Heads South plays superb Latin Jazz combining Cuban and other Latin rhythms with distinctive melodies in an exhilarating repertoire of original and classic tunes. The Band is led by John Harriman piano/organ and features top UK trumpeter Steve Waterman, Venezuelan bassist Adolfredo Pulido, Cuban percussionist Chino Martell Morgan on congas, bongos, cajon, guiro and Buster Birch on drums, timbale, castanets, frame drum.https://www.johnharriman.com/heads-south
The quote at the top of the page is taken from the Heads South website and clearly states what they play and who plays it: but is it an accurate description? In terms of the band members and what they play it is spot on. As for musical content I would say spot on again.
I had not heard this band or their music before I attended this gig but I do like Afro-Cuban jazz so I was very interested in how they would sound. The two sets featured tunes from their two CD releases Record Flight and On The Way. The first set opened with a John Harriman composition El Cardenal and to me it sounded like a classic Afro-Cuban jazz number: a good start. The second number was The Preacher written by Horace Silver delivered in a Cha Cha Cha style with a very distinct nod to the tune Show Me the way to go Home: great fun.
Milonga del Angel, written by Astor Piazzolla, was introduced as a walking tango and was the first opportunity to hear trumpeter Steve Waterman stretch out: boy can this man play good trumpet. Unfortunately I did not catch the title of the next two tracks but the first of the two had a samba rhythm and included a wonderful percussion/drum duet. Percussion was again to the fore on the fifth tune, which was taken at a slower tempo and had Chino Martell Morgan playing a Darbouka. There was also some very nice lyrical trumpet playing from Steve Waterman.
The first set came to an end with another John Harriman number, La Plaza, which John explained tried to capture the atmosphere of a Spanish village square. I believe that the lively atmosphere of a village square in Spain was captured and was a fitting end to a very enjoyable first set.
The second set opened with a Steve Waterman number entitled B.B: straight back in to that Afro-Cuban groove that had gripped the audience during the first set. Next was a son clave (Son clave is one of many widely-used beats consisting of five hits per sixteen-step cycle one measure 4/4 time counted in sixteenth notes, or two measures counted in eighth notes.) setting of Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife: highly enjoyable.
The next tune took us to Mexico and had the electric bass of Adolfredo Pulido take the lead with the accompaniment of John Harriman on Piano. The bass playing was terrific throughout the number. This was a really strong tune with stunning playing from the band as a whole and a very nice flourish on the trumpet to bring the number to an end.
Make that Space, written by John Harriman, from the band’s second album On the Way was, for me, the standout tune of the evening. The electric bass gives a rawer, “dirtier” sound to the music than an upright and on this number that was a definite plus. The playing was bright and lively throughout with the piano just punching through the trumpet playing of Steve Waterman. However, this tune was always about the rhythm set up by Buster Birch on drums – who played a very good drum solo – and percussionist Chino Martell Morgan.
Songo for Mia brought the second set to an end – though there was an encore but I was so enjoying the music that I stopped taking notes – and a very fitting end it was too with all those playing having one last opportunity to highlight their musical skills.
The audience at Southampton Jazz Club had no hesitation in getting to their feet at the end of this terrific evening of Afro-Cuban jazz. I should not be in the least surprised if John Harriman is invited to bring his band Heads South back to the club at some time in the future and I, for one, will gladly pay to take my seat at any future bookings for this very good band of talented musicians.