The Theatre at the Ace Hotel and its ninety year history of cultural igniters host a very special event by We Transfer, a company that specializes in connecting fellow creatives around the world. The evening is hosted by birthday boy, DJ, and producer Gilles Peterson of the infamous BBC Radio 1. As host, Peterson has assembled an eclectic mix of artists to pay tribute to and celebrate the incredible creative energy within the Los Angeles music scene.
Toronto quartet BADBADNOTGOOD opens the evening with a lovely, light instrumental cover of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why.” Leland Whitty’s saxophone is smooth and the audience is pleasantly surprised, many tapping their friend on the shoulder saying “I know this song, who’s it by?” They crack smiles when they remember the 2002 hit.
All four members of the band are dressed in typical street wear. Hawaiian and screen printed shirts (one reading “Picasso Bulls”), denim, and Vans. Keyboardist Matthew Tavares covers his face bashfully in a low riding hat.
The boys soon pick up the pace with “Confessions” off their 2014 album “BBNG III.” They are an assorted bunch, playing off each other happily, cheering their own bandmates when each member commands the stage with their own solo, on keys, drums, sax, or bass.
In between songs, drummer Alexander Sowinski continually thanks Gilles Peterson for believing in the band and sharing their music across the pond over the past few years, it’s a brief and sentimental moment. He follows “I’m honored to share the stage with these guys in such an incredible venue. I’ll remember it forever.”
Soon, they engage the entire audience and have them clapping a simple but quick beat that they perform over while covering Flying Lotus who they praise wildly beforehand. Their forty-five minute set flies as the boys play to the crowd, following hectic upbeat songs with smooth soulful riffs always building into beautiful crescendos. They treat the crowd to “Speaking Gently” and “Cashmere” both from their new 2016 album “IV”, ending with a downtempo saxophone solo by Whitty that builds until the band erupts in happiness and most of the crowd stands from their red velvet seats, applauding the high energy performance.
There is a brief pause as Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and his 11-piece orchestra set up on stage. In the meantime, Gilles Peterson further elaborates on his plans to continue bringing shows like this to Los Angeles.
When the orchestra starts, they are joined by the wild DJ Gaslamp Killer who spins vinyl, adjusts knobs, and throws his body ferociously about with his shoulder length, frizzy hair bopping left and right. He’s wearing a leopard print robe, if you can imagine that, you’ll understand why he stole the stage as its most captivating spectacle.
Soon the crowds’ attention goes to Atwood-Ferguson as The Gaslamp Killer leaves the stage. As the jam band of jazz, funk, soul, Atwood-Ferguson and his crew take multiple solos of their respective instruments, each song becomes trance like, ending only when each musician has voiced themselves through the performance.
Then the first surprise guest, Bilal comes out and is accompanied by Atwood-Ferguson’s orchestra. He sings a soulful RnB song and, as he puts his mic down to leave the stage, Atwood-Ferguson says, “You might not want to put that down.” George Clinton and six other singers come out and sing “Hollywood”. With their arrival, the entire crowd stands for the first time. They dance and sway and sing along to the chorus they’ve just learned.
Gradually, Clinton and his singers leave the stage after a planned, but over-saturated performance, highlighting fun over quality. They are soon replaced by Nai Palm who continues the evening with more soul, wearing one of the outfits of the evening, black sequined pants, a red sequined top, and an army jacket with a faux animal tail attached to it. Her hair is shaved on the sides with a long pony-tail decorating her back.
The highlight of the evening comes before the second intermission when the second surprise guest of the evening, famous saxophonist Kamasi Washington comes out larger than life and delivers the performance of his life with an extended version of his 2015 “Askim”. The song builds and builds into beautiful chaos and the ostinato repeats over and over until Washington doesn’t have the breath in him. He stops and wipes his mouth.
There is a second intermission before the second set with Atwood-Ferguson, Nai Palm, George Clinton and company, Bilal, and the Sa-Ra Creative Partners. Gilles Peterson closes the evening with a two hour set. It was an eclectic, wild, and winsome evening.