When the preview warned: ‘prepare to sweat’ little did we know just how much we would, watching the Soul Jazz Orchestra on one of the hottest evenings of the year. Hailing from Canada though, the band are used to hotter climes than we are and certainly retained their cool throughout their sets despite the heat. They played a very early 7-8pm slot, so I only saw the second set, but what a treat I was in for, playing in one of Manchester’s finest venues – Band on the Wall.
SJO were a friendly bunch who had great rapport and banter with the gathered sweaty, but still very up for it, crowd. The band, as my friend described, were a scaled back quintet rather than full orchestra….. not sure why. This meant the pianist played the bass parts on keyboard. The band entertained us, playing a variety of splendid brass instruments and an array of unusual looking percussion instruments. SJO took us on a tour of Africa with tunes that were Ethopian, Kenyan, Sudanese and Congolese in construction.. which honestly I didn’t have a clue about, but my friend, Bob, is an aficionado on these matters. SJO revelled in audience participation, inviting us to try our our Swahili with the tune ‘ Ware WA’ and asking us to repeat various shout outs on other tunes. ‘Mista President’ was a seriously funky one and the dance floor rocked. ‘People, People’ seemed to be about the power of people and was in line with the fact that many of SJOs songs are concerned with social and political commentary as well as messages of hope. SJO were a highly energetic brass dominated collective who had the crowd dancing enthusiastically from beginning to end with their funky beats. Definitely a collective I’d seek out again- hopefully on a cooler night.