Daymé Arocena showcases soulful talents at The Forge



At just 22 years of age, Cuban singer Daymé Arocena is proving to be one of Gilles Peterson’s most precocious finds. Her debut album Nueva Era, comprising of some soulful and percussive latin jazz cuts, dropped earlier this year on Brownswood Recordings, with each track bagging her a composer credit, and though there’s still room for her to improve in that area, the album oozes with potential. Her live show only reinforces the promise, emphasising her already accomplished talents.

Having reportedly brought the house down at Peterson’s and Patrick Forge’s jazz dance session at Dingwalls earlier in the week, Arocena and her band took to another Camden stage ripe and ready with confidence, launching with a firmly grooving rendition of her album’s opener ‘Madres’. Initially the obvious pull of the show was the sultry yet powerful tones of her voice, but attention quickly turned to Robert Mitchell, providing fireworks from the piano. Given room to breathe, unafraid to venture to the outer realms with his solos, he showed the audience just why he’s regarded as one of the most imaginative pianists on the London circuit.

Arocena’s passion and enthusiasm coursed through her performance, though there were perhaps too many slow and reflective numbers for a Friday night (Daymé has surely experienced too many tarnished relationships for someone of her age). Her impersonations of a wah-wah effect during a vocal solo also met with some rather confused and uncomfortable expressions, while Nueva Era’s most radio-friendly track ‘Don’t Unplug My Body’, though an accessible piece of vocal-jazz with some sweet changes in the verse, offered a cloying chorus.

Yet there was still plenty here to mark out a clearly still blossoming talent. Those seeking new sounds in latin jazz would be wise keep tabs on this one.

Jake Williams 

– Photo by Casey Moore