Friday 18th January 2019. The Live Room, Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire hosted the Sugaray Rayford Band on their first UK tour.
Sugaray had a stunning 6-piece band with him comprising Lavell Jones, drums, Alastair Greene, guitar, Drake Shining, keys, Allen Markel, bass, Giles Straw, trumpet and Aaron Liddard on sax. It was snowing lightly outside but inside, as requested by Sugaray, the floor was mainly cleared for dancing and much dancing there was. The audience coming from far and wide (even Lancashire!) to see the man on his first UK tour and I think, judging from the crowd reactions, that most thought it long overdue but well worth the wait.
What they had waited for was a night of very infectious soul, rhythm and blues, blues, rock, jazz, a touch of reggae and even a small sprinkling of country from a very tight band led by a 6 foot 5inch front man with a huge voice and even bigger personality who made serious use of the space available for his own pretty slick moves. He took some time at the start to chat to and acquaint himself with his audience before launching into “Big Legs, Short Skirt”. The show included many of his own songs and some inspired covers such as Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign”.
The band were extremely tight, often improvising with extended solos, always accentuating and punctuating Sugaray’s powerful vocals. At one point, Aaron left the stage and circulated through the dance floor playing an unamplified sax solo. Spontaneous almost scat type jazz singing from the audience and a light backing from those on stage amply illustrated just what makes live music so great. You don’t get this vibe from your CDs or radio or whatever means you use to listen to recorded music. Throughout the show and especially the end of set 1, all the musicians showed just what they could do on their solo instruments, pretty impressive but not a surprise when you consider their musical pedigrees.
Sugaray stated a simple ethos of we only get one shot at life, make the absolute most of it, saying ” Music was never meant to be serious”, “It’s not a concert, it’s a party”. It certainly was and one that tonight’s party goers would have liked to go on all night long. Set 2 opened with a sing along of the Louis Armstrong classic “What A Wonderful World”. After a night of great mainly R&B they left the stage with “If I Live To Love Again”.
There was a superb, if somewhat unexpected encore of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” with Drake on lead vocals I have to say that took me by surprise. Yet another act that it’s safe to say will be very welcome back next time they tour. Even at this early part of the year this will definitely be a contender for gig of the year.
Review and photos by Keith Belcher