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Gig Review - A Night of Jazz & Hip Hop

A Night of Jazz & Hip Hop at The Nix 

Friday, 24 May 2024 

Photographs by Milad Asadi 

Words by Lou Morris 

 

Friday night unfolded against the backdrop of a crisp, cool evening as I made my way into the city. The rainfall from earlier that day had left the streets shimmering under the glow of the moon and the streetlamps, and I found myself basking in the glorious nightlife. Despite its unassuming exterior, the venue exuded an inviting charm reminiscent of a casual house party, drawing small clusters of people together.

Arriving a few minutes early, I lingered outside as the band set up. As we were hanging around, big al, mastermind of the event, came out to greet us and his mates. As we got chatting, big al explained that it was his first gig organized by himself, a remarkable achievement in itself. 

Before the performances commenced, big al took the stage to welcome us all, and outline the venue's safety guidelines, pointing out the fire exits, bathrooms and free cold water in the fridge. Amidst this, big al also noted the event’s smoke and alcohol free policy, creating a safe and welcoming space for the audience.

The goal for this event, as big al described, was to spread the awareness of the jazz and hip-hop scene in Tāmaki Makaurau, and open the stage to the audience to experience and showcase their own talents in both hip hop and jazz.

The evening kicked off with A.S.K., representing From Outside, followed by Sven Illy, both acts igniting the crowd with their lyrical genius and charm. Members of the audience got up close to the stage, dancing and moving to the beats, and each song was received fantastically with great applause.

In the transition between the many acts, the stage opened to the audience, inviting anyone to spit bars over DJ Gram’s own beats. Although the MCs throughout the night encouraged the audience to give lots of encouragement towards those that went up, there really wasn’t a need as each volunteer that took to the stage garnered enthusiastic support from the crowd. 

big al himself finally graced the stage, alongside his band mates big al invited his friends to take to the stage one by one for impromptu jazz performances. Including captivating rendition of Billy Holiday’s ‘You’ve Changed,’, Linda Ronstadt’s’ ‘Blue Bayou,’ while Charlie, a talented 14-year-old and student of big Al, showcased his remarkable skills on the bass guitar, performing Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much,’ earning himself a well-deserved explosion of applause after, as well as leaving his dad beaming with pride.

The band, consisting of Andrew Isdale on saxophone, Joe Kaptein on keys, Matthew Esekia on guitar, Isaac Etimani on Bass and M4 on drums, had also delivered a stellar performance, seamlessly complementing each other's talents and supporting those that were brought up. 

With the open mic out of the way, big al wrapped up the night with performances of his own, starting off with two hip hop numbers, including his single ‘Gamewinner’. This song expresses a desire for versatility within his music, reflected both lyrically and sonically. It was a big reflection of the event itself. 

Jumping between genres, big al also jumped back from the mic and picked up a guitar, performing a mix of mean jazz and blues numbers, showcasing his versatility as an artist. Each number provided an opportunity for the band to shine with solos, eliciting enthusiastic cheers and animated reactions from the audience. 

It’s clear that Friday night was more than just a gathering of talented musicians, it was a celebration of community, creativity and collaboration, as well as the vibrant music scene in Tāmaki Makaurau. big al’s vision for the event, mused with the passion and talent of each performer, created an atmosphere of inclusivity, and appreciation for Hip Hop and Jazz.