As I walked into the dim blue lights of Bird’s Basement, I felt like I was suddenly transported into an upscale jazz corner of New York. The small venue is tucked away in Singers Lane (near Flagstaff Station), right underneath The Jazz Corner Hotel. An array of long tables draped in blue cloth surround a modest-sized stage that has a history of high-quality performances. A few minutes after I arrived, Yolanda Brown, Double MOBO Award-winning Saxophonist, stepped on stage.
Yolanda greeted us like family, and suddenly, a room that felt slightly intimidating warmed up. After asking us to introduce ourselves to the people in our neighbouring tables (no shyness allowed), she invited us to dance, sing, and cheer — to become a part of the music. And then she played away.
Yolanda’s music is unique. Slightly reminiscent of Kenny G’s sweet melodies, Yolanda takes the sax to a whole new level, mixing reggae with jazz and soul to create an invigorating performance. She has even coined the term ‘Posh Reggae’ to describe her genre; defining it as music that ‘everybody can be a part of’ for it touches on multiple cultural origins and tastes.
Her own Jamaican origins and UK life experiences talk through her notes, acoustically giving birth to melodies that speak to the heart. After her first few songs, I could perfectly understand why she is regarded as the Premier Female Saxophonist in the UK. She captivated us and had us soon singing along (and honestly asking ourselves) ‘is this love that I’m feeling?’
Yolanda irradiates heartfelt passion and pristine love for her craft. She took us on a journey that strove to describe romantic, thankful, and communal love through music. The message was clear: love can sometimes be difficult, but it’s worthwhile nevertheless (a suiting metaphor for her cunning skill).
The performance lasted a little more than an hour, ending with a posh-reggae cover of the Beatles’ classic ‘Hey Jude’. The encounter felt too short to be honest, but I guess great things come in small packages in life.
Lourdes Zamanillo is a Melbourne-infatuated journalist. Originally from Mexico, she loves words, travelling, and (above all) feeling surprised.