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Bonobo proves himself king monkey at Jazz Cafe


Review: Jack Foley

BONOBO apes, according to a recent article, are some of the most blissful and content creatures around, particularly given their preference for sex over aggression.

So it is little wonder that Simon Green chose Bonobo as his DJ tag, especially given the nature of the music he produces.

Sexy, alluring, and almost magical, at times, Bonobo produced one of last year's best albums in Dial M for Monkey (his first for Ninja), as well as his debut LP, Animal Magic, which heralded the arrival of a major new talent in 2000.

At the Jazz Cafe on Thursday night (January 22, 2004), Green ensured there was no monkey business as he recreated some of the sounds of those two long-players using a six-piece band for the first time.

The result was one of the most enjoyable I have witnessed for some time.

Anyone who has heard Green's music will probably appreciate what a big undertaking this would be. Both Dial M and Animal Magic are rich in musical diversity, packed with samples, and rammed with lush beats and jazzy, David Holmes-inspired electronica.

Witness the likes of Pick Up, with its Lalo Schifrin throwback vibe, or the rich, vibrant Scuba, which begins well and keeps getting better, and you'll know what I mean.

Unphased by such a challenge, however, Green and co produced a dazzling set which seemed tailor-made for the trendy crowd at one of Camden's premier music venues.

And they lapped it up, applauding each break in the music, and dancing to every number, while diners looked on from above, obviously impressed.

Having been warmed up by Toronto's Dj Moonstarr, who demonstrated an impressive array of funky records, ingenious breaks and well-worked scratches, the live version of Bonobo then set about their business with a quiet confidence which never became too showy, or about one person.

Green, who admitted to not being one for chit-chat, took a back seat, content to orchestrate his colleagues and ensure they didn't miss a beat, whether it came from the drums at the rear of the stage, the keyboards to the right, or the dazzling array of instruments which kept cropping up throughout proceedings.

Saxophones enthralled, a cello added some extra bass, an acoustic guitar sounded as lush as it always does, while the five musicians never failed to amaze with their diverse repertoire (Green played bass for most of the time). Nothing phased them, and the crowd's response only served as a boost to their confidence.

By the time the show-stoppers arrived, such as Turtle, The Sicilian, Terrapin, and Flutter, they were in full swing and each provided a musical moment to cherish for a very long time.

From Camden, the Bonobo live set moves on to Canada and the US, as part of the Ninja retrospective tour, before returning to the UK for a few more dates around the country. My advice is that you book up early, for this is one class act you won't want to miss.

And for the record, the live performers on the night (and each deserves equal praise) were Simon Bonobo (Bass); Ben Cook (Sax); Simon Janes (Cello/Guitar); Simon Little (Keys); Jack Baker (Drums); James Grape (Electronics/percussion/vocals) and Ben Drew (luckycat) on visuals.

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