“It Is Never The Same Twice” - The new live album by Djabe featuring Gulli Briem and Steve Hackett reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

An interesting title this. I often said exactly the same thing to friends of mine who asked why I go to so many gigs on a tour. The answer? It is never the same twice! This is certainly the case with a Djabe gig!

Djabe, as most of you should know by now, are Hungary’s leading exponents of modern Jazz. Now, that might immediately turn a lot of you off the music straight away, and I admit, Jazz in any of its incarnations usually leaves me cold. Too much woolgathering and cleverness for cleverness’ sake for my liking. Djabe, thankfully do things a bit differently.

Take the opening cut on this album for example. Lava Lamp, is a drawn out free form jam as you would expect, but one packed with references to folk and rock music as well. In fact, I couldn’t help but hear what I recognised as a snatch of Jethro Tull’s Roots To Branches album in there too. Whether this was subconscious or deliberate I don’t know but it certainly piqued my interest.

Steve’s presence too was always going to guarantee my interest and the first track he appears on is a bona fide classic given a new treatment. The Steppes, introduced saxophone instead of flute took things immediately in a different direction whilst retaining the atmospheric desolation of the original.

Pain Forest is a samba driven shuffle replete with the same kind of percussion that inhabited Steve’s ill-fated Till We Have Faces album but accompanied by a superb guitar solo from Attila Egerhazi leading nicely into In That Quiet Earth where once again, Mr Hackett takes the reins for the by now, customary jazzed up version of this classic.

Other highlights for me include Awakening City which is a superbly evocative and, for jazz at least, surprisingly mellow track full of shimmering chords and some superb playing. I can’t help thinking that this should be a song though, but this will suffice for now.

For me, the highlights of this set though are Last Train To Istanbul, a firm favourite from the first time I heard the Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth album and here it bristles with all the exotic energy of the city it is so vividly describing. Another surprise inclusion though is Please Don’t Touch, and what a stunningly vibrant and sassy version it is, following on from an equally impressive Fly On A Windshield. I love this treatment of this classic slice of Hackett and can see no reason why Steve’s existing band cannot perform it equally as well. - hint, hint, Steve!

The rest of the album is a healthy mix of Djabe’s own inimitable material concluding with a suitably fiery rendering of Los Endos.

A thoroughly impressive and enjoyable document of what sounds like a blast for everyone on stage and in the audience - more please!

Click to enlarge

Djabe with Steve Hackett & Gulli Briem : It Is Never The Same Twice. Gramy Records GR193.