Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Secret Night Gang

Secret Night Gang, Music Spoken Here, The Marr’s Bar, Worcester, 30/05/2024.

Photography: Photograph sourced from the Music Spoken Here Facebook page [url=][/url]

by Ian Mann

June 03, 2024


Promoter Music Spoken Here celebrates two years of presenting jazz, funk and fusion at The Marr's Bar in Worcester with a performance from the Manchester based septet Secret Night Gang.

Secret Night Gang, Music Spoken Here, The Marr’s Bar, Worcester, 30/05/2024.

Kemani Anderson – vocals, keyboard, percussion, Callum Connell – alto sax, congas, backing vocals, Aaron Wood – trumpet, flugelhorn, Nicola Guida – keyboards, Jack Duckham – guitar, Manny – electric bass, Ruben Sheridan – drums

Tonight’s event was billed as a ‘Birthday Bash’ as promoter Dave Fuller of Music Spoken Here celebrated two years of staging events at the Marr’s Bar venue in Worcester.

Named after a John McLaughlin album Music Spoken Here has sought to present “the finest jazz, funk & fusion” and the last two years has seen some memorable performances by musicians from all parts of the UK, many of them rarely seen outside London. With events now taking place every two weeks MSH has been like a breath of fresh air for music lovers in the Midlands, particularly as it presents a style of jazz not usually found at other local jazz clubs. MSH has featured relatively straight ahead jazz of course, but the main focus is electric jazz, or fusion if you will, while also embracing elements of funk and soul. It’s taken a while for the series to build a following but MSH presents a programme that is unique for this area of the country and its very existence is something to be both celebrated and treasured.

Big names to have graced the Marr’s Bar stage for MSH include keyboard player Jason Rebello, former Loose Tubes saxophonist Iain Ballamy, rising star singer, guitarist and songwriter Rosie Frater-Taylor and King Crimson drummer Jeremy Stacey. A certain Mr. Robert Fripp has also been sighted in the audience.

The Jazzmann has to confess to not getting on board until March 2023 when drummer Robert Castelli visited with his Boom! Quartet. I reviewed that performance and have returned to the Marr’s Bar on many occasions since, covering all of the MSH events that I have been able to attend. Occasionally there has been an unfortunate ‘fixture clash’ with other local jazz clubs and during a very wet winter I was twice thwarted by flooding, but I try to cover every show if I can.

For tonight’s ‘Birthday Bash’ Dave had provided free cake and nibbles and the party atmosphere was enhanced by the presence of Secret Night Gang, a Manchester based septet specialising in “jazz inflected street soul”. They certainly fitted the “jazz, funk and fusion” template as well as adding plenty of soul, hip hop and even a dash of reggae, into the equation.

Led by vocalist, songwriter and occasional keyboard player / percussionist Kemani Anderson Secret Night Gang (hereafter SNG) have released two full length albums to date, 2021’s eponymous debut and the more recent “Belongs on a Place Called Earth” (2023). The group have been championed by Gilles Peterson and both albums appear on his Brownswood record label. SNG’s jazz credentials are such that they’ve already played at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, the Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul Festival, the Brick Lane Jazz Festival, the We Out Here Festival. They are due to perform at Ronnie Scott’s in August 2024.

SNG’s group’s influences range through Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Chic, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Bilal, Jill Scott, Robert Glasper, Terence Martin and Earth Wind & Fire. They perform their own original material, much of it written by vocalist Anderson and saxophonist Connell.

Tonight’s performance commenced with “Journey”, a song previously issued as a single and distinguished here by its funky grooves, soulful vocals and a blazing trumpet solo from Aaron Wood.

SNG’s lyrics promote joy, togetherness and a positive world view, the perfect qualities for a birthday celebration, but with a serious political message contained within those feel good vibes. “Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings” celebrated the virtues of living life in the moment and included a powerful alto sax solo from the impressive Connell, who elsewhere doubled on congas and backing vocals.

The positive message also found expression in the song “Never Ever” and in the Stevie Wonder inspired funkiness of “Find A Way”, the latter featuring solos from Wood on flugel, Guida on keyboards and Manny on electric bass.

“Out Of My Head” slowed things down a little, a soul ballad ushered in by the duo of vocalist Anderson and keyboard player Guido with his Nord on an acoustic piano setting. Connell was the featured instrumentalist on alto sax, while Wood moved between flugel and muted trumpet.

“Every Nation” reiterated the band’s positive message with its plea for global unity, something we need now more than ever. The rallying call of the lyrics was supplemented by urgent instrumental solos from Guida on keyboards and Duckham on guitar. The impressive Duckham also featured strongly alongside the rousing gospel choruses of “When Will The Sun Rise Again”.

From SNG’s debut album “Fall In Love” represented something of a showcase for the rhythm section with Guida’s keyboards playing a prominent role in the arrangement alongside extended features for electric bass and drums.

The performance concluded with two songs with a happy solar theme with “Sunshine” followed by “The Sun”. The latter included a suitably scorching guitar solo from Duckham and also introduced something of a dub reggae groove as Connell jammed his bug mic deep into the bell of his alto while Wood soloed on trumpet. Meanwhile front man Anderson engaged in a game of call and response with the crowd. It was perhaps a little surprising that nobody actually got up to dance, especially as a space had been cleared specifically for that purpose, but nevertheless SNG were very positively received by the Worcester audience, with queues forming at the merch desk after the show.

SNG performed a single ninety minute set rather than the more usual 2×45 with an interval, but for their style of music this represented the right choice. It’s not always easy to make sense of song lyrics at a live gig so I’ve not attempted to over analyse the words, but a sense of joy and positivity was there throughout.

The music was a bit too close to the funk and soul end of the jazz spectrum for my personal tastes, but I did enjoy the show and was impressed by the playing of all the instrumentalists, each of whom performed to a high standard. I was also impressed by the fact that SNG write their own material and that their songs address political and social issues in addition to encouraging everybody to have a good time.

I was genuinely surprised that nobody got up to dance and wondered if Anderson could have done a bit more to whip up the crowd. Occasionally he doubled up on keyboards and percussion but I felt that it might have been better if he had just concentrated on singing, thereby allowing him to specialise as a front man and to engage with the audience a little more. Just a thought.

All in all though this was a memorable evening and a great way to celebrate two years of Music Spoken Here at one of the best attended events thus far. Congratulations to Dave Fuller and to the Marr’s Bar team for bringing top quality jazz related music to Worcester on such a regular basis.

For details of forthcoming Music Spoken Here events at The Marr’s Bar please visit;




blog comments powered by Disqus