Thursday, October 30, 2008

Canteen jazz

Dwight Dickerson, African American musical virtuoso and American University of Sharjah (AUS) lecturer, showcased his jazz band at the University Canteen mid-October. He blasted the young audience with an excellent opening number, Cantaloupe Island, with Dr Dickerson himself doing the Herbie Hancock electric piano leads and fills. Don't know who the other guys were, but the trumpet player, alto sax and double bass player were excellent. The drummer, a local favorite, was not in the same league, but performed sufficiently well to drive the beat on as the band tackled Round Midnight more as a Miles than a Thelonious Monk rendition before, to my mind unwisely, moving into extensive soloing of which the highlight was, in much of the audience's mind, the drummer (see OverLoad below). That said, when the trumpet and sax players soloed they were often highly impressive. Perhaps the trumpet playing was a little too reminiscent of Miles, but the sheer blast and alternate subtlety that he showed was sometimes akin to the best performers of this often sublime instrument. When music, at the AUS as anywhere, is normally fenced off in confined and defined spaces (theaters etc al), this gig was a rare treat indeed, even though this superior art form had to compete with the usual lunchtime blather and bullshit of fast food and fast talk. Sadly I was partly driven away by the ongoing solo exchanges, which at times had more of an air of a band practice that a performance. However this is undoubtedly an excellent ensemble and I thoroughly look forward to their next set live at the canteen.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Pakistani fusion band OverLoad came to the American University of Sharjah last week, and desperately tried to enliven a half empty hall consisting of kids who would clap jello sliding down a wall, and ageing teaching staff. Not that they weren't good, beginning with a four piece of female vox, synth player, electric guitarist and drummer, their own-brand rock and electronica was interesting, even accomplished in places. The singer sounded confident, despite this being her debut appearance apparently. She sung in English and Urdu, with the latter seeing an accompanying musical shift of gears from the guys behind her. Much of their obscurer stylisations were lost on the non-paying students hyped up for a 5pm gig (!) however. Most it seems were there for the hairy sufi drummers who we were told were playing complex Indian rhythyms on their two large drums which they periodically swirled around in tame dervish stylee. Frankly, 10 minutes after their entry I was tired of the overload of drumming pyrotechnics and wanted the cool female vocalist to return to the stage. So it seems did a few of the testosterone fuelled students whose wolf whistles had earlier encouraged her to cover up when she was reduced to being stage hand for the rest of the band. Dump the drummers, change the name, and turn up the volume guys.