Omar + QCBA – Live At Last: Album Review

Live At Last documents a stunning soul and jazz collaboration between Omar and QCBA, recorded live at the Jazz Cafe.

Release date: Available now

Label: Ubuntu Music

Format: CD/Digital/Vinyl

Omar is one of our most respected soul artists. A recognised musical pioneer, as a singer, songwriter and musician. His debut album, There’s Nothing Like This, was a key album within the early releases by the iconic acid jazz label Talkin’ Loud. 

On this wonderful live record, Omar is joined by QCBA, a stunning jazz quartet co-led by trumpeter Quentin Collins and saxophone and flute player Brandon Allen, and including Ross Stanley on the Hammond organ and James Maddren on drums.

The recording was made at the Jazz Cafe in London, on 29th May 2021. For most of the musicians, it was the first they had performed in front of a live audience in over 15 months. It resulted in this uplifting and inspiring live record, released by the progressive and forward-thinking jazz music label Ubuntu Music.

Essensual, from Omar’s Best By Far album, opens the concert. Musically it has an absolutely irresistible groove, with the band joyously inhabiting the musical territory of Booker T. & the M.G.’s. Ross Stanley’s inventive Hammond organ solo swings with the groove, with the notes quite deliciously hanging in the air. Omar’s vocal elegantly rises and swoops, perfectly matching the trajectory of the music, culminating in a falsetto that is completely thrilling. 

Syleste, also from the Best By Far album, allows full rein to Omar’s voice, and the solo playing of Quentin Collins and Brandon Allen. Omar’s voice completely inhabits the music, with a touching expressiveness, through both the sublime jazz style wordless vocalising, and the projection of the lyrics, which speak of a relationship coming to an end.  Quentin and Brandon trade some strikingly lyrical phrases on trumpet and saxophone, that rise in competitive intensity, while also seeming to remain in complete harmony. 

There’s Nothing Like This, was the hit single from Omar’s debut album, and the performance here is a real highlight of this live set. Omar’s empathic songwriting has produced in this song a hymn to the all-encompassing power of love. He sings it with such an emotional commitment, that you literally feel the warm enveloping sound of his voice, that the audience must have experienced. The audience of course sing the chorus back to Omar, and the pace and swing of James Maddren’s drumming really drives and underpins the soloing in the instrumental section.

Feeling You from the Sing (If You Want It) album, written and recorded by Omar with Stevie Wonder, brings the show to a close, before the encore of Stop War, Make Love. It is an absolute live classic, which effortlessly combines soul and funk with bebop jazz, with rapid solo runs, full of melody and harmony, from Quentin Collins and Brandon Allen. James Maddren’s precision drumming and Ross Stanley’s swirling Hammond organ drive an infectious syncopated rhythm, with Omar’s commanding vocal sympathetically melding all the musical elements together. It is a master class in a live vocal both leading and orchestrating, while also being carried airborne by the bands playing. Watch out also for some nice synthesizer counterpoints from Omar during the song.

The encore of  Stop War, Make Love, brings the performance to a close with some frenetic deep funk. This then is an album full of enchanting vocal and musical moments. A celebration of an electrifying partnership, that completely sweeps you up in the joy of experiencing great live music, played with skill, heart and commitment. This outstanding album will without doubt figure in this reviewer’s albums of the year.

You can view Feeling You performed by Omar and QCBA here:

For more information about Omar and QCBA: Omar Website / Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram

QCBA Facebook

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