It was the first time at the Café du Nord for composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, bandleader and DJ Emma-Jean Thackray when she brought her quartet there on August 3. The Leeds-born prodigy, renowned producer of electronic music who has collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra, has filled the house with decorators, writers, curious couples at parties, and even more musicians and DJs. Their multifaceted presence proves that Thackray’s music has been touring The Bay for quite some time.
The 85-minute show, throughout which Thackray guided his band mostly through their critically acclaimed 2021 album Yellow, had its phasers focused on casual settings. Dance floors, basements, warehouses, pop-up jam/rehearsal places were mentioned. Planet Lovetron? Man-bun City America? A nasty bun crisis was in full swing.
“Don’t Say Jazz”, my friend TJ Gordon, creator of the excellent BeatCaffieneblog advised me after the show.
The performance covered all the climes that Thackray likes to turn his “Where’s Waldo” glasses to, with a mostly cheerful ensemble featuring top notch musicians who flew. They extend the rhythms, improvise when necessary, and feed on the luminous intensity of Thackary.
This magnetism comes from the fact that she is a jazz musician, a jazz orchestra composer who produces rhythms, thrives on spontaneity and is “groovy as fuck”. Yellow, his debut album, allowed the cheerful, eccentric and effervescent chi of Thackray to dig new listening corners. She’s badass on the trumpet too.
On this particular Wednesday night, however, two days before one of San Francisco’s biggest music festivals takes place across the bay and all along Golden Gate Park, serious music bosses, aficionados who want to see the first performance of an artist in their city, fell deeply under his gaze. Holding the fort as a “dealer of moods”, Thackray launched tracks in the ecstatic 4/4 hump of house music. She made very cute and oh-so-hippy-dippy ramblings, “earth mama” between songs, and twisted vast moods from the expansive ’70s fusion of “Sun” into the pocket “Green Funk”, the all without interfering with the privacy of the bedroom.
The bassist’s over-solo grazed camp at certain points, and the moment-long canoodling cut off the oxygen in the room for a second. As a conductor, EJT must master it a little. But the keyboard player realized that a little is a lot, and the drummer punched and kicked under the supervision of his point guard. Thackray will soon be back, forever dominating this new mash-up of alternative space social music.
Stream Emma-Jean Thackray here.