Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Kareem Kandi World Orchestra

Kareem Kandi World Orchestra, Cave Romangan, Nice, France, 09/03/2024.

by Colin May

April 10, 2024


Guest contributor Colin May enjoys the music of this international jazz quartet led by the American saxophonist, pianist and composer Kareem Kandi.

Cave Romangan, Nice, France
9 March 2024

Kareem Kandi -  sax and piano, Greg Feingold -  double bass, Julien Osty -  electric guitar, Carsten Weinmann -  drums

It’s a delight to be back at a packed Cave Romangan a.k.a ‘Chez Manu’ after it’s taciturn owner, for the Saturday night jazz where usually the attentive and enthusiastic vibe created by the ‘clients’ is as much a part of the evening as the band. While I first happened on Manu’s by chance 14 years ago I have reviewed a band there only once before, guitarist Pierre Bertrand’s quartet in October 2022.
: cave-romagnan-nice-france-29-10-2022

Probably I would have come tonight whoever was playing, but as I enjoy the so called ‘world music’ genre I was hooked by the name of tonight’s new-to-me band. However The Kareem Kandi World Orchestra was actually a quartet, and except for a couple of Kandi’s own compositions the evening consisted almost entirely of jazz standards and tunes by well known jazz musicians.

In one of the intervals I was able to have a short conversation with Kandi who explained that he and bassist Greg Feingold had only just arrived from America that day to be reunited with the two others,  Frenchman Julien Osty from Toulon and German drummer Carsten Weinmann now based in Toulouse.
While the four had played together previously, they’d had no opportunity to rehearse and formulate a set list before playing what was the first gig of a two and a half week tour. Hence the belt and braces approach, or as Kandi put it, “We’re playing things were the guys know the road map”.

Kareem Kandi is from the American Pacific North West where he is a performer, composer and educator based in Tacoma, Washington State. He’s versatile having roots in blues, funk, and classical as well as jazz, and has performed with, amongst many others,  both the Temptations and with a Symphony Orchestra.

Bassist Greg Feingold now lives in the same area as Kandi. Originally from Chicago where he received his early music education, he was inspired by seeing Dave Holland in concert and meeting him after. He went to Berklee College of Music and had time in New York and Boston before moving to the north-west.

Guitarist Julien Osty from Toulon leads his own trio which as well as jazz, draws on film music, classical and a touch of rock. He came into the group through knowing Feingold from Berklee.

Carsten Weinmann was born in Germany grew up in Jamaica and southern Spain where he started to play drums aged 9. At 23 he moved to Toulouse. He’s been teaching for the Jazz programme in Marciac since 2005 and has collaborated with Paolo Costa, a Brazilian composer and singer specialising in bossa nova. He joined Kandi’s group having been recommended by drummer Ali Jackson, a friend of Kandi’s whom he had asked to play on a 2019 tour. When Jackson was unable to do so he put Weinmann’s name forward.

Kandi is no stranger to the south of France, this being his fifth or sixth visit as a result of Tacoma being twinned with Biot just a few kilometres from Nice,. His World Orchestra fits into this arrangement neatly for it’s stated mission is “to create and sustain cultural exchanges by collaborating, educating and performing through jazz”.

It was however The World Orchestra’s first time at Manu’s The group played three 30 to 40 minute sets which is the standard format there with the hat being passed around in the intervals.

I heard the first set standing in the doorway as Manu’s was so full. As I arrived the group were just launching into their take on a Dizzy Gillespie number which was an appropriate choice as Manu has a bust of Dizzy perched on a high shelf overlooking the action. All four members of the band soloed over the staccato accented rhythm, starting with Kandi’s lively flowing sax followed by Osty the guitarist probing around a central note in a style which in my notes I called chirpy minimalism. Then came a double bass solo and finally a drum solo. It was infectious toe- tapping music which the audience clearly enjoyed.

There was noticeably fine brushwork from drummer Weinmann in next number, the more laid back Tad Dameron tune ‘If You Could See Me Now’. A lyrical sax solo was succeeded by some gentle introspective guitar and a relaxed double bass sally that was a good example of less is more.

The highlight of this first part was a bossa nova version of ‘Autumn Leaves’ which began with the drums and double bass pushing out the bossa rhythm, over which Kandi played melodic sax and then switched to Manu’s upright piano while handing the lead to Osty’s elegant guitar.

This first set ended with a funk influenced version of Coltrane’s ‘Impressions’ during which Osty distinguished himself with a spacey guitar riff which, when he developed it, had a hint of prog rock. Feingold followed switching rapidly between the highest and lowest registers of his instrument.

An early highlight in the second set was Feingold’s extended double bass solo in which he quoted Thelonius Monk’s ‘Blue Monk’, a tune that’s a favourite of mine.

This was eclipsed though by a composition of Kandi which was so new it didn’t yet have a name. It was very hypnotic and whereas every other number had it’s roots in America, the pulse of the double bass and Kandi’s slow hypnotic sax phrasing took us somewhere in the Middle East. This vibe was sustained when it was Feingold’s turn and then especially by Osty who made his guitar sound like an oud in what was a very atmospheric piece.

The second set was rounded off by crowd pleasing performances of two crowd pleasing tunes. Kandi kicked off Sonny Rollins’ ‘St Thomas’ in energetic, joyful style and then gave way to Osty’ who stretched the material so that it became almost unrecognisable while his colleagues maintained the familiar structure of the tune. A hot double bass solo was backed by Weinmann striking rim shots and he then engaged in a conversation between his drums and Kandi’s sax the volume of which increased with every exchange between the two.

‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, in which there was another adventurous guitar solo, was notable for all four band members ‘going for it’ simultaneously creating a high paced torrent of notes. The crowd loved it and cheered it loudly.

The opening number of the final set, Clifford Brown’s ‘Joy Spring’, was so joyful it inspired a couple to dance in the tiny area not occupied by tables and chairs.

Later in the set The Kareem Kandi World Orchestra further underlined their swing credentials with a version of ’ It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing’.

Feinberg’s double bass led off Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Straight Life’, followed by another jaunty sax solo from Kandi after which Feingold returned to the solo spot bending notes by manipulating the pegs of his bass.

Weinman’s sensitive brushwork underpinned the melody of Cole Porter’s ‘Every Time You Say Goodbye’ over which Kandi played a deliciously liquid sax solo which didn’t stray far from the familiar melody, and was followed by a guitar solo that did.

The final number was an exuberant ‘Night in Tunisia,’ that brought the house down. The crowd actually became a fifth performer. They had been enthusiastic from the start but in the third set became the most boisterous I have ever experienced at Manu’s. I noticed an elderly gentleman joining in with the end of several numbers by giving a cymbal a firm tap to the surprise of drummer Weinmann.

Crowd pressure forced an encore after the strict 10 o’clock curfew, something else I had never known happen when I’ve been at Manu’s, which has a sound meter monitoring the decibels. Feingold unplugged the lead from his double bass and went fully acoustic. Osty who was playing an electric guitar sat out as the other three played what was only the second original Kandi tune of the evening. This was a beautiful ballad which had a slight touch of the middle east. Kandi and Weinmann using pom poms played particularly quietly yet the music retained intensity, and Feingold topped off an impressive night with another fine solo before appropriately Kandi brought the tune home. By the end the volume had increased significantly. It was as if despite the curfew the three could not restrain themselves from expressing the pleasure they derived from playing the music, and from playing together once more. Nor could the crowd restrain themselves from giving them another burst of loud warm applause.

While, the night wasn’t what I had hoped for, and greedily I would have liked a bit more icing on the cake in the form all four simultaneously playing flat out a bit more often, any slight disappointment was swept away by the quality of what The Kareem Kandi World Orchestra was able to offer in the circumstances, and by the contribution of the boisterous audience.

Across the three sets there were a lot of soloing by all four but it did not become formulaic. They all had a great feel for the music and the creativity of each of them resulted in their playing sustaining a fresh quality to the end.

Added to this there was a very nice contrast between the elegantly lyrical style of Kandi’s warm sax sound and the often angular, teasing approach of guitarist Osty who occasionality displayed the influence of prog and of psychedelic rock in his playing. For me Osty was the pick of four fine players, and if I make a trip to Toulon I will be checking to see if his trio is playing.

Kareem said that at their next date “the music would be completely different.” Presumably it would have more of his compositions.. The two that were played were excellent and whetted my appetite for more.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the night, if The Kareem Kandi World Orchestra is back at Manu’s in future I hope I’d be there too.


blog comments powered by Disqus