The other night I went to the cd release party for Zongo Junction, the newest in a slew of young afrobeat bands. Their friends Ikebe Shakedown opened for them, and both bands sounded excellent, getting people up and dancing in no time. The horn sections were powerful, stacked deep with solid soloists, nice arrangements, and a focused, unified voices emerging from the large horn frontline. And both bands were backed by equally unified rhythm sections, creating their hocketed beats in a fun and natural vibe.
It occurred to me how often you see new large ensembles in New York City these days — it seems every day, a new group of 9 or more musicians is popping up (Gato Loco not excluded!) I was speaking with my friend Ron Anderson the other day, a great musician who has been slugging it out in the city since the 80s, and he mentioned that there are more great musicians in the city since….. well, perhaps ever.
And they all want gigs.
So, despite worsening financial odds, but out of an abundance of overqualified musicians, large ensembles with great players are put together — because all these musicians want to PLAY! And who can blame them? In the old days of big-bands, musicians would learn and thrive, blending and shaping a unified sound amongst 15 or 20 of their peers. It’s a powerful effect, both for the musician and the audience.