Music Review: Uptown Rhythm Dogs – Allies In Inventiveness, Or Good Folk In A Complex World


Uptown Rhythm Dogs with special guests Zacas / Auto & General Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg

It doesn’t seem possible, but the Uptown Rhythm Dogs have been making music together on and off for nearly 40 years. There are streaks of grey in the ponytails of percussionist Dan Chiorboli and anything-with-strings player Greg Georgiades – and vocalist, guitarist and pianist Neill Solomon has long lost all of his hair – but the onstage energy and chemistry remains fresh. This two-night theatre residency was something of a reunion in the wake of the release of The Songs That Made Us Free by The Liberation Project, a sprawling collaborative project including 142 international musicians that yielded a triple album and a series of concerts – for all of which Solomon and Chiorboli served as producers as well as contributing writing and playing.

The relatively intermittent nature of their current musical relationship was occasionally evident in some loose tracking of the melody on the bass (or more specifically, a bass ukulele), but with there being a fair bit of improvisation in these players’ approach, it was only a few discordant moments that jarred. The music – world music, tinged with folk and with sporadic moments of more conventional pop) and the arrangements are complex, even in the more mainstream moments, with multiple and often unexpected key changes and Chiorboli and Georgiades’ bewildering array of instruments (any number of drums and shakers; a bouzouki, a banjo and an oud among many others) holding audience interest as they are played, offering fascinating colour and texture to the compositions.

Through all of that, Solomon’s expressive, unusual voice (a more tuneful Leonard Cohen?) remains an obvious point of focus as he tells tales that generally involve at least a touch of darkness. Even a tune he introduces as a “love song” is revealed to be less than romantic, as confirmed by the title – Junk Foods And Disposable Ladies.

Still, the combination of long-honed chops and confident affability makes an evening in the company of this trio a tremendously enjoyable time.

The Uptown Rhythm Dogs were supported by folk duo Zacas – brothers Luigi and Salvatore Zacas, the former singing lead and the latter playing guitar and singing harmonies – who took the opportunity to make a number of new fans in an audience there to see the elder band. Salvatore’s picked melodies are clear, cascading and lyrical, with no concessions made to simplicity as he also varies between time signatures and picking patterns. Luigi’s vocals are strong and earnest and, though the duo’s inter-song banter is charmingly haphazard, the stories their songs tell are poetic and powerful. It is folk music in the potent, old-fashioned sense, needing nothing more than the brothers offer – interesting, well-delivered lyrics, beautifully sung by both of them and backed by an acoustic instrument played with skill and imagination.

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Uptown Rhythm Dogs

Theatrical soundscapes: The Uptown Rhythm Dogs Reunion – The Citizen Article

The show in Sandton will be less of a reunion and more of a recreation, showcasing the group’s new growth.

With numerous rock bands from the 70s and 80s reforming for reunion shows in which they play old songs for even older fans, one could easily be forgiven for thinking the Uptown Rhythm Dogs reunion at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton is set to be a similar event. According to band member Greg Georgiades, nothing could be further from the truth.

“We have always been a very different group of musicians, and when we went our separate ways it wasn’t because we had run out of ideas and weren’t making any new music,” he explained.

In fact, Georgiades and his fellow bandmates Dan Chiorboli and Neill Solomon have spent the past thirty years deeply engaged in their own solo careers creating albums and recording film scores, and this latest reunion was just a natural part of their progression as musicians.

“We never stopped making music. Every time I was in town Neill would call me up and say, I have had some ideas, come over, let’s record them,” said Georgiades.

The new show at the Theatre on the square in Sandton, rather than being a throwback to a forgotten time, will be a new step forward for the group, who have a new album and a dozen new elements they have added in.

“If anything, Dan’s percussion system on stage has grown even bigger, and I have learnt to play a lot of instruments I didn’t play back then,” said Georgiades, who explained the band’s approach was somewhat theatrical.

“We create these soundscapes. It’s not just a performance, it’s a show that adapts to the audience,” he said.

“It’s rock, and world music, jazz, and a little bit of blues,” interjected Solomon.

“You know when you walk into the theatre and you see all these instruments arrayed out on the stage, you already know you are in for something a little different,” said Chiorboli.

Despite all the new offerings from the “Different Places” album, the reunion show is still the first time the group will be performing live in almost 30 years and will therefore also feature a broad spectrum of music comprising old songs from The Occupant and Magic Man period such as Roxy Lady, The Stranger, Junk Foods and Disposable Ladies, as well as acoustic renditions from The Liberation Project’s recently released album “Songs That Made Us Free”.

“We are very lucky. Our fans have always been a creative and intelligent group of people, so we think they will appreciate the growth and direction the band has taken,” said Georgiades.

“But at the same time, we genuinely believe that if you listen to the old stuff, it’s music that stands the test of time, music that could easily have been released last week. We are very excited.

Uptown Rhythm Dogs will also be joined on stage by new act ZACAS, who have just released their debut album “Corner House”.

The shows take place on March 23 and 24, 2019, at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square and tickets can be booked on Computicket by either calling 0861 915 800 or online at You can also call the theatre at 011 883 8606. For extra information head to the event page on Facebook.

Warren Robertson

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Uptown Rhythm Collective Return

Neill Solomon and Dan Chiorboli, along with their bigger world music mash-up called Uptown Rhythm Collective, are without question the busiest, most productive and prolific group around!

Not only did the group deliver a critically acclaimed debut album titled Different Places this past April, the ever-evolving crew are on the brink of releasing another two more brand new works consecutively!

“The first of the two [albums] is effectively a film score,” Neill reveals. All ambient classical soundscapes relating to much of Neill’s film scores, each filled with influence and arrangements that extend all the way to the Indian subcontinent and back. Titled When Shadows Fall, the album includes the single “You’ll Never Know” which features guest appearances by Wendy Oldfield and the great Indian Sufi singer Keeran Eshwarlall on lead vocals. “To me it is Paris Texas meets Brian Eno, with a touch of Eastern mysticism”, says Dan. Built around music made by Neill and Dan together with the legendary Australian bow player Colin Offord, Sufi vocalist, santoor and harmonium player Keeran Eshwarlall, tabla virtuoso Vishan Ramlakkan, electric violinist Waldo Luc Alexander, trombone player and vocalist Siya Makuzeni and the ever present Mauritz Lotz, each track’s weighted in brilliant musicianship. Mauritz also lays claim to not only arranging and playing, but also producing and mixing the album too.

The second compilation, titled Ashes and Sand is completely different, and plays out, “in a very African way,” Neill explains. “These are collaborations rooted in the African diaspora and Indian Ocean Islands,” Dan adds. “It’s also a homage to some of our greatest fallen legends, the likes of Gito Baloi, Shaluza Max Mntambo, Miriam Makeba and Jabu Khanyile.” What makes this album all the more special is the fact that it includes special performances from each of the dearly departed.

Reunion native and maloya superstar Christine Salem contributes Maloya Gris Gris, and Gamaku from the Ivory Coast perform on Dan’s “The Singing River” – an African percussion tribute to the influence that the Muscle Shoals sound in Alabama has had on both Neill and Dan’s musical outlook. Ray Phiri, Guinean kora legend N’Faly Kouyate (who played on Different Places) and Ladysmith Black Mambazo add even more gravitas to what’s already an extraordinary musical statement, filled to overflowing with talent known and loved the world over.

Upon reflection since Uptown Rhythm Collective delivered Different Places, an album Kaya FM’s Nicky Blumenfeld endorsed, making it Album of the Week and calling it; ‘Afro-global-lounge at its most exotic. A brilliant album,’ Dan knew that what they’d created then was worthy. “we knew it was a really good album with a unique identity,” Chiorboli confirms. “The fact that it was so well received has fuelled and spurred us on to keep feeding it, both from a recording level and also from invitations and demands to play live.”

From what started out as a loose, project-driven combination of diverse talents, the Uptown Rhythm Collective has evolved into a chart-teasing, world-embracing music machine realising great music faster and more impressively that they’re even battling to keep up with themselves!

With all of the new releases produced, once again, by guitar legend and friend Mauritz Lotz, his work and the relationship won while making Different Places, enhances both When Shadows Fall and Ashes and Sand. All benefit from special friendships and ambitious relationships, all to the collective good of all. “We’re hoping to create a three-CD digipak, with all three albums, and have it ready by the time we go on tour ” Dan reveals.

Often playing with as many as nine musicians, the Uptown Rhythm Collective doesn’t travel light. That said, fans can rest assured that when they set up for a show there’s nothing trivial about it. “When we do a live performance it’s a production well worth committing to,” Dan, the Uptown Rhythm Dogs and Uptown Rhythm Collective co-founder confirms.

With the weight and wealth of work in hand, the Uptown Rhythm Collective’s pièce de résistance will rally together over the Christmas season for at least four shows, enabling fans of home-grown African and world music to have the opportunity to see and hear material from all three albums performed live.

The Uptown Rhythm Collective in live performance during the Christmas period 2015, will include:

Neill Solomon – vocals, keyboards and acoustic guitar

Dan Chiorboli – percussion

Mauritz Lotz – musical director and guitar

N’Faly Kouyate – vocals and kora

Waldo Luc Alexander – electric violin

Siya Makuzeni – vocals and trombone

Keeran Eshwarlall – vocals, santoor & harmonium


Urban Rhythm Collective New Album Release

The Uptown Rhythm Collective is a loose, project driven combination of diverse talents formed around the core axis of Neill Solomon and Dan Chiorboli, both founder members of the original Uptown Rhythm Dogs,with Greg Georgiades who replaced Tony Lizard Hunter in the band. Tony was tragically killed in a motor accident.They are arguably one of South Africa’s first and most influential world music groups of the 80’s.

Most of the artists involved in this unique collaborative experience have crossed paths with either Neill, Dan or Greg at some point in their colourful musical careers.

The Collective’s recently released debut album “Different Places” features Neill Solomon, Dan Chiorboli and multi-string instrumentalist Greg Hadjiyorki Georgiades together with N’Faly Kouyate the great kora player and singer from Guinea, and Rene Lacaille the legendary accordionist from Reunion Island. Other musician’s on the album include Sez Adams and Chris Tokalon.It was recorded by Adrian Hamilton at Neill Solomon’s Passage One Music Studio’s in Johannesburg,South Africa.
The album was produced,mixed and arranged by Mauritz Lotz.
The video was Directed by Cian McClelland.


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