The Brothers Ignatius at Clare Jazz

JONNY CARTER: Nuance and groove? Must be the first-wave ska of The Brothers Ignatius at Clare Jazz.

brothers ignatius Clare Jazz jazz review monks review

[rating: 4/5]

Clare Jazz featuring The Brothers Ignatius

Sunday 30th Jan


The Brothers Ignatius: a multifaceted octet of ska/jazz musicians who have played alongside giants of the industry, from rocksteady godfather Alton Ellis to Jay-Z. Who knew quite what to expect? The only thing I had heard was that they were ‘catchy’…

Catchy. Used flippantly by many reviewers of music, such a throwaway compliment is often used  to fill space when the writer is unsure of the merits of a piece but feels more people should be listening. In the case of Bim! by The Brothers Ignatius though, I feel perfectly justified in its usage. The damn song has made me lose track of lectures all day. And even when I haven’t been struggling through a sea of imaginary horns and off-beat guitar, I have felt compelled to play the song to friends despite protestations that they were writing dissertations, recovering from a heavy night’s drinking or simply hated ska.


The truth is the “ska” derivative many of us grew up listening to at school is so far removed from the first-wave the The Brothers Ignatius play that we’re unfamiliar with its nuance and groove. It may just be a question of personal taste, but many of the third-wave ska-punk bands of the late ’90s and early ’00s seemed to destroy the delicate guitar and meandering horn lines in favour of all out speed. As much as I love the later Bob Marley recordings, it seems a shame that for everyone who likes Prince Buster there must be hundreds that dote upon Three Little Birds without having heard where it has come from.

The band made an impression from the start, entering from the bar dressed as Franciscan monks in brown habits. From the very first chord we knew that they had come prepared to exceed expectations. The horn section (Neil Waters, Pete Grogan, Ben Somers and Bob Dowell) played warm, stripped down melodies chaotically propelled by an excellent rhythm section. Charlie Price’s hi-hat in particular stood out, giving the pieces a dreamy jazz feel. Johnny Brierley and Louis Thorne on bass and guitar  kept the groove going, maintaining the audience in some top-notch skanking and engaging the horns in some playful call and response sequences. My favourite performance though, was by Dave Oliver on Keys. I was reminded strongly of Rubén González’ work with Buena Vista Social Club, with Oliver flitting lazily around the notes and montuno sections.

As much as I enjoyed the band, the performance wasn’t quite perfect. During the (few) slower rocksteady songs the crowd seemed a little restless, keen to get back to the quicker numbers, but once they had all was forgiven. It wasn’t that they weren’t great tunes- they were- but once they had aroused our excitement with the upbeat tunes it seemed as though the band were teasing us, even with a beautiful rendition of The Skatalites’ Dynamite.