247

Soweto Kinch: A Life In The Day Of B19: Tales Of The Towerblock

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Soweto Kinch: A Life In The Day Of B19: Tales Of The Towerblock British saxophonist Soweto Kinch polarised opinion to the max in 2003, with his jazz 'n' hip-hop debut, Conversations With The Unseen (Dune). Many older listeners hated it, regarding it as a betrayal of tradition of Judas-like proportions. Younger, more inclusive listeners loved it, welcoming it as, simultaneously, a reconnection with jazz's long-lost roots in urban street culture and a way forward into a brighter and more vigorous future.

The battle lines weren't wholly characterised by age and anticipated prejudice, however. The great, conscious rapper KRS-One loved Kinch's music and gave him a support slot on tour. More surprisingly, perhaps, Wynton Marsalis professed to like it too. The New York Times, admittedly not the newspaper of choice for most rap fans, thought Kinch could teach the US a thing or two about narrative rap. And the album picked up a string of awards, the most prestigious of which was Album Of The Year in the Mercury Music Prize.

A Life In The Day Of B19: Tales Of The Towerblock, is likely to fan the flames of dispute even harder. As Kinch has it, Conversations was concerned with taking hip-hop to the jazz audience, while B19 is about taking jazz to the hip-hop audience. There is, consequently, an even closer focus on rap, narrative and jazzoetry, alongside more of Kinch's visceral, high octane take on post bop.

Americans say project and Britons say towerblock. B19, which has a precisely structured, linear narrative flow, observes the lives of three occupants of a rundown social-housing estate, as each endeavours to make something of his life in the face of poverty, educational disadvantage and political neglect. The central character is Kinch's S, a rapper/saxophonist trying to woodshed while the local welfare bureaucrats attempt to get him to take a job, any job, on minimum wage. There's a younger, bling-centric wannabe rapper and an older man trying to make a new start after a disastrous marriage. As the story progresses, the three characters start to connect.

The raps—especially from Kinch, Jonzi D and newcomer Perge Casey—are conscious and engrossing. And so is the playing. The album unfolds over 79 minutes with instrumental/jazz and rap/hip-hop tracks alternating and morphing in and out of each other. Kinch's core quartet—bassist Michael Olatuja, guitarist Femi Temowo, drummer Troy Miller, and the leader on saxophones and keyboards—bring together such diverse influences as Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington with energy and high style.

It's all, very nearly, a major masterpiece. And there's more to come. B19 ends with one of the characters finding something unexpected and dramatic in the basement (we're not told what). Next spring, Kinch will release part two of the story, Basement Fables, and we'll find out whether that something is a path to danger or a path to salvation—or neither, or both. Whatever it turns out to be, bring it on.


Track Listing: Opening Theme; The Mission; 10.30 Appointment; Adrian's Ballad; Love Gamble; Ridez; Padz; Marcus' Crisis; So!; Expansion; Out There; A Friendly Game Of Basketball; Everybody Raps; Who Knows?; The House That Love Built.

Personnel: Soweto Kinch: alto and tenor saxophone, keyboards, rap vocals, beat box and freestyle, handclaps; Abram Wilson: trumpet; Denys Baptiste: tenor saxophone; Harry Brown: trombone; Femi Temowo: guitars; Michael Olatuja: double bass, electric bass; Troy Miller: drums; Francis Mott: vocals (10); Jason Yarde: handclaps; Moira Stuart, Soweto Kinch, Perge Casey, Toyin Kinch, Kim Trusty, Jonathan Kidd, Breis, Abram Wilson, Jonzi D, Dannie Hoch, Femi Temowo: spoken word, rap, jazzoetry.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Dune | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Live at PafA CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Ocean of Storms CD/LP/Track Review Ocean of Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Jungle: Live At Okuden" CD/LP/Track Review Jungle: Live At Okuden
by John Sharpe
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "The Third Decade" CD/LP/Track Review The Third Decade
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 16, 2016
Read "Enter the PlusTet" CD/LP/Track Review Enter the PlusTet
by Troy Collins
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "This Is Where I Live" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Where I Live
by James Nadal
Published: June 20, 2016
Read "Gorgeous Chaos" CD/LP/Track Review Gorgeous Chaos
by James Nadal
Published: May 2, 2016
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!