Belgian organist André Brasseur should be mentioned in the same hushed reverential tones as Giorgio Moroder or Jean Jacques Perrey, but alas such cult status evaded him. Maybe because he invested the proceeds from his 1965 hit ‘Early Bird’ (which sold a staggering six million copies) into two (not one but two!) dance clubs in the South of Belgium, then disappeared from the scene somewhat.
His instrumental tune ‘The Kid’ was a Northern Soul staple, and Noel Edmonds even used one of his tunes as his Radio 1 theme tune in the 70s. Brasseur’s sound now lives somewhere in that murky world of exotica, soundtrack, kitsch and shit-cool, now that the kids have realised that their folks weren’t all dumb, when it came to (ch)easy listening.
In the Reflektor Club, for once I’m one of the youngest there, and despite it not being a seated gig, large chunks of the crowd have dragged chairs in from the bar, or maybe they always carry one. I’m not sure what to expect, but the onstage gear looks reassuringly pucker, and the feeling is compounded when a bunch of young sharp-dressed cats who could be Tarantino’s house band stroll on.
Brasseur himself, now in his late 70s, bounds on just after them, smiling and waving, equally dapper. He now looks a little like Ronnie Corbett or Mr Grimsdale (Norman Wisdom’s long-suffering boss) but his energy and enthusiasm are instantly infectious. Seating himself at the formidable and seasoned Hammond organ, we are instantly catapulted into a 70s organ-fest, which at times wanders into Blackpool Tower tea-dance territory, but the sheer excellence of musicianship keeps the crowd engaged.
As the gig progresses, the tunes get deeper, darker, and funkier and though it’s André’s show, he devotes huge chunks to the individual musicians to shine. At one point the trumpeter steps centre-stage and free-forms into an echo-drenched wig-out of Miles/Coltrane coolness that stretches belief. Similar workouts from the bass, sax, guitar and drums hypnotise the audience, with Brasseur pinning it all together and then letting rip on his own.
It’s a masterclass in showmanship from all concerned, yet delivered in a joyous and relaxed manner from a man with nothing to prove. Two encores are all we get (this crowd, despite their advancing years would’ve stayed all night), one of them being a gloriously fluid and funky version of Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’ and then finishing with a Duane Eddy-charged blast of ‘Early Bird’.
I hope he plays festivals, tours further afield and comes to a theatre near you sometime soon, because this is feel-good factor, fun and sheer class. Just lighten up and roll with the test-card numbers, ’cause at the end of the day that’s kinda great music too, isn’t it?