Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

4

Sons of Kemet at Black Box, Belfast

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Sons of Kemet
Black Box
Belfast, N. Ireland
April 7, 2016

The finer points of ancient Egyptian religion might not have been the chief topic of discussion among the Black Box crowd as it waited for Mobo Jazz Award winners Sons of Kemet to take the stage in. Yet music is not hermetic; even if the listener is unaware of the multiple forces that can shape music, the effects of those forces are duly felt. So it was in Black Box, where Sons of Kemet's heady Afro-centric grooves cooked up a fiesta.

Shabaka Hutchings may be inspired in no small measure by ancient Egyptian teachings—King Shabaka was the last Nubian ruler of Kemet, the native name for ancient Egypt—but equally important in the quartet's music is the history of the African diaspora. This cosmic collision of ancient wisdom, history, and musical roots that stretch from Africa and the Caribbean to modern Britain resulted in a potent, intoxicating Belfast gig.

Sons of Kemet's debut recording, Burn (Naim Jazz Records, 2011) garnered awards and accolades left, right and centre, but this gig showcased mostly compositions from the quartet's latest CD, Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do (Naim Jazz Records, 2015). Between the two releases Theon Cross has replaced Oren Marshall on tuba and his bass profundo riffing provided an immense pulse beneath Sebastian Rochford and Tom Skinner's intricately latticed drum patterns. Skinner worked his bass drum relentlessly, having to physically pull it back whenever it slipped its berth. Riding the crest of these pulsating rhythmic waves, Hutchings worked up a sweat with lung-busting solos, moulding rhythmic mantras and melodious lines into ecstatic planes of free-jazz intensity.

The stirring musical concoction evoked the spirits of Sun Ra and Archie Shepp, of Manu Dibango and Fela Kuti and of the new wave of New Orleans brass bands; a little of all these musical tributaries fused on the stonking runaway train that was the opening number. Yet fundamentally, this was dance music and a proportion of the crowd were soon seduced by the siren call of irresistible, booty-shaking grooves. For both musicians and dancers alike, it was a test of stamina too, as tracks such as "Inner Babylon"—the only offering from the band's first CD—were stretched to double their recorded time, with Hutchings and Cross, Skinner and Rochford bouncing off each other with the exuberance of wired kids.

Barely pausing to acknowledge the applause that greeted the end of each explosive track—as though anxious not to slip out of the zone—Sons of Kemet kept the pedal to the floor for most of the two-hour set. The notable exception was "The Long Night of Octavia E Butler"—inspired by the lauded science fiction/Afrofuturist writer—where Skinner's sticks, Rochford's mallets, Cross's metronomic tuba pulse and Hutchings quietly snaking, mellifluous lines carved out an atmospheric pocket of—relative—repose.

Appropriately, that track wove seamlessly into "Afrofuturism," a spirited riff and groove fest punctuated by honking tuba and tearing saxophone lines. In her novel Pattermaster (1977), Butler wrote of the Patternists' telepathy, an attribute that Sons of Kemit seemed to exude in the most highly charged passages of play where compositional patterns and improvisational flare were dizzyingly blurred.

With the stage and green room separated by the crowd it would have made little sense for the band to weave its way through the dancers and tables only to have to make the return journey for the encore, so obeying logic, Sons of Kemit stayed put and launched into "Play Mass," a feel-good number that whipped the dancers to its unrelenting rhythms.

This was Sons of Kemet's first tour of Ireland and hopefully it won't be the last. The summer festival crowds and dance clubs acolytes would surely go nuts for an injection of the non-conventional yet highly infectious music that Sons of Kemet so joyously purvey. Not for the seated.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery Live Reviews Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: December 10, 2017
Read The Brian McCarthy Quartet At FlynnSpace Live Reviews The Brian McCarthy Quartet At FlynnSpace
by Doug Collette
Published: December 10, 2017
Read Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre Live Reviews Mindi Abair at The Empress Theatre
by Walter Atkins
Published: December 8, 2017
Read BAN BAM: Music Talking Live Reviews BAN BAM: Music Talking
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 7, 2017
Read David Amram 87th Birthday Celebration at the Falcon Live Reviews David Amram 87th Birthday Celebration at the Falcon
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "Brilliant Corners 2017" Live Reviews Brilliant Corners 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "SFJAZZ Collective at the Music Box Supper Club" Live Reviews SFJAZZ Collective at the Music Box Supper Club
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: May 8, 2017

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!