Sunday, May 2, 2021

Sons of Kemet release "Black to the Future": May 21 | Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders with The London Symphony Orchestra release "Promises": Apr 16 | "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook" | The Guardian

Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings' mining of jazz's cultural memory is informed by his numerous concurrent projects; the ensemble Sons of Kemet, its splinter trio The Comet Is ComingMelt Yourself Down, Afrofuturist outfit The Ancestors, and as a guest player with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra. So there is possibly no better player in contemporary jazz more equipped to lead a quartet exploring the fringes of the territory once mapped out by post-bebop, Afrofuturist and spiritual jazz luminaries, Charles Mingus, Pharoah Sanders, and the aforementioned Sun Ra. Nowhere in Hutching's numerous settings is this more evident than in Sons of Kemet's "Your Queen is a Reptile" of 2018. The central quartet of Hutchings, Oren Marshall on tuba, and both Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford on drums, is aided by a rotating cast of contemporary jazz players including Pete Wareham, Eddie Hick, Moses Boyd, Maxwell Hallett, and Nubya Garcia in their ranks. The album was a first for Impulse!, the legendary and influential American jazz label that was home to Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, and Bill Evans at the peak of their 1960's output. So these are the largest of shoes to fill. This adds another weighty dimension to Hutchings’ relationship with American jazz, placing him among the players whose legacy he’s endeavoring to subvert, deconstruct, and expound upon. Covered in The Guardian's primer to this contemporary body of musicians, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook", Hutchings acts as a pivot around which numerous players move through the scene. Which he enthusiastically explores in greater depth in his interview for The Guardian, "History Needs to Be Set Alight: Shabaka Hutchings on the Radical Power of Jazz".

Further evidence can be heard on his contribution to the excellent Gilles Peterson-curated "We Out Here" compilation for the Brownswood Recordings label, and Sons of Kemet's newest album for Impulse! As he takes a striking path away from the central core of jazz tradition via "Black to the Future". This fourth album for the outfit further delivering on the promise of the territory initially mapped out in their "The Space Between One & Two: Sons Of Kemet Interviewed" for The Quietus back in 2013. These contemporary scenes coalescing around a handful of cities spanning the globe, and the labels located therein, most notably Chicago's International Anthem label, New York's Eremite, Manchester's Gondwana Records, and the aforementioned Brownswood Recordings. London's Soul Jazz Records have assembled the most comprehensive overview of this chiaroscuro with their "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown" compilation fixating heavily on both the London and Chicago players. The former most recently generating the lush expanse of Floating Points collaboration with Pharoah Sanders on "Promises", and from the latter we've seen Joshua Abrams' Natural Information Society in collaboration with Evan Parker. Also this past year, from another pivotal member of the Chicago scene, Jazz drummer Makaya McCraven beautifully reworked Scott-Heron’s decade-old album "I’m New Here". The album effectively resituating the legendary poet in the improvisatory tradition. While hyperbolic, Pitchfork's claim is that the label and its roster is "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz", that assertion carries over here to a richly complex and fully fleshed-out new set of garments that Scott-Heron wears with stylish aplomb. One would never conceive that "Gil Scott-Heron’s Legacy Is a Work in Progress", but as the New York Times stipulates, "Makaya McCraven Sees the Future of Jazz Through Layers of History", channeling that vision into his new framing for Scott-Heron on, "We're New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven".