Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
The substitution of voice for musical instruments is a time-honored tradition in jazz. Vocalese and scat singing are part of the genre. Entirely substituting a vocal tradition for entirely instrumental treatment especially one from distant shores further extends the boundaries of America’s native music.
Brooklyn Qawwali Party is one such band that does this. Qawwali is a 700-year-old style of Sufi devotional music traditionally performed by a group of 10-12 male singers accompanied by a harmonium. This music was introduced to a worldwide audience through Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD by the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Brooklyn Qawwali Party is a tribute band to the singer.
Emcee Laura Glazer of WEXT’s “Hello Pretty City” opened the show with an interview with band founder Brook Martinez. Both sets opened quietly. The first set opened with harmonium player Babba Buffalo playing, followed by hand claps and the sounds of the full band. By the second number, dancer Mickela Mallozzi had much of the audience on the floor dancing, imitating her Bhangra dance moves or performing free-form movements of their own. The melody was marked with the four-horn section whose sound was considerably mellowed by Rob Jost’s French horn. The horn players also took turns soloing, much in the tradition of jazz.
The second set opened with a solo segment by guitarist Mike Gamble again followed by the rest of the band. The alternately melodic, jazzy and sometimes rocking guitar of Gamble weaved interesting patterns into the sound of the band. The feel of the music was always danceable yet intricate. Hand clapping and chanting along with the intricate sounds of percussionist Conor Elmes, the in-the-pocket bass of Noah Jarrett and band leader/drummer Brook Martinez kept the dancers in motion.
Per the words of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “The World is Flat.” It certainly was at least a little flatter in Schenectady, as the sounds of the Brooklyn Qawwali Party brought their own interpretation of this South Asian folk music to the GE Theatre at Proctors.
More of Rudy Lu’s photographs at Albany Jazz
Mickela Mallozzi’s report from Travel Bare Feet