The Perfect Blend That Was

14 Oct 2012

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Sesu tilley-gyardo, performing

Jazz was recently celebrated in Lagos, courtesy a bar and prestigious Champagne brand. AYODEJI ROTINWA reports

It was a memorable evening of panache and sophistication when select intelligentsia, captains of industry, jazz aficionados, and champagne connoisseurs gathered for Champagne Jazz @ 1662, an intimate, jazz music event infused with the love of champagne. With luxury champagne brand, Veuve Clicquot, as sponsors, a jazz quintet on hand and a number of star acts of the genre billed to perform, expectations were running high as to how the evening would turn out and what an evening it was.

Champagne Jazz @ 1662 is the brainchild of musician and writer, Brigitte “Sesu” Tilley-Gyardo and entrepreneur, Kayode Oguntayo, owner of the 1662 bar where the event was held. As admitted by them, the idea to bring together jazz and champagne came about by an off-hand conversation at the exclusive champagne bar, 1662.

Reiterating that jazz is the champagne of music, champagne, the jazz of drinks and 1662, the bar, they decided to create a platform to promote and celebrate the music, drink and the place (1662) and thus Champagne Jazz @ 1662 was born. The idea was afforded accelerated flight as a result of the fact that Tilley-Gyardo is a jazz artiste who performs world and Brazilian Jazz and is the founder of African Heritage Group, a privately-owned company that seeks to promote, preserve and protect heritage in Lagos of which jazz is a very important part as vehemently stated by Tilley-Gyardo herself. “We are reminding Nigerians of Jazz, and introducing a new generation to it. For me, reminding us of Jazz, as well as Jazz artists goes hand in hand with reminding Nigerians of our rich and varied heritage, and of our nation building. In this sense, our work is like that of re-igniting romance within a now weary spouse by playing ‘that song we used to dance to when we first met.”

The evening started on a smooth, nostalgic note with Loopy Music label artiste, Ruby, opening, backed by the jazz quintet, with the timeless classic, “Feeling Good” which was notably covered and made world famous by the iconic Nina Simone. It was a seamless delivery of the original classic with extra work done with the saxophone by the jazz quintet.  This was followed by a number of other performances, none of which were any less excellent than the first. After these and countless toasts of appreciation raised (with champagne flowing aplenty) , there was an interlude by Peter James, a jazz and contemporary dance professional who held guests momentarily spellbound with his dance moves, cutting through the air and contorting his body ever so elegantly, winning new fans over for this little known style of dance.

The musical performances then resumed with headline act, Tilley-Gyardo, taking to the stage to deliver two more timeless classics, “Girl from Ipanema” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, which was met with raucous applause and sing-alongs with perhaps many a guest casting their mind back to when such songs were top of the charts.  She then quickly intimated all of her undying love for jazz music, and then going on to give a quick lesson in jazz history.

“Universally, jazz is the de facto genre of the African Diaspora,” she said. “It is the result of African American slaves and their oppressed offspring expressing themselves musically. It has always been a tool of improvised hope, resistance, romance, and cultural nation building. Jazz has been in Nigeria for a long time, and was very popular. In more idealistic times of nation building, and intellectual reflection, we as Nigerians loved Jazz. We are, after all, the originators of Afro beat- a form of Jazz.”

“We had an emergent syncreticism of traditional styles with Jazz with the works of I.K Dairo, Victor Uwaifo, Jimi Solanke, Fela, among others,” she continued. “Over the years, as times got harder, and our nation-building hopes were disappointed, we have become more hardened, despondent, and have eschewed Jazz. We must also speak of the work of the inimitable Oti Bazunu, the founder of the international festival- Lagos Jazz Series.”

Sequel to this, performances resumed once again and the night was brought to a climax by award-winning jazz singer, songwriter and classically trained pianist, Kaline who is credited with having composed over 200 songs. Starting with one of her original compositions, she took on a number of other known tracks, sating the music taste buds of all those present, proving to be the decadent icing on a very delicious cake.

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