip-hop legend Yun­gun aka Essa who was assum­ing the role of Q‑Tip for the night, the nine-piece outfit’s inter­pol­a­tion of The Low End The­ory and oth­er cru­cial Tribe works was admir­able.  Drift­ing effort­lessly between high-energy tracks such as Scen­ario and then being able to cap­ture the melod­ic soul of smooth, slow-tempo tracks like Bon­ita Apple­bum required seam­less skill.  Thank­fully the artists on show were more than up to the task, each demon­strat­ing an inner­most appre­ci­ation for the sub­tleties that made Tribe such an incred­ible group.  The impro­visa­tion­al loose­ness of the exten­ded instru­ment­a­tion on some tracks was a wel­come inter­lude to the relent­less shower of clas­sic hits, giv­ing the crowd a chance to draw breath. The afore­men­tioned Yun­gun, and his part­ner in rhyme who played Phife Dawg equally bril­liantly, were con­stantly engaged with the crowd as they encour­aged them to join in with every clas­sic hook, bar and adlib.

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For the older fans in the crowd this show was a nos­tal­gic trip to an era when hip-hop’s innov­a­tion and diversity finally had the naysay­ers unable to deny the music­al mer­its of the genre.  For the young­er fans it was a fur­ther remind­er of the import­ance and influ­ence of A Tribe Called Quest on music as a whole.  And for the entire crowd it was a well-executed explor­a­tion of the sheer bril­liance of the group and this clas­sic sopho­more album which will con­tin­ue to be immor­tal­ised for gen­er­a­tions to come.


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Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon

Between 9–5 I’m a pas­sion­ate teach­er for teen­agers with spe­cial needs and dis­en­gaged young people. From 5–9 I’m a left-wing hip-hop head who fell in love with the music in the mid-90’s. Also have an equal love for jazz, soul and funk, am an avid record col­lect­or, lov­er of live shows and occa­sion­al DJ.

About Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon
Between 9-5 I'm a passionate teacher for teenagers with special needs and disengaged young people. From 5-9 I'm a left-wing hip-hop head who fell in love with the music in the mid-90’s. Also have an equal love for jazz, soul and funk, am an avid record collector, lover of live shows and occasional DJ.