Paul Ubana Jones – Kumeu Live, 8 April 2023: Concert Review

Paul Ubana Jones

Paul Ubana Jones is a genuine World Music artist and that was showcased to stunning effect in the art gallery parlour lounge that is Kumeu Live.

Born and raised in Britain to a Nigerian father and a Yorkshire mother. He speaks with a London accent. Caught the explosive Sixties scene when the centre of music resided there. Saw Hendrix and the others as a teen. He gained a musical scholarship and studies included classical music, along with his playing of guitar and cello.

Crucially he would have been in the vicinity of other innovative touchstone guitar virtuosos. Richard Thompson, Peter Green, Davey Graham, Jimmy Page in his folkie jacket. This informs his multi-personality guitar style.

Before becoming a resident in New Zealand, he was resident in Switzerland by marriage. Performed extensively in clubs, academies and festivals, including the famous Nyon one which I have also experienced.

Paul Ubana Jones

The only other time I have heard him live prior was at the 40th anniversary tribute to the Band, at the Aotea Centre in 2016. Garth Hudson and producer John Simon were there, along with some stellar local musicians. The vocal performances were erratic and a little under-rehearsed, but Jones was clearly the best of the locals.

Opens with He is My Brother, and he has a husky cigarette-tempered blues voice. A nice rich folk blues tone from the acoustic guitar, and he plays multiple parts.

Afterwards I am shown that it’s a Taylor 914CE Sinker Redwood. An amazing sound from it.

Who We Are incorporates percussive clicks along with the main melody line. Even though I’m only 3 metres away I can’t see how this is done, but it must involve thumb and fore-finger. The sound is folk americana mixed with some Mali desert blues and deep Congo rhythms.

A couple of stunning Bob Dylan covers.

Paul Ubana Jones

My Back Pages includes one of my favourite lines of poetry. Ahh, but I was so much older then/ I’m much younger than that now. Jones prefaced this performance by stating what a difficult person Dylan is to interact with. And then sings in the same rasp that Dylan has now. But there is more power and range from Jones.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry. Draws on the more rhythmic out-take versions than the folk blues version that made the cut on the classic Highway 61 Revisited album. His guitar takes on Michael Bloomfield (who was a big part of the success of that album) and matches him.

He covers the Beatle’s Norwegian Wood and immerses the sound in Indian sitar and raga tones. The vocal is fraught and Dylanesque. Funny, as this was originally John Lennon aping Dylan, who then went on expand the Beatle’s mind with Fourth Time Around. ‘Round and ‘round she goes.

Fools and Kings is one of his own, which he describes as a lament in B minor. A good showcase for his expressive soul voice. Touching the classic Sixties deep soul sound.

Paul Ubana Jones

Bad Case of the Blues is also a lament. Black ice all around/ Tell me, why am I here? Has the same dread tones as Bobby Bland’s Two Steps From the Blues.

A cover of Bert Jansch’s Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning. There are the familiar Eastern raga tones that Jimmy Page also heard. Jone’s guitar sounds like a full band.

So Long Aretha is a tribute to Lady Soul, and the documentary that inspired it must be Amazing Grace. It was aired here at a recent film festival, and like he mentioned Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts are caught listening in. Turned on my little radio and out comes a gospel soul vocal performance.

The Golden Gate has the guitar walking with lightly swinging country blues of a Mississippi John Hurt. A dream vision of salvation.

There are jazz and classical tones interspersed in folk melodies. John Lee Hooker rhythm riffs become mantras.

Paul Ubana Jones

The Bird Without Song. Begins with beautiful Indian melodic tones that sound like Mohan veena. A love-child offspring from a sitar and a guitar, with 20 strings. Jones guitar is a six-string. Rhythmically complex. Gypsy Spanish is also thrown up. Mostly an extended instrumental, and the final guitar sounds like the melody strung through Dylan’s Desolation Row.

The concert ends with the benediction of Rest in my Arms.

A perfect setting to experience Paul Ubana Jones, his big soulful voice and his virtuoso guitar.

Rev Orange Peel