Cross-pollination of jazz and hip hop has spread fast during the 2010s. In-the-moment creativity and giving-the-drummer-some are powerful synergies. In the US, key players include Kamasi Washington, Thundercat and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. In Britain, they include the extended family of musicians associated with reed player Shabaka Hutchings and the Brownswood Recordings label. Some of the British players are featured on the previously reviewed We Out Here (Brownswood, 2018), which is a great snapshot of the scene as it exists in London in spring 2018. Among Brownswood's alumni are keyboard player Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu) and drummer Yussef Dayes. As Yussef Kamaal, the pair debuted with Black Focus (Brownswood, 2016), a thrilling blend of hip hop-derived British musics and the jazz-funk legacies of Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers. In 2017, the duo were booked to perform at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, but at the last moment US homeland security refused to give visas to members of the party. Yussef Kamaal broke up shortly after this. Happily, Williams and Dayes both remain active, albeit separately. Dayes is prominently featured on Toshio Matsuura Group's previously reviewed Loveplaydance: 8 Scenes From The Floor (Brownswood, 2018) and on Tenderlonious's soon-to-be-released The Shakedown (22a). Williams has resurfaced with the appropriately titled The Return on his fledgling Black Focus label, made with the ferocious rhythm section of drummer MckNasty and bassist Pete Martin. The fourth member of the group is engineer Richard Samuels, whose studio expertise is crucial to the music. Brownswood regular, guitarist Mansur Brown, guests on "LDN Shuffle," tearing off a solo which gives more than a nod to John McLaughlin's work with Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Return takes up where Black Focus left off, harnessing classic jazz-funk and fusion with hip hop and its British offspring grime, broken beat and drum & bass. Beats are key, and so are great melodies and trippy ambiances. It is jazz, Jim, but only as we have recently got to know it, and it all hangs together beautifully.
Salaam; Broken Theme; The Return; High Roller; Situations; Catch The Loop; Rhythm Commission; Medina; LDN Shuffle; Aisha.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.
Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.