He has been known as a crowd-pleaser for years but Gyedu Blay-Ambolley turned on extra charm at the Accra Polo Club last Friday as part of the opening act for the Independence Jazzfest 2008 concert.
The Simigwa King ran through some of his well-known pieces like Abrantee, Cut Your Coat and Akuko Ba accompanied as usual by the Asimensudo-style chit-chat and humour.
The sparkle in his presentation had a lot to do with his new well-drilled band called Zantoda III.
Ambolley formed Zantoda I in1979 but the group broke up in early 1981 after a tour of the United Kingdom. Zantoda II surfaced in 1982 but also lasted for only a couple of years.
After a period of making do with a string of ‘shabo’ bands, he left for the United States where he lived, performed and recorded for about seven years.
He came back to town early last year and started nursing ideas of putting a band together again.
The result is the tight seven-piece Zantoda III comprising George Abban on guitar, Isaac Ansong on trumpet, Kayode Olusegun on tenor sax, Kojo Biney on bass, Isaac Ofori on trombone, David Boateng on drums and Justice Voemawor on keyboards.
“I have been looking around since I came back,” Ambolley told Showbiz. “I chose to work with these guys because I knew they would understand and fit into my style of music.
We have been together for six months and I’m so far happy with the discipline and alertness of the band.”
It was also an alert audience at the show which was organised by the Jazz Society of Ghana and Nooq Entertainment Ltd.
It politely applauded the interplay of well-executed solos between the musicians as Ambolley often stood back for his men to exhibit their abilities to the elated audience.
“ When people are just sitting and watching and not dancing, you have to think of how to entertain them. We worked out a way to reach out to them and it worked well.
That was a wonderful audience and I was happy to see them get involved in the music,” stated Ambolley.
His rendition of the evergreen Toffie saw a lot in the audience singing along with him. That song, which according to Ambolley has been one of his favourite compositions over the years, was inspired by a young lady he met in Lagos around 1973 whilst on tour there with the Uhuru band.
“I tried to speak to her but she would not even look at me. We left Lagos and went to Onitsa, Calabar, Port Harcourt and other places. We returned to Lagos and she surprisingly stuck to me.
A little while after the band came back to Ghana, I was at Uhuru House at Asylum Down one day when she showed up.
It shocked me that she had come all the way from Lagos just to see me. I was then rehearsing to record the Simigwa-Do album and I decided to add a song about her.”
Which bands a musician plays with makes a lot of difference in his output. Ambolley is more than glad for now that he has very competent players in Zantoda III to help carry on his style of music.