Savanna

artist-header

Savanna came together in 1979, a group of musicians who’d met whilst hanging out @ a local roller skating club & @ various clubs like the Royalty, Crackers & ZERO 6…

Inspired by bands like F.B.I., Light Of The World, Hi-Tension & Heatwave, Savanna consisted of bassist Sammy Jacobs (bass), Orphy Robinson (vibes/keyboards/trumpet) & Jeffrey Durrant (drums/percussion). 

Savanna 12The three friends had previously played together in another local band that later went to become Second Image. With the final addition of guitarist Leroy Osbourne they became a quartet & began writing & rehearsing together, doing a few local shows trying out material before starting to establish a sound & style of their own.

Their first demo was picked up by local DJ Michael Thompson who then arranged for the band to work with a local production team led by local music impresario, Joe Williams, who had already been influential launching the careers of Britfunk bands like Light Of The World, David Grant & Incognito.  Initially, Savanna played in a more jazz funk instrumental style with the dominant use of the vibraphone as a lead sound but Leroy brought other ideas & options into the mix, revealing a voice influenced by such vocal giants as Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder & Sam Cooke. Their next demo recorded, Savanna were offered a recording deal from famed 1980’s independent record label, R&B Records, who had just achieved national chart success with the group Imagination.

Orphy Robinson

Savanna’s first single ‘I Can’t Turn Away’ was recorded with a top notch horn section which included Claude Deppa, Ray Carless & Mark Bassie, as well as LOTW’s Peter Hinds on keys & Mel Gaynor, a school friend of Leroy’s who eventually became drummer for rock group Simple Minds. The single achieved No.1 in many dance music charts internationally & proved a dance floor smash, whilst also achieving a high chart position in the UK National charts.

The second single ‘Never Let You Go’ went straight to the top of the dance music charts, influencing many musicians & singers both internationally & in the UK. Another high national UK chart position was attained, however following significant changes at the record company, the band parted company with R&B soon after & they finally disbanded in 1983.

Orphy continued to work on the busy session circuit recording with many artists including Total Contrast, Hudson Brothers, Working Week & Mica Paris until finally changing to a more jazz orientated path & the formation of the ground breaking Jazz Warriors & a further solo career signed to Blue Note. Sammy & Jeffrey put together a new band named LW5, releasing an album for Virgin Records &  supporting heavyweights like The Commodores & Frankie Beverley & Maze during the mid-1980’s, before deciding to move on to the next phase of their careers. Fast forward to June 2010, & with fellow funkateers Atmosfear on the same bill, Savanna reform to play a much anticipated comeback gig with Orphy & Sammy in the line up plus the new additions of Richard Anthony Davis & Chantelle Nandi (vocals), Jessica Lauren (keys), Michael Antoniou (guitar), Renel Shaw (bass) & Kaz Rodriguez (drums). More recently founder member Orphy has created a new band from many of these musicians, & called it Nu Savanna, which mixes his own eclectic jazz influences, with a large slice of his funkier side.

Those of us there on that sunny afternoon back in 2010, bore witness to something special & a little bit of UK musical history being made @ Summer Soulstice…


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