Chris Minh Doky, Danish bassist and composer, took two packed houses at Ronnie Scott’s on Friday on a musical world cruise via Copenhagen, Tokyo and New York, stopping off at Groove Town and Funk City, with the ultimate destination for this group of wandering Nomads: the Republic of Fusion. What a journey. I’m glad I had a first-class ticket.
Now a ‘veteran’ of the New York and global fusion and jazz scene - though still only in his forties - Minh is a showman, staggeringly cool in his black shirt, black hair and black electric bass, his easy charm and repartee with a late-night - and, frankly, slightly drunk Ronnie Scott’s audience in parts - and 80 minutes of low-end-fuelled jazz high-jinks was faultless and such a great way to kick off any weekend.
Joining him on his nomadic wanderings were keyboardist George Whitty, guitarist and one-man shredding machine Dean Brown and master of the skins and cymbals, drummer Dave Weckl who, judging by the rapturous applause every fill and solo received, had again attacted a large percentage of London’s drumming community to pay homage at his drum kit.
This gig was high-octane, funkified, fat-free and cutting-edge jazz with a fusion twist and low-end grunt. It showcased what bass players can do to an audience when they step out from standing by their rig and go centre-stage and give it the old low-end one-two. Damn, Minh Doky is a good bassist! But he’s also a great composer, able to travel with ease from ballads like Home Sweet Home, about his native Denmark, to the straight up, James Brown-esque set closer Break Song.
What I think puts Doky up there in the ranks of ‘world’s great bassists’ is his sound; particularly the combination of low-end boom and sweet, sweet treble sound from his Yamaha electric upright bass, played through his Mark Bass amp. He’s one of those artists who, from the first plucks of the bass on a track like September, tells you instantly you’re in for some magic. His is a bass sound that should be given on prescription, such is its power to both soothe and excite the soul.
His band provided the colour and bombast that you look for to flesh out a bass-led set - plenty of Moog-ish sounds and bends from Whitty’s keyboards; tense, jaw-droppingly complex drum solos from Weckl; and guitar playing of such speed and dexterity from Brown that one was surprised his strings lasted out the night. Tight as the proverbial drum, the four musicians together were pitch-perfect and, something which can often escape some jazz musicians, consummate entertainers who gave their all in the interests of ensuring the audience a good evening.
The set list for the show reflected tracks from across the Doky catalogue, from his friendship with the late Michael Brecker - tribute paid on set opener Spherical to his more nuanced, hybrid sounds from tracks like September. The unambitiously-named Rain evoked a rainy night on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo and showcased Doky’s manual dexterity on the finger board, not one inch of which didn’t receive some attention during his soloing on this and other tracks. Penultimate track I Told You So was a crowd pleaser with lineage to his playing with New-York scene pals Mike Stern and Randy Brecker, with an truly IMMENSE bass solo from Doky which I can still hear now, sitting at this keyboard. The thrill one gets from the sound of his string pull-offs creating pyrotechnics on the fingerboard is what makes his gigs such powerfully joyful and enervating musical events.
This was a fun gig, with a capital funk. A tight band, beautifully expressive playing from the band leader, great tunes, a pumped up Ronnie’s crowd a-whooping and a-hollering, it was a real treat for all concerned. [All, except, the table of pissed copier salesman near your reviewer who laughed so much they clearly thought they’d stumbled into a comedy club and were just waiting for the musical turn to finish. Jerks!]
One of my gigs of the year. To experience even a tenth of the fun this show represented, do check out Doky’s most recent release, the live album The Board Tapes