Since the formative years of London’s jazz dance scene at legendary venues like The Wag, Gilles Peterson’s love of jazz music in all it’s various permutations has been well documented, received and revered. He’s the John Peel of Jazz for the British people, helping the often marginalised sounds crossover to a less aware audience. This is certainly how it was for us when he opened our eyes to the magic of Kamasi Washington back in November at the Barbican. If you haven’t seen the performance, it’s epic in titanic proportions – and you can watch it here.
Understandably then, the bar was set high for the 2016 edition of the Worldwide Awards, an institution which opened the doors of Koko’s in Camden for the 11th time earlier this month. We arrived early doors, catching Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra warm the thickening crowd with meditative jazz pieces. Definitely not saving the best till last, Halsall and the band were intriguing, blending East Asian instruments like harp and bansuri flute with the more familiar sounds of piano, sax and drums. Above intrigue, they were individually excellent and collectively attuned to one another and a real highlight of the evening.
Anderson .Paak, fresh off the back of a Boiler Room show the night before, stepped up to the plate in a big way, showing London what L.A. had to offer the WWA. His energy was infectious, and before long the swelling ranks below were in full swing to his soulful R&B. It was refreshing to see a frontman also provide an outstanding performance on the drums, his solo nearing the close of his set leaving us speechless before an impromptu rendition of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ placed words firmly back between lips.
A novel concept of the night was the WWA Super Band, who played the next two sets of the night. We were especially looking forward to this due to the inclusion of Kamasi, and were bitterly disappointed to learn the night before that Washington had just broken his foot and wouldn’t be able to take to the stage. Despite this evident set back, the Super Band, led by Musical Director and drummer Moses Boyd (who also picked up the John ‘Peel Play More Jazz’ award), had some shining moments.
The awards were sandwiched in between two Super Band slots, with Kamasi’s aptly named ‘The Epic’ taking best album and Track of the Year’ going to DJ Khalab and Baba Sissoko’s ‘Tata’. There were some surprise inclusions in the categories – Jamie XX’s In Colours for Best Album and Floating Points’ collaboration with Maalem Mahmoud Guinia both taking us by surprise. It’s not that these were bad, but with so much good music coming out in 2015, they felt odd inclusions, especially when you consider Sam Shepard’s Elana might well be his most accomplished work to date. We left as Yussef Kamal Trio faded out. Henry Wu’s mastery on keys, Kamal’s polyrhythmic drumming and the bands telekinetic understanding was exactly what we came to Koko’s to fill our boots with.