Raphael Saadiq, Jazz Cafe, London

Jazz Cafe, London

"I call it take-home music," smiles self-proclaimed "soul brother number one" Raphael Saadiq. "You can take it home to the moms, dads, cats, dogs, roaches and rats." A fine description maybe, but one that doesn't entirely explicate the pert, insouciant soul that Saadiq has scored on second solo album As Ray Ray.

As songwriter and producer for acts including Kelis and the Roots, the singer has consistently pushed the R&B envelope since forming seminal band Tony! Toni! Toné!, in 1988. The three split in 1993, but as a solo singer Saadiq still sparkles.

Five-times Grammy nominated Instant Vintage, from 2002, was just that - a beautifully orchestrated gospeldelic set that cut through the vocoders and drum programmes populating R&B at the time. And his latest album is as pertinent as its predecessor. A gifted musician with a striking vocal, Saadiq and his eight-piece band sail through the whisky-soaked pimp strut of title track Ray Ray, while the politically charged Grown Folks proves he's also a man with a message.

Always erring on the side of eccentric, tonight Saadiq dispenses with the Clockwork Orange-esqe make-up that adorned his Vintage incarnation and instead slides about in a sharp navy suit, trousers tucked tightly into argyle socks. Saadiq is so slick he even switches to pinstripes for the encore.

Despite a set leaning a little too heavily on newer material and a tendency to rush through the back catalogue, Saadiq, moving ever further from same-old soul singer stereotype, more than makes good on his selfsummation of "number one".


Hattie Collins

The GuardianTramp

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