This article originally appeared on The Afrobeat Blog on 08/14/08.
The Chicago Afrobeat project lit up the stage at Drom Saturday night when they brought their midwest afroswing to the east village club on the back end of nationwide tour that took them west to California and Colorado before coming to the east coast. The seven-piece ensemble was joined onstage by two dancers from the Muntu Dance Theater of Chicago during the second set at which point the show went from a dope band laying down some beats to a spectacular audio-visual presentation that doesn’t come around very often.
The Chicago Afrobeat Project got their start playing parties in the Chicago loft scene and has been touring the country spreading their politically charged Afrobeat message for the last six years. Their sound encompasses a wide range of influences and styles including jazz, funk, rock, afro-cuban, and West African highlife and juju. Perhaps the most prevalent sound in their arsenal is the soulful jazz element supplied by Kevin Ford on Fender Rhodes piano and David Glines on guitar. They both emphasize a light, jazzy style that cuts across the heavy percussion and bass arrangement and provides a perfect backdrop over which the horns glide.
(A) Move to Silent Unrest, the band’s second full-length album, came out last year and exhibits the same range and variety as their live show; they have the ability to do deep, slower, jazzy songs, and then switch up the pace with an aggressive, faster, more hard-driving cut. Their rhythm section composed of Thad Landis on bass, George Jones on congas and percussion, and Marshall Greenhouse on trap drums, know how to move a party. Greenhouse especially can drum himself into a frenzy, sometimes bearing a resemblance to Animal from the Muppet Show.
The Chicago Afrobeat Project have an unparalleled live performance that features beautiful African dancers, polyrhythmic percussion sessions, and nasty soloists. They make it to the east coast a couple times a year, so definitely check them out when you get the chance. I highly recommend picking up their album in the meantime, especially if you’re looking for something to play at your next dance party.