Kokoroko live at E-Werk in Erlangen on September 27, 2022

Foto: Julian Fertl © HHV Records
Kokoroko’s reputation as an outstanding groove outfit precedes them on the stages of this world. They combine afrobeat, jazz and funk to create an insistent but never intrusive sound. Last week, the energy in their interplay was discharged late – but then well and truly.

Just a few weeks ago, the British band released their latest album and début, »Could We Be More«. Their mission on the album, as written in many places:  to bring jazz out of elite circles and back into the clubs.  Which Kokoroko proved more clearly on stage that evening than any recording could.

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While the first few minutes remained leisurely in their sound, well set up in the rhythm of bass and drums, spontaneous applause could be heard from the audience for the first trombone solo. A proven pattern which the band use for building tension.  If you listened carefully to the second song of the evening, »Something’s Going On«, you might have guessed what was about to happen. After all, the title carries a promise in itself.  Start slowly, then ramp up the intensity in the game with each passing minute.

The audience dances

Trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey was only too happy to take up the melody and stretch her notes to the boundary of other spheres.  However, never in introspection, but rather in the spirit of Fela Kuti or Ebo Taylor as moments that are truly capable of setting every last stoic in motion.  Did the audience know how to dance the Two Step? asked the band, which had shrunk to the size a sextet for the evening, from the stage.  (Percussionist Onome Ighamre had had to leave earlier.) Unnecessary question: the audience was already dancing it. Even when the keyboard took off on a spaced-out funk solo.  After the first set, the band bowed as if they had just ended a performance in a small theatre. »Do you want more?«

During the encore, all of Kokoroko’s energy exploded and erupted, all the pent-up energy from the hour before.  The rhythm entered everyone’s legs. The air was electrified by the sound, the interaction, the band finally the unity that everyone had described, proof that they are one of the most exciting acts around these days.  Every touch on the bass, every melody on the guitar, soaring above them constantly the trombone and the trumpet, below the drums and the keyboards; all of this flowed together to create a sound that washed over the audience like a wave.

And there was no question about it any longer:  Of course, jazz belongs in the surroundings of a club, especially in this blend with West African influence, with afrobeat and funk.  After one and a half hours, an abrupt end: the band bowed once again, the audience was blown away, rivulets of sweat on their foreheads and on their shirts. »Something’s Going On.« And everyone knew it then. The promise has been kept.