The Examiner: “Chicago Afrobeat Project plays refreshing jazz at the Bottleneck + Previews!”

April 14, 2011

There certainly is no shortage of exciting shows at the Bottleneck lately, even Wednesday night the bar exploded with brilliant music as Chicago Afrobeat Projectreturned to Lawrence. The eight-peice band of numerous influences explored genres and experimented with solos and jams for a full night of energetic grooves.

Wednesday night is usually one of the quieter nights downtown, but parties and shows were abound downtown this week. Early in the night music enthusiasts started gathering for the opening band, Making Movies, an Afro-Cuban salsa band featuring bi-lingual and cross-cultural music. The openers switched things up during their impressive opening set, playing more traditional latin music as well as new-wave rockMaking Movies could easily entertain a full house on a weekend night. The Lawrence music scene hardly gets its share of Latin-influenced music, so this first band was already a breath of fresh air.

Chicago Afrobeat Project took the stage for a slightly larger crowd. Some of Lawrence’s most dedicated music lovers came out and joined together on the dance floor for this big band’s lengthy set. A combination of vigorous percussion, guitar and bass, keys, saxophones and vocals gave the audience a full sound for their ears to gorge on.
As far as band unity goes, never has there been a full band of eight that worked together so well. The entire group seemed in syncronized harmony that defied the sounds of improvised jams, solos and jazzy, funky climaxes that made up the entirity of the concert.

The lead singer led the crowd in sing-along parts of songs while also pointing out the brilliant solos of each individual musician as they each blew the crowd’s mind. An alto-sax and bass-sax combined and worked individually to create zesty jazz. The lead guitarist played fast, intricate riffs and jams, exploring all forms of chords and string-plucking, backed up by a relentless, funky bassist. The keys player’s fingers danced across his instrument, beautifully composing melodies to delite the ears. Behind it all, a drummer with a traditional drum set as well as a percussionist with two bongos played fierce, passionate percussion that the crowd danced along to through the entire set.

Chicago Afrobeat Project touches on various styles, obviously including Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban, expanding into Jazz, Funk, Rock and more. Performing for a small, but grateful crowd Wednesday, the band poured their hearts out through their instruments and vocals. The band’s passion was tangible in their spicy, complex, yet well-practiced performance. They deserved a full, sold-out show, but Wednesday night was still relatively quiet compared to the weekend. Fans of dance-able, worldly jazz should hope this group returns for a weekend show in the near future.

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