X HITS THE RIGHT SPOT by Ian Thorn
January 04, 2006
LATIN, Jazz and Christmas have never been an obvious
combination. But Grupo X’s blend of salsa, boogaloo and soul jazz proved the perfect festive antidote for those sick of hearing Slade and Wizzard over and over again.
In fact, there was barely a Christmas decoration or santa hat in sight at 21 South Street, which resembles a jazz club thanks to some small tables and moody candlelight.
Grupo X take to the stage without any fuss, an unassuming presence despite having seven members.
“They don’t look very Latin,” my companion remarked, and I was inclined to agree.
Most of Grupo X look distinctly English, and when introducing the first number, band leader Jonny Enright’s vowels are more Michael Parkinson than Prez Prado.
But it quickly becomes clear that their music sounds very Latin indeed. The beat is quite irresistible, after a couple of numbers the area near the bar is a swarm of dancers; a few more tunes and they’ve claimed the front of the room too. Grupo X’s appeal lies largely in this ability
to make dancing a physical
For the real jazz heads in the
audience there were plenty of great solos, thanks in no small part to the mercurial presence of Finn Peters.
Switching between tenor sax and flute, his acrobatic runs were the
perfect foil to Jonny Enright’s
strident trombone figures.
The band as a unit never missed a beat, thanks to an outstanding
percussion section led by timbale player Jimmy Le Messurier, who also contributed lead vocals.
There were a few light-hearted musical nods towards the time of year, including an impromptu burst of Hark the Herald right in the middle of a salsa. In short, the gig was impossible not to enjoy.
Grupo X were performing as part of Jazz in Reading’s “South Street Jazz Sessions”, the next of which takes place on Friday, January 27, and features the Osian Roberts/Steve Fishwick quintet.
There is also an opportunity to see singer Gwyneth Herbert at South Street on Friday, February 24, so if you’re a jazz fan make sure you book your tickets early.