Soweto Kinch: Conversations With The Unseen (2003)
Soweto Kinch, a young British saxophonist with Jamaican roots, has created quite a stir in Europe. Judging from this, his first CD, the raves are well-deserved. Conversations With The Unseen contains some attempts to merge jazz and hip hop, but it is primarily a showcase for Kinch, an exceptionally gifted jazz musician, and his taut, hard-swinging band.
Kinch is an astonishingly good player, especially for one still in his mid-20s. He has a gorgeous, round tone that fills the horn, and his lines are long and fluid. At times he recalls the late British master Joe Harriott, who he names as an influence. But Kinch's greatest asset is his fearlessness. He's always taking chances. Even if he occaisionally stumbles a little, as on "Mungo's Adventure," his improvisations remain rich and daring. When his solos come together, as on the up-tempo "Doxology" or "Equiano's Tears," Kinch will bowl you over.
The core quartet is Kinch's working band, and what a band it is. If there's anyone who still believes that musicians from other nations don't swing as hard as Americans, this group should convince them otherwise. In addition, guitarist Femi Temowo impresses with his spiky comps and incandescent solos.
Not everything on this album works equally well, however. The hip hop tracks are probably going to alienate some listeners. In reality, Kinch's hip hop sounds very different than the thudding tracks heard on American radio. Bebop phrases float through "Good Nyooz," and there's a very hip trumpet solo on "Intermission - Split Decision." There's a lot of jazz in Kinch's version of hip hop. In addition, the booklet's graphics are crowded and hard to read.
Conversations With The Unseen is on a small British label, so it may be somewhat difficult for Americans to obtain. But the effort is worth making; Soweto Kinch is that good.
Track Listing: Intro, Doxology, Conversations With The Unseen, Elision, Spokes And Pedals, Intermission - Split Decision, Snakehips, Mungo's Adventure, The Flame-Thrower, Equiano's Tears, Good Nyooz, Outro.
Personnel: Soweto Kinch, alto saxophone, rap vocals; Femi Temowo, guitar; Michael Olatuja, bass; Troy Miller, drums; Eska Mtungwazi, vocals (Tracks 11, 12); Abram Wilson, trumpet, vocals (Track 6).
Style: Modern Jazz