Olodum rocks SFJazz's opening night

SFJazz kicked off their 28th season last night with the Afro-Brazilian band Olodum in a what can only be called an ass-shaking barn-burner of a show. Hailing from Bahia, the band has been around for 30 years and drew a sold-out crowd eager and ready to party Carnivale-style that had something like a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men. Brazilian women, gentlemen- you should have been there. The audience sat through the first number and then danced through the entire 2 hour set.

Photo stolen from Carl, who was seated front and center.

Olodum features six percussionists, two vocalists, a keyboard player, guitar and bass. The songs are a propulsive mix of samba and reggae, for the most part sung in Portuguese by Lucas Di Fiori and Nadjane Souza. Fiori has an engaging, eager to please stage persona that is somewhat at odds with the rest of the band (he's the only white member) but somehow he manages to pull it off, though he reminds me of middle-eastern singers more than someone leading a Carnivale party. Souza is a gorgeous woman with a fantastic voice who commanded the stage like Beyonce during her turns on the mike. Both doubled as percussionists when they weren't singing.

With six people playing drums onstage, there must be a groove and indeed there was. This is really the heart of the band and I had to split my attention between what was going on in front of the stage and watching the intricacies of what six drummers were playing. Sometimes doubling one another, but often not, the band created a base that would begin in one solid rhythm and then slowly melt into something entirely different in subtle shifts of tempo and beat. It was fascinating to watch. Honestly though, what was more fascinating to watch was all the women who ended up in dancing in the front row. At one point Di Fiori brought the one in white onstage and good grief, could this woman move. After her, the band just started pulling all of them up until there must have been 50 women onstage with them, dancing with abandon. It was a fantastic thing to behold, while the rest of the audience sang along with band.

Olodum kept going and going and it was only the house rules that shut this party down at 10:00. There must have been an after-party somewhere which was probably insane. It was a helluva a show and a great opener for what promises to be a truly adventurous season for SFJazz.