Sunday, 3 June 2018

Sons Of Kemet ‎– Your Queen Is A Reptile (2018)

Style: Afrobeat, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Label: Impulse!

1.   My Queen is Ada Eastman
2.   My Queen is Mamie Phipps Clark
3.   My Queen is Harriet Tubman
4.   My Queen is Anna Julia Cooper
5.   My Queen is Angela Davis
6.   My Queen is Nanny of the Maroons
7.   My Queen is Yaa Asantewaa
8.   My Queen Is Albertina Sisulu
9.   My Queen is Doreen Lawrence

Design, Artwork – Mzwandile Buthelezi
Drums – Eddie Hicks, Maxwell Hallett , Moses Boyd, Seb Rochford , Tom Skinner
Liner Notes – Joshua Idehen
Mastered By – Guy Davie
Recorded By, Mixed By, Producer – Dilip Harris
Saxophone – Nubya Garcia, Pete Wareham, Shabaka Hutchings
Tuba – Theon Cross
Vocals – Congo Natty, Joshua Idehen
Written-By, Producer, Creative Director – Shabaka Hutchings

American jazz has often been described as an accumulation of cultural memory—music that survives by staying in touch with its own history. But the music of Shabaka Hutchings, the 33-year-old saxophonist and bandleader of London’s Sons of Kemet, insists that memory isn’t enough. Hutchings is a fixture in many projects, including cosmic jazz trio the Comet Is Coming, Afrofuturist outfit the Ancestors, and occasionally as a guest player with the Sun Ra Arkestra. His work with Sons of Kemet is notable for its fervent politics and open-borders approach to genre. On the group’s third LP, Your Queen Is a Reptile, Hutchings merges his classical clarinet and jazz orchestra training with the music he’s heard growing up in the Caribbean, traveling in South Africa, and living in London. “That’s an aspect of being a part of a musical diaspora,” Hutchings says in the press materials for Your Queen. “Not being from the place that jazz is born from means that I don’t feel any ultimate reverence to it. It’s just about finding ways of reinterpreting how we’re thinking about the music.” For Hutchings, jazz’s cultural memory is not just something to recite, but a rich language that informs an entirely new conversation.
On Your Queen Is a Reptile, that conversation covers a lot of ground with a limited vocabulary. Rendered only with tuba, saxophone, drums, and voice, Hutchings’ compositions are diverse and rhythmically ambitious. He’s not only leveraging jazz, but a broader sonic lexicon including Afrobeat, dub, Caribbean soca, and grime. Your Queen is thematically aspirational as well—as the group’s first LP since the 2016 Brexit vote, it directly challenges the conventions of nationalism and the British monarchy. In their place, Hutchings offers his own version of a royal family, comprising visionary black women like Yaa Asantewaa, the Ashanti queen mother who fought against British colonialism in the early 20th century; the longtime radical activist Angela Davis; and Hutchings’ own great-grandmother, Ada Eastman. Hutchings’ coronation of these remarkable women is a celebratory act, but he’s also commenting on the arbitrariness of all inherited hierarchies. Royalty is a dangerous ideology, and Hutchings counters it with a high court of trailblazing women whose achievements, rather than their bloodline, inform their worth.
On “My Queen Is Mamie Phipps Clark,” named for the social psychologist who researched the detrimental effects of segregation on African American schoolchildren, Hutchings melds sprawling dub and nocturne jazz. Led by Congo Natty, an English producer and vocalist who helped popularize jungle in the early ’90s, the track pays respect to dub’s Jamaican origins as well as its rebirth as 2 Tone ska in late-’70s London. Natty’s vocals seep to the song’s periphery on a wave of reverb while Hutchings’ sax paints in broad brushstrokes in the foreground. Theon Cross subs grumbling tuba for dub’s signature bass, letting out wonderfully guttural brass belches, for a fun and accessible fusion of genres that evokes the Specials’ woozy “International Jet Set.”
“My Queen Is Albertina Sisulu,” an homage to a noted South African nurse and anti-apartheid activist, is an Afrobeat shimmy that suggests furious dancing. Cross’ tuba and Hutchings’ tenor tangle phrases, while drummers Sebastian Rochford and Moses Boyd provoke them with anxious raps on rims, hi-hats, and djembe. Hutchings plays in sweetly curving licks before fracturing into staccato blurts. His instrument often reaches manic, searching measures, bringing to mind something saxophonist Evan Parker once told him. “He said: ‘You need to play as if it’s your last chance to play,’” Hutchings recently told The Wire.
Hutchings has said he wrote lead single and album highlight “My Queen Is Harriet Tubman” as an interpretation of Tubman’s initial escape from slavery. The effect is urgent—the drummers mimic the pace and posture of someone running for their life, at times slipping and hitting a cowbell or snare with added force, but never losing speed. Saxophone and tuba reach bumblebee frenzy, sputtering by the end of their turbulent flight. It is an exhilarating and highly original piece of music that showcases Hutchings’ ability to translate politics to melody.
Sons of Kemet are most effective when they transpose concept to instrument this way. But despite the group’s skill for conversing between genres and generations, words are Your Queen’s greatest weakness. Guest vocalist Joshua Idehen delivers his poems with a bravado that at times distracts from Hutchings’ nuanced compositions. On “My Queen Is Ada Eastman,” Idehen’s vocals don’t arrive until minute three, and when they do they dampen the song’s energy. His diction can be a bit goofy, and lines about London winds that “shiver my thin moustache” don’t necessarily help. The poet redeems himself, however, with a simple phrase that seems to speak to the resilient immigrant experience in post-Brexit Britain: “I’m still here,” he repeats.
Your Queen is Sons of Kemet’s first release on Impulse!, the label that was home to Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders at their peaks. This adds another dimension to Hutchings’ relationship with American jazz, placing him among the players whose work he’s trying so hard to subvert and deconstruct. It is a peculiar achievement for him in some ways, but it is also a testament to his talents as a composer and player. Hutchings may not feel any “ultimate reverence” to the genre, but its tastemakers see a lot of promise in him. Given the passion and innovation he’s breathing into contemporary jazz, why shouldn’t they?
Fonte: Pitchfork 

Sons Of Kemet ‎– Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do (2015)

Style: Afrobeat
Format: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Label: Naim Jazz ‎– Naimcd217

1.   In Memory Of Samir Awad
2.   In The Castle Of My Skin
3.   Tiger
4.   Mo' Wiser
5.   Breadfruit
6.   The Hour Of Judgement
7.   The Long Night Of Octavia E Butler
8.   Afrofuturism
9.   Play Mass

SHABAKA HUTSHINGS saxophone, clarinet

Recorded and mixed by Dilip Harris at Fish Factory Studios, London
Mastered by Shawn Joseph at Optimum Mastering, Bristol

Produced by Seb Rochford
Engineered by Dilip Harris

All music composed by Shabaka Hutchings.
All songs published by Touch Tones Music Ltd.

Artwork by Daniela Yohannes.
Graphic Design by John-Lee Langford.

“Two years ago, Son’s of Kemet were already blowing live audiences away and fascinating listeners on record - they do it even better now.” - The Guardian  
“Sons of Kemet’s music is as complex and intricate as the heritage that influenced it” - Complex  
“Occasionally, doing this record critic lark, you come across something that’s complete joy. Son’s of comet’s latest long-player is just that, a joy from start to finish.” - Echoes and Dust  
“This is one of those albums which thrills on every level; everything is executed to perfection.” - Twistedsoul  
Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do. Children Of Immigrants Wandering Through A Post-Colonial Babalas.  
Sons Of Kemet are born of many vital elements – including a name that nods to ancient Egyptian culture, and a line-up that comprises some of the most progressive 21st-century talents in British jazz and beyond. Band-leader, composer and sax and clarinet don Shabaka Hutchings (himself named after a Nubian pharaoh-philosopher) brings together his fiery vision alongside London-based bandmates Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford (forming a dynamo duo on drums here) and latest addition Theon Cross (taking over from Oren Marshall on tuba). 
These collaborative players have previously won major praise in celebrated acts such as Polar Bear, Hello Skinny, Melt Yourself Down, Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics, and Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Yet there’s still nothing quite like the ‘supergroup’ sound of Sons Of Kemet: eloquent, fierce, explosively funky – and thrillingly out-there.  
‘I see Sons Of Kemet as a group that’s free to explore even more areas,’ smiles the genial 31-year-old Hutchings. ‘The music is driven by the band’s synergy, but it could go anywhere, and we’ve played everywhere from sit-down art venues to sweaty nightclubs and international festivals; we’re not forced into one direction. We can let our musicality take on a life of its own. When we play live, we know what the end result is: everyone in hysteria. But how we get there is anyone’s guess.’  
Originally formed in May 2011, Sons Of Kemet had already forged a rep for incendiary live sets by the time their debut album, Burn, was released in September 2013. That assured collection inspired passionate props across the board, from DJ/music connoisseur Gilles Peterson (who included Burn in his Worldwide Awards shortlist) to The Arts Desk (who pronounced it Album Of The Year), iTunes Best Of Jazz, and The Quietus. The band also scooped the MOBO Best Jazz trophy that year, which remains one of Hutchings’s proudest achievements: ‘It felt like lots and lots of work had actually paid off,’ he says, adding wryly: ‘Actually, I see Burn as quite a restrained album.’  
Hutchings regards Sons Of Kemet’s hotly anticipated second album, Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do, as a vivid continuation of their debut work’s themes, rather than a complete departure. He also describes the latest collection as ‘a meditation on the Caribbean diaspora in Britain’.  
‘The realisation dawned after I’d started writing these tunes,’ he explains. ‘I was thinking of my grandmother’s generation from the Caribbean, who came here to work incredibly hard, and also what it means to be a black person in Britain now, especially a generation of youth experiencing high unemployment, and those elements of society who are not always easy to see.’  
A pivotal track on Lest We Forget… is the ‘earthy and ceremonial’ Afrofuturism, which takes the band’s explorations of Caribbean roots into new realms:  
‘The bass rhythm on that track is based on a traditional Barbadian style called tuk, with a bass and snare drum; it’s similar to fife music from New Orleans, but there are also links to West African roots, and Western military band music. Barbados is quite a small island, and before the emancipation of slaves, there was nowhere for people to privately retain African cultural traits or beliefs – so they were finding ways to keep those elements in “acceptable” forms of music. I think it could be a Caribbean thing: to express something with deep meaning about society, that might come from having experienced trauma, within a form that might feel quite light-hearted. You get the same thing in calypso music.’  
The expansive roots of Lest We Forget… also reflect Hutchings’s personal history. ‘I do see this as my baby,’ he admits. He was raised in Birmingham, but spent his years between the ages of 6 and 16 in Barbados, where he first picked up an instrument – in his school’s recorder group, aged 9. ‘I was quite staid,’ he laughs. ‘I thought I was going to be in an orchestra; it was all about classical and calypso bands for me. When I was in the Caribbean, kids my age saw jazz as music for old people or rich people.’  
That perspective shifted radically back in Birmingham, when Hutchings befriended alto-sax and MC talent Soweto Kinch, at the latter’s weekly live jam sessions. ‘It was incredible to hear jazz being played live and mixed with hip hop by someone who was close to me and cool,’ he recalls. Hutchings began to delve into the jazz music catalogue at Birmingham library, while constantly sharpening his own skills, winning a place to study clarinet and then saxophone at London’s prestigious Guildhall School Of Music And Drama.  
Just as Burn blazed through unpredictable atmospheres and effects, Hutchings incorporates far-reaching influences on Lest We Forget… These range from his relationship with classical concepts (Mo’ Wiser), to literary inspirations on tracks such as In The Castle Of My Skin (named after Barbadian author George Lamming’s 1953 novel about post-colonial identity) and The Long Night Of Octavia Butler, in homage to the award-winning African-American sci-fi writer. ‘When I read books I love, they kind of put a trance over me, and Octavia Butler particularly has that effect,’ says Hutchings. ‘I was thinking about her 1998 novel Parable Of The Talents; it presents a futuristic vision that is just close enough to normality to make you unsettled.’  
Meanwhile, the album’s exceptionally resonant opening track reflects an unsettling modern reality; In Memory Of Samir Awad was written to commemorate a Palestinian teen killed by Israeli forces as he fled their gunfire in 2013. ‘We’re trying to immortalise an everyday youth, and an occurrence that is everyday in that region of the world, and to say that it is significant,’ says Huchings. ‘I wanted an intensity that continued throughout the piece. It’s a taut existence, and the low notes symbolise the bombings or eruptions in “normal” life under occupation.’  
The album’s overall ‘restless and trancey’ energy is definitely a collective achievement, and Hutchings is full of enthusiasm for his bandmates’ powerful and intuitive dynamics. ‘All of the other members are composers of music in their own right, and I think that’s really important,’ he says. ‘I can give them the bare roots, and they’re thinking about the balance, how the grand structure of the piece hangs. Everyone’s focused, and I can dig into my own role.’  
Sons Of Kemet have seeped this latest material into their irrepressible live sets over the past year and a half. Now it comes into its own, as Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do – and the possibilities are still exhilarating: 
‘On some level, our duty is to give the audience what they want,’ says Hutchings. ‘On another, it’s to prise open those expectations and put something else in there – and on another level, it’s to forget all of that, and just create euphoria.’ 

Sons Of Kemet ‎– Burn (2013)

Style: Avant-garde JazzTracklist:
Format: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Label: Naim Jazz ‎– naimcd195

01.   All Will Surely Burn
02.   The Godfather
03.   Inner Babylon
04.   The Book Of Disquiet
05.   Going Home
06.   Adonia's Lullaby
07.   Song For Galeano
08.   Beware
09.   The Itis
10.   Rivers Of Babylon

Artwork – Daniel Strange
Artwork [Inner Artwork] – Ashraf E. Shalaby
Band [Sons Of Kemet Are], Drums – Seb Rochford, Tom Skinner
Band [Sons Of Kemet Are], Saxophone, Clarinet – Shabaka Hutchings
Band [Sons Of Kemet Are], Tuba – Oren Marshall
Composed By – Shabaka Hutchings (tracks: 1 to 9)
Mastered By – Mandy Parnell
Producer – Seb Rochford
Recorded By, Mixed By – Dilip Harris

Seldom has a band on the British jazz scene created such a buzz before releasing an album, but through their live shows - and some delightfully unexpected airplay - Sons of Kemet have done just that. A super-group of sorts led by clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings with Oren Marshall on tuba and both Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford on drums.  
It was in spring of 2011 at Charlie Wright’s in East London that Sons of Kemet first unleashed their unique sound to a live audience and since then they have gone on to impress many with their live shows, whether it be in session for BBC Radio 3’s Jazz On 3, at this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival or in collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival. Their debut album is therefore much anticipated and rest assured that Burn delivers on every level. In short, the combination of these four mighty creative forces has yielded music that is powerful, lyrical and, above all, fiercely original.  
Although born in London, Hutchings spent most of his childhood in Barbados. On returning to the UK in 1999 he was soon heralded as an exceptional talent on the British jazz scene, not only playing with luminaries such as Soweto Kinch, Courtney Pine and The Heliocentrics but also being named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. However, he felt the music he was playing lacked the Caribbean slant of his background and thus, Sons of Kemet (Kemet is one of the first recognised names for ancient Egypt and its last Nubian king was called Shabaka) was born.  
It’s partly the deployment of two drummers – and two powerhouse drummers at that – that gives Sons of Kemet their compelling and infectious sound. Skinner and Rochford’s visceral exchange of rhythmic ideas is an unforgettable, highly danceable experience. Throw into this one of the great wild cards of contemporary British music, Oren Marshall on tuba, and you have a wonderfully unorthodox configuration.  
For music and cultural inspiration it was back to his childhood and Barbados that Hutchings turned. Seeking guidance from Barbadian ethnomusicologists specializing in early Caribbean music, he was soon furnished with numerous recordings that he studied in depth. Before long, the links between the music of New Orleans and West Africa became clear and the work of two visionary Jamaican artists in particular percolated into Hutchings’ mind: Count Ossie and Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, two musicians who would become a major influence on the band. However, the themes and sources of inspiration for all the tracks on Burn indicate a wider conceptual net. Inner Babylon addresses the issue of the cultural hegemony of America; The Godfather is a tribute to the legendary Ethiopian musician Mulatu Atsatkue (with whom Hutchings and Tom Skinner have played with over the last few years) and All Will Surely Burn is a reflection on the pressing subject of global warming. Hutchings’ interest in literature is referenced by two pieces that evoke writers who have inspired him: Song For Galeano is for celebrated Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and The Book Of Disquiet is for the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. The reprise of The Rivers Of Babylon, which Hutchings describes as a ‘standard’ within the Afro-Caribbean tradition and a staple of Rastafarian nyabinghi drumming music, is arguably the clearest indication of the far-reaching history that frames Son Of Kemet.  
A curiously addictive album that manages to appeal to both heart and mind, there is little to compare it with. Instead, Burn feels like that rare thing, an exciting new sound that somehow worms its way into your brain and won’t let go. Exceptionally assured for a debut album, Burn surely has to become one of the standout releases for 2013. 
Fonte: Bandcamp