Shabaka Hutchings | Feature

Feature Artists Shabaka and the Ancestors Shabaka Hutchings Sons of Kemet The Comet is Coming

Shabaka Hutchings | Feature Artist

Shabaka Hutchings is the busiest man in Jazz. Across 3 ventures, he has proved to be one of the most forward-thinking composers in recent times. With an output to rival the greats in just 10 years, the man is easily carrying the torch handed from Kamasi Washington to bring Jazz into the new decade. 

Shabaka has 3 primary bands, each unique but nevertheless amazing. The easiest to start with is ‘Sons of Kemet’. Formed in 2011, the Sons have released three great albums so far, with the easy king being 2018’s Your Queen is a Reptile. The album bursts with life, with all instruments perfectly forming around ideas of traditional African percussion alongside larger than life Jazz ensembles consisting of Hutchings himself on Saxophone. The album stands on its instrumental basis alone, but the icing on the cake is by far the concept. With each of the nine tracks being named after prominent women of colour throughout history, meaning is given to all corners of the record. With the spoken word introduction of the opening track, ‘My Queen is Ada Eastman’ and the infectious ‘My Queen is Harriet Tubman’, life springs forth from every song to create one of the most vibrant jazz records in recent memory.

While Sons of Kemet acknowledges the past, The Comet is Coming is Shabaka turning his head towards the future of Jazz. The Comet is Coming departs from all ideas of traditionalism to incorporate Electronica and Funk into the already vibrant flow created by Shabaka (or his pseudonym ‘King Shabaka’). I can’t recommend their 2019 effort Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery any higher, for someone looking to get into contemporary Jazz. The record employs a more brooding tone for its runtime, but nevertheless consistently builds and swirls into fusions of its influences rather than simply layering things. It’s also worth noting the album's companion EP, The Afterlife, a great second helping of a solid formula of neo-futurist Jazz.

Finally, we have Shabaka and the Ancestors, hot on the heels with their latest We Are Sent Here By History. I’d argue they are the most traditional outfit of the buffet offered by Shabaka’s catalogue. Having said that, their subtle subversive take on tired and aged tropes, makes them an interesting listen if not a great benchmark for Jazz History. The album indulges in an epic sound, the monologue of the opener ‘They Who Must Die’ chills the blood and primes for what is to come, 69 minutes of slow-brewed escapism to mark Shabaka entering the new decade with an ambition rarely seen. A must-listen for Jazz fans in 2020.

With restocks of Sons of Kemet vinyl and orders of S&TA and TCIC on the way, there is no better time to start listening to Shabaka.

Mitchell Phillips

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