Gig review: Alina Bzhezhinska and Tony Kofi Album Launch at King’s Place

Photo by Tatiana Gorilovsky

Set on the stage of King’s Place’s Hall Two, a smaller and more intimate venue lit up by streaks of purple and blue, a harp stands tall at the centre, as avid audience members gradually make their way to their seats. Eager and excited were the bustling voices which surrounded the stage, as harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, tenor saxophonist Tony Kofi and percussionist Joel Prime stride toward their musical stations.

Bzhezhinska and Kofi launched straight into their first set, various arrangements of famous standards and their compositions from previous albums. The first piece was a take on ‘Blue Nile’, with both parts making a strong entrance despite technical issues with the sound. The musicians did not let this phase them, as they went on to build an ethereal atmosphere of energised and stunning harp lines paired with virtuosic, sometimes chaotic saxophone. From the start, we hear and see the musicians’ personalities sonorously laid out, preparing us for the wonders to come.

‘Spero’, an original by Bzhezhinska began with a lyrical harp introduction joined by a sweet saxophone melody reverberating throughout the room. It was a real moment of tranquillity, highlighting the unquestionable chemistry between this pairing. This is immediately contrasted by a drastic tonal change into another number, punctuated by Phrygian patterns and more aggressive and rhythmic performance techniques. This change in pace and character perfectly demonstrates the many layers to Bzhezhinska and Kofi’s playing, embodying the personality of the music itself as they go along.

Photo by Monika S Jakubowska

A striking moment in the first half was when Bzhezhinska left Kofi to perform his original composition ‘SANKOFA’, with Joel Prime accompanying him. The meaning of the tune played into the captivating melody and differing sonority. Sankofa is the name of a Ghanaian bird and has come to describe the process of finding yourself and digging deeper; you have to go back to move forward. As the liner notes explain:

‘Encapsulating the interplay of West African and Eastern European sonic traditions, notably expressed through jazz, Tony Kofi and Alina Bzhezhinska become symbols of our shared human fabric —a powerful reminder that our commonalities vastly overshadow our differences.’

The 2nd half of the performance launched their newest album, built on dual compositions paying tribute to the late Pharoah Sanders, a lynchpin in the creative and personal lives of Bzhezhinska and Kofi. The pair performed the album in the order they recorded it:

  1. Tabula Rasa- Blank Slate
  2. Tu Vides- You See
  3. Tange- Touch
  4. Audite Me-Hear Me
  5. Anima- Breathe
  6. Altera Vita- Another Life

This ordering reflects the album’s meaning as a whole; Altera Vita mirrors the human experience, from conception through to the inevitable end or new beginning.

Photo by Tatiana Gorilovsky

The first track was introduced by a repeated chime played on a meditation singing bowl, a call to centre us and focus on the music. This piece had a distinct positive and bright feel, evident in its perfect cadences and inviting melody.  The musicians smoothly led on to ‘Tu Vides’, built on an arpeggiaic kalimba introduction, with contrasts from its soft to more intense sections.

‘Audite Me’ invited Unnati Dasgupta on stage to play the tanpura, a nod to the instrumentation and musical features used by Pharoah Sanders in his spiritual jazz compositions. The continuous drone on tanpura acts as a constant throughout the track, as both Bzhezhinska and Kofi simultaneously improvise on top, becoming all the more chaotic as they build towards the tunes climax.

The duo ended the set on ‘Altera Vita’, a tranquil tune resembling us reaching a point of resolve. They continued to match each other’s energy and synchronise the ending effectively, representing a spiritual conclusion as well as a musical one. Overall, this performance was incredibly moving, and successfully showcased the beautiful musical relationship between Bzhezhinska and Kofi. The album brings together the best of what these musicians have to offer, as well as representing a new era in their musical careers.


Altera Vita is available to purchase here

Alina Bzhezhinska website click here

Tony Kofi website click here

Last modified: April 25, 2024