Gary Dougherty catches XamVolo’s return to Constellations for his fourth instalment of The Art of Dffrnce.

After a nationwide tour supporting Paloma Faith in March 2018, XamVolo launched his Art of Dffrnce project at Constellations in April.

Now Constellations don’t usually do these residency nights more than three times; Art of Dffrnce is on its fourth. So he must be on to something good (or dffrnt).

But what is The Art of Dffrnce?

Well, Xam’s been in Liverpool for six years and has made it his home. But for him Liverpool was missing something, it was missing an outlet for like-minded musicians. Born from an idea conceived at an evening’s jamming at an underground session in New York, Xam started his project as a night of neo-soul, hip hop, jazz and jamming.

Through it he is championing local talent on a local stage and providing an opportunity for musicians to just make music. Unlike many other events for local talent and up and coming artists, the evening is free; attendance is free, participation is free and as a result minds are free.

The fourth instalment kicked off with 19 year old Jazmine Johnson (who was recently featured on Planet Slop’s R&B Showcase). For one so young she packs a big soulful voice and reminded me of Mica Millar. But it wasn’t just the singing voice, it was the contrast with her speaking voice. When Jazmine speaks her Scouse roots are apparent; just as Mica’s Mancunian roots are evident when she speaks. It was a pity for Jazmine that the guitars seemed to be turned up too high as it somewhat drowned out her beautiful vocals – a situation that would be remedied later.

👉XamVolo: “If you take events too seriously, you’re more likely to choke”👈

Local three piece band Little Grace – comprised of brothers Ben and Adam Harrison and bassist and keyboard player Callum Horridge – followed.

I am taken by Ben’s vocals – delivered eyes closed his voice is reminiscent of Craig David and heartfelt. In a short set we are treated to the first live performance of their latest tune In My Bed. Why these lads remain unsigned is a mystery.

And so to the jamming session. As the musicians warm up it feels like being in a funky rehearsal room. Then Xam – dressed more casually than we are used to seeing him – starts to sing and we are treated to a jazzy version of Down. This reminds us of just how cool, how very, very cool Xam really is. On the next number Jazmine joins and in this setting her voice shines. She is shortly followed by her guitarists and the Ben from Little Grace on backing vocals.

Next thing the drummer is swapped and a chaotic series of singers and musicians joins and leaves. Throughout the funky vibe is retained. Xam holds it together either by accompanying on mic or guiding from the front.

The result is oddly satisfying and somehow one feels like you might have experienced a moment in musical history. Towards the end we are treated to an impromptu version of Destiny Child’s Say My Name.

All in all a wonderful evening and one I will be repeating. Here’s hoping for more Art of Dffrnce – roll on #AOD5.

Pictures courtesy of Jude Tolson (click here to see more of her work)