Okoe Ardyfio and Tom Bancroft – Africa Groove Machine, Piccolo, George Square, Edinburgh, 21 July 2019.

This eight-piece band raised the (tented) roof on the final night of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival. Sadly Okoe Ardyfio, esteemed drummer Tom Bancroft’s one-time Ghanaian drums teacher, was unwell so could not be present in person. However, despite this potentially discombobulating personnel loss, Bancroft et al held things together extremely well, to the point when Ghanaian djembe player and dancer Adie Baako Elias had most of the audience on its feet, join him in grooving to the West African – Jazz rhythms.

Meanwhile the other guests in Scotland, kpanlogo and djembe – whizz Ghanaian Thomas Annang and South African trumpeter, Claude Deppa both brought a welcome rawness and at times, particularly from Annang, a mind-expanding complexity to the overall sound.

Bancroft’s accompanying Scottish jazz crème de la creme were equally responsible for stoking tonight’s groove machine, with tenor saxman Martin Kershaw and guitarist Kevin MacKenzie both contributing some rather delicious solos, aided and abetted by trombonist Michael Owers and Mario Caribe on bass guitar.

Judging by the expanding grins all around, the long, two – set concert was a resounding success, and will have motivated more than one of us to seek out Afro-beat co-inventor, drummer maestro Tony Allen’s 2017 tribute to Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers.

And let’s hope this band can continue to successfully negotiate the distance between their homelands, to keep producing together this wonderfully hybridised, joyous and sophisticated music.

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