Etuk Ubong

Etuk Ubong + The Etuk’s Philopsophy
The Lanes, Bristol
5th April 2022

Nigeria’s hottest horn player brings his Earth Music to Bristol.

To warm up a sparse crowd at this bowling alley venue in central Bristol, local improv jazzers The Big Fuss Ensemble play an unholy cacophony of hit and miss rhythms. It’s a tale of two Harrys really, as drummer Harry Irving and trumpeter Harry Furniss lead the young sextet with their confident playing dragging ambient moods and soundscapes from fogginess to uplands of clarity.

In contrast, the clarity of Nigerian hornmeister Etung Ubong is startlingly evident from the outset as his mariachi trumpet opens his set with the catchy, swaggering mix of Freedom before the Afro ride of Hustle hits us with its insistent horns and swirling organ. Schooled in the bands of legendary Nigerian musicians such as Femi Kuti, Victor Olayia and Buchi, Ubong”s music draws its inspiration from these luminaries and also jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Coltrane, along with afrobeat, highlife and the ekombi dance rhythms of his homeland.

Etuk Ubong live at The Lanes, Bristol. Photo: Elfyn Griffith

The combination when it works is infectious, and when he played at this venue two years ago he blew the pre-Covid audience away. Tonight in the post, or changeable, Covid years, it’s more of a hit and miss affair. While the third number Survival pulses along with Ubong’s mariachi style at its head and some ferocious, rolling, drumming, the blurry sound quality mars the overall effect and there’s just too much call and response stuff twixt performer and audience which just gets in the way of a good rhythm. And thus the numbers Where Dem Dey and Fire Fire Fire kind of never really get burning, but glow in the background, their undeniably social commentary and reflections on life and culture – in what Ubong terms his Earth Music – ebbing along until boom! the music takes off in the last two songs.

Ahh, this is why we’re really here then… keyboards, drums, bass, the swirl of energy is relenting. Ubong on the organ now like an African version of The Doors while the leader of the Ebung Philosophy (or tonight’s version of it) Henry Paul gives his own impressive horn stabs. The drumming rolls incessantly in this tune, Traveller, as a saxophone gains momentum and Ubong switches to a Miles-ian trumpet solo over the whole lot. They end on a delicious warm air of brass with I See, an Afro Miles Davis. Just a shame that the whole set didn’t flow with the intensity and verve of the end game.

The philosophy picks its moments obviously.

~

Follow Etuk Ubong here

Words and photos by Elfyn Griffith. Elfyn tweets here

Etuk Ubong + The Etuk’s Philosophy: The Lanes, Bristol – live review

Freelance writer and journalist for past 45 years. Welsh born and bred, Bristol-based and rooted last 39 years. Wide, international and eclectic love of music – anything with soul, edge, beauty and verve which speaks from the heart…
  
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Freelance writer and journalist for past 40 years. Welsh born and bred, Bristol-based and rooted last 38 years. Wide, international and eclectic love of music - anything with soul, edge, beauty and verve which speaks from the heart...

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