Randolph Matthews and Byron Johnston

The Forge, Camden 30/06/11


Randolph and Byron have been playing together for over a year and have recently released a limited edition CD of their work. So this was an excellent opportunity to sample it live.

Randolph uses his voice as an instrument to build up rhythms as well layers of vocals on top of which he sings melodies highly influenced by Malian and Cameroonian scales, with a strong “soul” inspiration. In fact, he has invented his own vocabulary for what can only be described as “scatting” but is not. It sounds so African that I was convinced he was using one of the numerous African dialects. His voice reaches some unexplored choral territories; comparisons with Milton Nascimento and Bobby McFerrin come to mind. 

Byron has a solid and powerful Mediterranean influence in his playing but goes beyond this by using his guitar as a percussion instrument, and demonstrating his virtuosity to great effect at every opportunity.  He has a very delicate touch yet can deliver some awe-inspiring percussive chords when the material demands it. 

The pair was joined on stage by Rob Hughes who added some impressive flute and soprano sax solos as well as a modal atmosphere to 3 tracks:  “Indigenous Man “, “Ibiza Girl” and “Set the Controls”. The improvised interaction between these three very talented musicians was palpable.  Randolph and Byron’s CD cover refers to “a radical world music collaboration”; this describes perfectly the evening at the Forge! We are looking forward to hearing more from this remarkable duo.

Joel Roszykiewicz

Check their website: http://www.randolphandbyronmusic.com/


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