Alma Naidu at Orania Restaurant, Berlin (XJAZZ Festival) – London Jazz News

Alma Naidu, Phillip Schiepek, Lisa Wulff and Valentin Renner

(Orania Restaurant, XJAZZ Festival, May 7, 2022. Live review by Izzy Blankfield)

From left to right: Alma Naidu, Phillip Schiepek, Lisa Wulff and Valentin Renner

The Berlin district of Kreuzberg hosted the XJAZZ! festival from May 4 to 8, with more than 80 concerts over 5 days. On Saturday evening, the Munich singer and pianist Alma Naidu played in the rooftop lounge of the Orania restaurant, joined by Lisa Wulff on bass, Philippe Schiepek on guitar and Valentine Renner to the battery.

It was a set with natural chemistry. From the opening number “Silence Plays Your Song,” Naidu’s ethereal vocals blended into the laid-back rhythm section base, as the band invited the audience into their intimate musical space.

The set gained energy as Renner’s deft drumming introduction launched the set into the fluid, upbeat “Hold On to Me.” Naidu’s soaring vocals were delicately complemented by Wulff’s backing vocals, whose subtle yet emotive bass solo in the same track was a real treat to watch.

The third number “Heart Pace” saw Naidu away from the piano, playing more freely in the flow of the music. The playful dialogue between guitar and voice gave space to Naidu’s impressive range and Schiepek’s creative and cool improvisations.

The centerpiece of the set, the folk song ‘Walberla’, sounded almost like an incantation, as vocals, guitar and bass snaked around each other in fascinating conversation. Here, Naidu floated between soulful lyrics and wordless vocals as she transported the audience to the Bavarian mountains that inspired the composition.

This thoughtful set was a low-key contrast to other high-intensity performances taking place in the neighborhood, including Berlin-based band Afro-Soul. Jembaa Groove and the large ensemble led by the German producer Leona Berlin.

Against the backdrop of Kreuzberg at dusk, Naidu communicated with the audience – seated on rows of sofas and even invited to sing later in the performance – with warmth and authenticity. The singer encapsulated the atmosphere in the calmly lit space in the word Wohnzimmergefühl: one of those great German expressions that describe the comfortable feeling of being in your own living room.

Naidu’s smiling and effortless presence on stage made the truly emotional moments of her performance all the more special. One of the highlights of the evening was a solo cover of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”, a rendition imbued with melancholy and Naidu’s signature tenderness.

Throughout the set, the warm camaraderie between the band allowed Naidu’s personality to shine through. Naidu’s songs were interesting and exciting – harmonically, lyrically, formally – but somehow also familiar. Blending sentimental lyrics with thoughtful harmonies, Naidu had a rare ability to connect with her audience based on something very personal within herself.

Alma Naidu, Alma Naidu’s debut album, has been released

CONNECTIONS: Alma Naidu’s website

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