I remember when Grace Jones started her career as a singer. Three of her albums in the period 1980-82 were recorded at the Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. The same with Joe Cocker’s Sheffield Steel from 1982. What was common in these recordings were not only the studio, but the drums and bass, played by Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, aka Sly & Robbie. Yesterday the duo played in Oslo.
The Oslo concert was a cooperation between Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær, guitarist Eivind Aarset and percussionist and electronics Vladislav Delay, all of them well known musicians in their own fields, plus Sly & Robbie on drums and bass. The concert consisted of a mix of Molvær and Sly & Robbie songs.
Sly & Robbie‘s career is long and highly eclectic in their collective CV. None of them show much virtuosity in their playing, but their trademark is the rock steady backbone of every song they are involved in. If you listen to Bob Dylan’s Jokerman on his Infidels album, Grace Jones’ Walking In The Rain from her album Nightclubbing, or Joe Cocker’s version of Steve Winwood’s Talking Back To The Night from Sheffield Steel, you can clearly hear this. Their background is from reggae and dub, and this is notable in all their work.
Nils Petter Molvær is one of the leading jazz musicians in the newer mix between acoustic and electronic genre. His breakthrough came with the album Khmer in 1997, an album that was hailed by AllMusic as one of the best jazz albums in the 90’s. During his whole career Molvær has explored the landscape of electronics and more traditional jazz, and he is recommend as one of the best and most innovative musicians on the international jazz scene.
Eivind Aarset started out as a heavy guitarist in the Norwegian band Road, but also as the guitarist in the jazz rock band Ab und Zu at the same time. Since then he has moved away form the straight guitar style to a mix of guitar and electronics, with international recognition. His floating soundscapes mixed with loops, samples and electronic effects are beautiful, and Eivind is one of the most versatile guitarists on the jazz scene.
The last member of the band is Vladislav Delay, an alias for Sasu Ripatti, a Finnish electronic musician who mixes and samples live during a concert. He added percussion effects, and added reverb and effects to Sly Dunbar’s drums plus stuff I am not really sure of.
The concert last night was composed of mainly original material for this project. Some songs were mainly in Nils Petter Molvær’s style, while others were definitely Sly & Robbie with their distinct dub beat, and with the other musicians playing on top of that. The venue was almost full, this being an early extra concert before the sold out main concert later the same night.
Personally I was thrilled to see of the most influential rhythm sections in our time up close, and at the same time I always like seeing Molvær and Aarset with their unique playing style. I heard some exceptional trumpet playing from Molvær and some great grooves from Aarset, plus the special cooperation between Sly & Robbie. The only thing I missed from making this a super top concert was the lack of more harmonic progressions. Almost all the songs were groove based with lots of delicate details, but I missed some harmonic surprises. The audience as a whole was definitely satisfied.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.
Sly & Robbie‘s … None of them show much virtuosity
So how come nobody on planet Earth can do what they do even though a lot have tried?
Their force is their steady and recognizable groove imo. I am not saying this in a derogatory way. To me, sometimes the best musicians, specially the rhythm section, are the ones who don’t have to show all their tricks all the time. That’s why I value musicians like Sly and Robbie so much, because they add their heavy, groovy fingerprint on everything they do without being all over the place just to show how good they are.
And I agree that no other rhythm section do what they do.