Alabama 3  Jazz World  Friday 27th June 2008


If ever there was a band designed specifically for festivals, that band is Alabama 3. Surely no other band has so assiduously hit the festivals trail over the years? And not, of course, that you could design a band like Alabama 3 – you could try, but the amount of strong alcohol and narcotics you would have to consume in the process would probably kill you. Given their extraordinary penchant for mixing musical genres – generally during the space of an individual song, you often wonder whether even they know what style of music they are going to play when they head onto a stage.

JazzWorld was quite an odd stage on which to find Alabama 3, but it proved very propitious – they are such festival old-hands that they can get any musical special-interest group going. Their incongruity was highlighted a few times – I’ve never come across any other band end a track on the JazzWorld stage with two singers shouting: “Acciiieeed”. And quite justifiably, given the music that had preceded.

There was a honky-tonk track, a distinctly dancey version of Woke Up This Morning and some surprisingly funky moments. And, of course, a hoe-down. I think there were no more than 11 of them on stage at any given time. I asked the band afterwards, but they didn’t seem sure.

Alabama 3 are difficult to describe, because so often, their songs tend to veer off in several different directions as they progress. However, they always have a satisfying underlying thump that ensures everyone’s feet never stop moving, and great, big slogan-chanting choruses. Front men Jake and Larry, as ever, get some call-and-response action – often before moving over to let the amazingly voiced female vocalist take over, at which point things generally proceeded in more of a soul direction.

We had toasting, a bit of drum and bass and even Public Enemy-style hip-hop. Jake told amusing stories between songs. Keyboardist Orlando, not content to sit at the side of the stage in the shadows, tilted one of his keyboards to wield it like a guitar, chucked cigarettes towards his mouth like Kenny Everett’s Sid Snot and contributed some seriously bleepy moments. Underlying everything, though, was good, old-fashioned blues.

Steve Boxer