Clad in Maurice White Egyptian threads, Mr Amp Fiddler takes it to the stage with his six-piece band looking like a man who’s prepared to give up food for funk. The first of two sold-out nights, this is Joseph “Amp” Fiddler’s return to the Jazz Café, after what was reported to be a stormin’ performance way, way, way back in ooh, November of 2003. And I’m on a mission from God to check out the man’s chops live (alright, it wasn’t God, it was musicOMH).
For a man with just one well-known album to his credit, there’s nuff appreciation around London’s premier jazzological venue. The throng greet the Amp man as if he were a conquering space missionary, returned to preach the gospel of the groove. They’re all ready to beam up, but as for me, I’m a reviewer, Jim, not a disciple. But for the duration hour and half show, I’m prepared to believe.
As Amp has just the repertoire of his “universally-acclaimed” album Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly to work from, there’s a fair amount of fleshing-out and extending the concise numbers on that set. For example, the Intro from that album, slinky and persuasive, kicks off the performance, and is unfurled slowly, its insistent rhythm working out the acoustics of the room. But as this is dance music, there’s no need to anxiously and regularly examine the Rolex (ahem!), wondering if you’re going to miss the last train. You just gotta move. As the man sez, it’s the rhythm.
With a playing history that has seen Amp in demand from major players from Jamiroquai to Prince, he might be forgiven to be resting on the laurels of the past, but there’s an electronic bite to his funk that is wholly contemporary. Which doesn’t detract from the fact that Amp’s bobble-hat is slanted just so Sly circa ’70.
The funk is a few BPM’s up from the sunshine soul of the record, and is rewarded by an appreciative dancefloor. The likes of Superficial and Dreamin’ benefit from the increase of pace, and definitely get over-the-hump. You Play Me is dedicated to “all those who play our records”, and if that’s true, then he’s talking to the converted.
The subject matter of Amp’s wordage may be all what-goes-on-between-a-man-and-a-woman, but, hey, ain’t that just enough sometimes? The one song that deviates from the woman-trouble thang, Love & War, is interspersed with the late Edwin Starr‘s War where Amp himself invites the audience to answer the familiar call of “What is it good for?” All right. Perhaps “Well, there’s the profits of the arms industry for a start, then there’s the income of private security forces. And that old favourite, the securing, by force, of natural resources” was out of meter. And I should’ve stuck with “absolutely nuthin” like everyone else to avoid the funny looks. Still, you live and learn.
Like the album though, the live show is enlivened by the record’s hidden track, a tense, off-kilter Stevie-at-his-best affair that I fink is called This Is How I Feel. If there’s more to come from Fiddler in the future, then more of this would be most welcome. The band work-out Funkadelic‘s Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On as their finale. But they weren’t just on the verge tonight, they really took it to the stage.