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  • Writer's pictureFolklore: In Session

Sly5thAve @ The Folklore Rooms - 27/03/24

Updated: Apr 17

The evening of March 27th might have just been like any other evening for many of you out there; cooking dinner, watching some TV, maybe going to the pub, before going to bed and getting ready to do it all again the next day. But for some lucky few, it was so much more...

The sold-out crowd at The Folklore Rooms were audience to a night of joy and jazz, as the incredibly talented, Grammy Award-winning horns player and multi-instrumentalist (honestly, I could go on forever!) Sly5thAve embarked on the first night of his UK spring tour. Supported by the exceptional Avijé, I left the venue walking on air, and I couldn’t have been more excited to write about this truly brilliant show.

From the minute Avijé opened her mouth to sing, I was enchanted. A rich, contralto tone, her voice has something classic to it; an essence of the recording artists from the rise of the soul genre of the late 1950’s. With a soulful guitar accompaniment, she showcased a range and control that made us all listen in awe, shining on tunes Golden Lullaby’, as well as her cover of the bossanova/jazz standard ‘Corcovado’.

Displaying a heartfelt gratitude, she thanked those around her, and then took a minute to acknowledge her Iranian heritage, passionately speaking about the human rights issues facing women in the region. What followed was a haunting ballad of solidarity and protest, ‘Freedom’, followed by another powerful politically rooted track, adorned with scatting that echoed chanting and battle cries, and prefaced with a powerful reminder that everyone must stand up for something. She is truly one to watch.

The short breaks between sets are some of my favourite moments of these nights: when you’ve been blown away by the support artist and now you’re even more excited for the headliner. I re-entered the venue whilst Sly was introducing himself, his band (Jackie Whitmill on the drums and Miles Simpson on Keys), and shamelessly promoting his merch - shout-out to the new merch wall at the venue! I say ‘shamelessly’ because it became a running joke that Sly had merch after mentioning it enough times and I have to say it worked, as I was persuaded to get myself a vinyl to take a little piece of the magic home with me.

Opening the set with the title track from his 2022 album ‘Agua de Jamaica’, the room comes alive as the saxophone bounces off the walls and the hips start grooving to the rhythms. He then plays his recent single, 'Big Brother,' before inviting us to the world of jazz he created on the new album, 'Liberation.'

Seamlessly dipping between lilting flute melodies and soulful sax solos, Sly’s talent for composition is undeniable. This ability comes from a rich history of collaboration, and his foray into the orchestral with the new album has been 10 years in the making. When I first listened to these songs through headphones, it felt like I was being lifted, floating on swelling rhythms whilst falling into a trance simultaneously. The destination: another dimension. Safe to say, it translates the same when heard live.

Musically, 'Liberation' is about feeling free, and Sly proves himself a trailblazer of this motto: pushing the boundaries of genre, creating the music he feels in his heart, taking spirit-driven risks. I can’t emphasise enough to you how much it pays off, and the band carry this spirit in their playing impeccably.

Hailing from Texas, Sly announces the next track to be a cover of another “great artist from Texas, and I think you all know which one it is”. I have to be honest, my mind immediately thought Beyoncé, because, well, she’s very ardently from Texas. I was half right, but wholly overjoyed, when Sly and the band began a groovy instrumental of ‘NoNoNo’ by Destiny’s Child. Then, inviting Avijé back on stage for a stunning rendition of ‘I’d Rather Be With You’, her voice shining even brighter with the lush, soulful instrumentals. Just when we thought it was all over, Sly spoiled us with a crowd-pleasing encore, so we could all revel in the rhythm some more. The chemistry between the band and the audience was truly electric.

I could go on and on about what a truly brilliant night this was, but I’ll leave you with the image of the rapturous applause and cheering throughout show that evidenced this was the definitive consensus of the room, and remind you of the words written on the walls at Folklore, for they’ve never been truer: ‘This is music, as it should be’.

Words by Etienne Ferenc

Photos: @lalionnephotography

You can listen to Sly5thAve's breathtaking new album here:


Folklore Sessions returns on the 16th April at The Folklore Rooms for the monthly showcase.

Doors: 19h30 Free Entry

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