Nell's Jazz and Blues presents
Friday 9th November
Tickets £20 | Doors 19:30
UK musicians have a reputation for innovation. From the rock and pop bands of the 1960s to the producers of drum n’ bass, dubstep and grime, British music makers have a long history of taking largely black, American music and not just reproducing it, but radically changing it to fit their own experience. After more than a quarter of a century making music and touring the world, much loved UK band The Herbaliser are a longstanding part of this tradition.
Formed in London during the early 1990s, the band’s core members Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba were inspired by soul, funk and in particular the then current hip hop emerging from America. Unfortunately, at that
time, they didn’t know any rappers. They made up for this missing elementby adopting an extra ingredient to fill the absence; a widescreen cinematic feel born of vivid imagination. The spy thrillers, westerns and detective shows of the duo’s 1970s youth would be plundered for inspiration and translated to vinyl by what would soon become their trademark, an explosive and extensive live band. But this template was set long before the convening of that large ensemble. The Herbaliser were signed to Ninja Tune in the mid 90s, releasing their first EPs and the album ‘Remedies’, which collated them, in 1995. Ninja Tune, alongside compatriot label Mo Wax, would soon come to define a new British musical response to the American hip hop of the day. With an extremely keen eye on the visual design aspects of their releases, these labels explored an often chilled and downbeat style of instrumental hip hop (dubbed trip hop, by some) which proved to be of widespread appeal. With their distinct sounds and visual identities the labels quickly garnered huge audiences worldwide and as one of Ninja Tune’s leading lights The Herbaliser would soon become one of the movement’s most visible artists. By the time they came to record their second album, ‘Blow Your Headphones’ (1997), The Herbaliser had decided to approach things differently. Rather than a collection of disparate studio recordings, this would be an album proper and the group would be supplemented by extraordinary musicians, founding the basis for what would soon become their famous live band. And for the first time they enlisted the services of a long desired hip hop MC. What What (latterly known as Jean Grae) would go on to appear on several albums by The Herbaliser and with their success extending with each album release, the band would extend the microphone to further guest vocalists such as Blade, Bahamadia, Roots Manuva, Seaming To, MF Doom and Phi-Life Cypher. Some of these would prove to be only studio based collaborations, but with others they were added to a live band format of The Herbaliser which made an instant impact on the club and festival circuit.
Our first gig as The Herbaliser was at a pub in Brixton (the place just went bananas) and our third was at the Phoenix festival, remembers Jake Wherry. It was June 1996 says Ollie Teeba of their debut.
The next year we were doing the Jazz stage at Glastonbury. It sped along quite quickly as people’s awareness of Ninja Tune gained momentum and we gained a good reputation.
The Herbaliser attained their status as festival favourites quite quickly, with the weighty, hip hop drums which were such a highlight of their recordings added to by a live drummer, keys, guitar, bass and a punchy horn section that would become known as the Easy Access Orchestra.