Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sons of Kemet - Your Queen is a Reptile (Impulse!, 2018)

The signing of saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings to the legendary Impulse! imprint was an inspired choice, his bands The Comet is Coming, The Ancestors, and this group, Sons of Kemet are infused with the spiritual jazz of that label's heyday. Hutchings is joined by tuba player Theon Cross and a trio of percussionists and guests on this album, dedicated to great women in history, beginning with "My Queen is Ada Eastman" which has some heavy percussion and tuba holding down the low end, creating a thick and tight rhythm that Hutchings weaves through on saxophone. This is tight and focused music that responds well to pressure and the spoken word / rap section by guest Joshua Idehen unfolds organically adding lyrics about race, politics and social justice. It's great to hear the tuba in jazz and Cross's playing lends texture to "My Queen is Harriet Tubman" as fast drumming and saxophone turn up the heat even further. The music has a tough and realistic urban feel, with just the right amount of grit in the music to keep the edge. "My Queen is Angela Davis" again features the growling tuba amidst the saxophone and percussion thicket. Hutchings was quoted in Jazz Times as stating that he wanted to move away from the dependence on soloing, and indeed it is the group interplay that really stands out here and on the album as a whole. He'll develop small motifs and then use repetition to build the tension raising the music to a full boil in an exciting fashion. Hand percussion and an extra saxophonist (Nubya Garcia) keep "My Queen is Yaa Asantewaa" moving forward in a propulsive fashion. Horns weave above and around the tuba and drums ground assault, developing a tight groove that comes together as a deeply rhythmic and full sound. "My Queen Is Albertina Sisulu" show the saxophone and brass really doubling down, with a skittish rhythm being developed on drums adding to the tension. The drums and percussion are bright and vibrant, resulting in a ripply, galvanic performance. The album ends with "My Queen is Doreen Lawrence" where the uneven rhythm keeps everyone on their toes, adding bellows of tuba and the tenor saxophone burrowing within the full band. The uneven foundation provides the perfect launching pad for Idehen to provide some more defiant lyrics about identity and inclusiveness, before the band takes the music home with emphatic playing. This was a really good album, drawing on a wide range of ideas from hip-hop to dub and Caribbean music, but with an overarching modern jazz conception. The musicians were very talented and the compositions memorable, do check it out, it's well worth your while. Your Queen Is A Reptile - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.