Mamadou N’dyaie, The Slip and Miracle Orchestra
08.21.01 | Lizard Lounge | Cambridge, MA

Halfway between Porter Square and Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA is where you’ll find the Lizard Lounge, an intimate club with a great vibe. The dimly lit room was already full of equipment when I arrived. As I entered, the percussion instruments placed directly in front of me were set up for Senegalese drummer Mamadou N’dyaie. The crowd stood by waiting for the music while the musicians were around and speaking with fans. This relaxed feeling set the tone for the evening.

The band assembled in the center of the room and began their set with a beat reminiscent of Bob Marley’s "Rastaman Chant." It took some time for everyone to get to the same place musically, but once they did, the show was a beautiful collaboration. Mamadou’s vocals were strong and full of life, giving a new element to the songs. The percussion was underlined by a deep, gripping bass line laid down by Garrett Sayers (Miracle Orchestra). Colored by the silky saxophone grooves of Jared Sims (Miracle Orchestra), the tune took off and had the whole placed bobbing their heads. The room felt more like a jazz club, with most people standing in place or sitting and observing. This was a musician’s show, with excellent instrumentation and accessible grooves. Brad and Andrew Barr from The Slip produced some tight backbeats, along with Bill Carbone (Miracle Orchestra).

As the show progressed, many of the tunes started slowly, with musicians fitting in their sound along the way, and after a few minutes, everyone was in it. The three percussionists (Andrew, Mamadou, and Bill) were not overpowering as I assumed they would be. My only complaint about the sound was that the keys were a little to low to hear Dan Berkson. Caribbean Salsa beats began to appear and the percussion took on a reggae beat, and then quieted down for Brad’s guitar solo. Taking on a few quieter tunes, I felt that the 7-piece ensemble had an intuitive feel for whatever they decided to play.

Allowing for the fact that these musicians had only been together 3 times in this set up, I feel as though they did a great job as a group. Then I thought of live radio interview I had heard on the way over with legendary jazz pianist, McCoy Tyner on WGBH. Having learned how to play in the famous jam sessions of the late 50’s in Philly and NYC, McCoy reminisced and remarked that many young musicians miss out on that chance these days. I realized that in essence that was what I was listening to, a public jam session. As artists, they were playing to learn as much as to entertain.

This night was all about a fusion of sounds. The afro-funky-polyrhythmic-jazz-salsa-etc.- labels don’t properly describe what went on at this small but powerful show. A coming together of music, and talented musicians, guided by Mamadou N’dyaie, is what made this one a treat. Next week a similar set up will play at the Lizard Lounge, and I implore you to go see this collaboration for yourself, and Go See Live Music!

Jeff Bergman
JamBase | Boston
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 8/23/01]

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