Material: Niki J Crawford was once a small-town girl who fell in love with the traditional sound of hard rock music. Today, she is a fiery live performer who has found a way to make her love for the amplified guitar a cornerstone for the way in which she blends various aspects of R&B and blues. Original compositions like “Countosh” highlight her penchant for meaningful wordplay and the way in which she meshes psychedelic rock music with soul and smooth jazz.
Musicianship: While original music by this singer-songwriter from Louisiana often emits a powerful message, the musicality behind Crawford’s emotional subject matter runs just as deep. That’s because her discography features chord progressions that range from Gospel and blues to funk and soul. During this showing at “Jam in The Van,” the eclectic bunch of musicians who accompanied her, presented a psychedelic soul song called “Spread Your Wings.” The manner in which they fused African percussion techniques with the funky guitar licks of Ishmael Perez certainly highlighted Crawford’s songwriting style.
Performance: Crawford kicked off her set by repeatedly chanting: “There ain’t no party like a Niki J party, cause a Niki J party don’t stop!” That classic hip-hop mantra was a prelude to the live performance of “Mama Cry,” an upbeat rhythm and blues song where her raspy lead vocals blended well with the smooth basslines of Mike Coles. This set the tone for a party-like atmosphere for all six musicians, as they played a three-song set in a cooped-up van.
Summary: The energy that Niki J Crawford displayed during this performance on “Jam In The Van” had such a rousing effect on her band that it made the breakdown sections all the more jubilant, a notion that undoubtedly influenced percussionist, Stewart Killen, as he matched the singer’s upbeat demeanor with his spirited drum solos on the congas, which on occasion seemed like they came straight out of the infamous drum circle in Long Beach. Overall, this was a lively display by a collection of music veterans who know exactly how to complement one another with a combination of rhythmic timing and improvisation.
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Players: Niki J Crawford, lead vocals; Ishmael Perez, guitar, backup vocals; Avi Yazd, keys; Mike Coles, bass; Greg Sadler, drums; Steward Killen, percussion