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Review: Yussef Dayes @ SWX

Bristol’s SWX recently played host to an unforgettable musical odyssey as Yussef Dayes, the innovative British musician and drummer, took centre stage.

By Lucy Hillier, Second Year History

On tour to promote his debut solo album, Black Classical Music, Dayes delivered a sold-out performance that left the audience entranced and eager for more. In a time when the jazz scene is experiencing a resurgence, Dayes stands at the forefront of this vibrant musical movement.

In the wake of Ezra Collective's historic win of the Mercury Prize, becoming the first jazz band to claim the coveted award, it's clear that a new era is dawning for the jazz genre. The past decade has seen a thriving community of musicians redefining jazz by infusing it with fresh perspectives, diverse influences, and an unyielding commitment to pushing artistic boundaries. Yussef Dayes, a native of South London, has played a pivotal role in this jazz renaissance.

His musical signature is characterised by a fusion of jazz, funk, and electronic elements, often punctuated by improvisational moments. His drumming style, noted for its complexity, rhythmic intricacy, and fluidity, renders him a captivating and dynamic performer.

Dayes' recent performance at SWX was nothing short of an immersive musical journey. Accompanied by the powerhouse ensemble of musicians who make up The Yussef Dayes Experience - Elijah Fox on the keys, Grammy-winning Venna on the saxophone, Rocco Palladino on the bass, Alex Bourt on percussion, and later Ivy Alexander on the guitar - Dayes embarked on a 90-minute musical voyage. Dayes' drum solos were mesmerizing, displaying his technical prowess and creative genius. What truly set this performance apart was the seamless synergy of the entire band, each member contributing their unique talents to create a symphony of sound that enveloped the audience.

Dayes opened the night with the title track from the album, ‘Black Classical Music’, which immediately gripped the crowd with its enchanting and almost harrowing opening. When the ensemble played together and the drums kicked in at full force, the calmness of the audience transformed into waves of movement and dance. With jazz being my favourite genre, it was almost intoxicating to see the vast sea of people appreciating the incredible talent on the stage as much as me. The diversity among concertgoers was a sight to behold, with older attendees appreciating the new jazz sound and younger enthusiasts dancing with fervour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move quite like the group of lads next to me; they were dancing as if at a rave, with more energy than I have experienced in my life. It was infectious. The Afrocentric beats and percussion made it nearly impossible not to have a boogie.

Throughout the evening, Dayes displayed an infectious joy for his craft, evident in his frequent smiles and enthusiastic stage presence. The audience was fully present, their attention solely on the music and the musicians, especially on the speed and passion at which Dayes navigated his drums. It was refreshing to have a clear view of the stage that wasn’t blocked by the phone screens that usually dominate concerts. It underscored the magnetic pull of Yussef Dayes' music, which had the power to captivate an entire room and make everyone revel in the joy of live music. One particular segment that will stick with me was when Dayes got the audience to engage in repeating his drumbeats with claps. Everyone got involved, helping him to create the beat. It was a testament to his ability to connect with the crowd and create moments of genuine interaction.

Yussef Dayes is an artist that you absolutely must see live, regardless whether you like jazz. I thought it was impossible for his recorded songs to get any better, but the live experience was truly otherworldly. The encapsulating sound and being witness to the craftsmanship of each artist as they performed their instruments was an incomparable treat.

Yussef Dayes @ SWX | Lucy Hillier

Dayes' joyful presence was contagious, and although his songs were instrumental, his occasional interactions with the audience added a personal touch to the night, particularly when dedicating a song to his late mother who heavily inspired the album. It became evident that he loves what he does, and having an audience to share it with was simply the cherry on top.

To sum up, Yussef Dayes' sold-out performance at SWX was more than a concert; it evolved into a transformative musical journey that showcased the power of live music to unite and uplift. In an age where screens often dominate our attention, it reminded us of the pure magic that can happen when we come together to celebrate the art of sound. Dayes' performance was a testament to the ever-evolving nature of jazz and its ability to continue pushing boundaries, leaving audiences in awe and eager for more.

Featured Image: Lucy Hillier

Have you listened to Black Classical Music?