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Alfa Mist amazes at the Southbank Centre

12 August, 2019 — By Tessa van Rens

The start of Alfa Mist’s performance spells a night of jazz like any other; skilful improvisation by all members, switching between smooth, bluesy and experimental sounds. But as soon as the charismatic leader and pianist Alfa, starts playing songs from his latest album ‘Structuralism’, I slowly shift further to the edge of my seat.

The band starts to mix in rap and electronic sounds as the drummer Jamie Houghton introduces the deeper bass which characterizes Alfa’s recent album ‘Structuralism’. Alfa gets a big applause for his mom, who’s attending one of his gigs for the first time as he introduces the track ‘Jjajja’s Screen’, about his Ugandan grandmother (‘Jjajja’) who he could never speak to due to language barriers. Jamie Leeming uses his electric guitar to create a astonishing staccato tune unlike any I’ve heard before, transporting us to Alfa’s home country.

Kaya Thomas-Dyke, the bassist and singer changes the tone again with her beautifully bright and piercing voice but I have to be honest; Sam Rapley, the saxophonist, steals the show. His command of the bass clarinet, which I overheard an audience member refer to as a ‘didgeroo saxophone’ creates a nostalgic and mysterious sound fit for any film noir.

Even during the encore, after they play the crowd pleaser Keep On, I remain mesmerized by Rapley’s skill and passion. Alfa Mist brought together an amazing pool of talent took us on an emotional, introspective journey from South London across the world, mixing many different genres, introducing unique instruments and long-gone times, and created a enthralling show that was at once daring and intimate.


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