LIVE REVIEW: BLACK ELEGANCE
Livestream Tokyo, Japan
Players: Jack Jackson, lead vocals; Glynis John Martin, bass and vocals; Hiro Homma, guitar; Yoshio Taniguchi, keyboards and backup vocals; Makoto Otsu, drums
Material: The set consists of jazz-infused R&B from the ‘70s through the present day. Standards by The Gap Band, Sade, D’ Angelo, Al Green and The Brothers Johnson rub shoulders with classic rock from The Beatles and some original sounds. Much of the material is meticulously arranged for extended jams and audience participation.
Musicianship: Everyone in this band is a seasoned pro, with impeccable credentials and substantial chops. However, they collectively check their egos at the door. They all appear to work together really well and that is reflected in the way they feed off each other’s musical ideas and energy. Jackson is a consummate vocalist, with an extensive range and expressive demeanor. Martin not only holds down the bottom end with flawless precision, but handles lead and backup vocals as well. He plays a six-string electric bass and utilizes the full expanse of unison lines and counterpoint to maximum advantage. Homma’s guitar work shifts from delicate chords to funky riffs at the drop of a hat. Taniguchi exhibits fluidity in his blend of multiple keyboard textures and daring lead passages. Locking down the groove and seamlessly shifting with the rhythmic tide is Otsu. His mix of jazzy accents and subtly danceable beats opens the band up to many sonic possibilities.
Performance: The crowd appeared most receptive to Black Elegance’s truly sophisticated, yet earthy, program of familiar modern soul-filled classics and deep cuts. The band opened with an instrumental overture that set an exciting tone and mood. And that led to lead vocalist Jackson taking the stage and providing letter perfect rundowns of tunes like “Strawberry Letter #23,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Sweetest Taboo” and Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”
Jackson seemed at ease with the crowd and addressed them often between songs, aided by Japanese translations from drummer Otsu. Even though they sang in English, there appeared to be no language barrier. While many of the tunes were covers, they might as well have been originals. The ensemble often improvised on a theme and made it their own.
Summary: In a word—sublime! Black Elegance is a world-class outfit equally adept at a small intimate nightclub, mid-level casino or the full concert stage.