Monday, 9 December 2013

Review: Sons Of Kemet - Burn

‘Sons Of Kemet’ is the new group starring two of the UK’s biggest and best names in jazz – namely the greatest drummer of his generation Sebastian Roachford, and saxophone and clarinet master Shabaka Hutchings. Here however they are joined by not the most usual choice of instrumentation. Despite being known as a drummer of great rhythmic feel and invention, and also one of great profile, Roachford here aligns himself with second drummer Tom Skinner. And rather than choosing a more obvious chordal instrument (excepting two numbers where guitarist Dave Okumu drops in), the group is instead rounded out by the rarely heard tuba, courtesy of Oren Marshall.

‘Burn’, their first record, gets off to a sudden and powerful start courtesy of some pounding driving drums, that even when the horns enter, never let up. The tuba is the real revelation here though, providing a different yet driving and strong bass feel, while Hutchings’ creates a clutch of different melodies, and both lead instruments play off each other in a sublime, fiery and free manner. It’s not ‘free’ as you may fear it though - whilst it borrows elements and the power, the album is absolutely filled with hooks. The second track, 'The Godfather', is a brilliant example of this, where everything seems to build and snake itself around the lead melody line to great effect.

Fourth track ‘Book Of Disquiet’ is the first to offer something more reflective (and yes, quiet), with all the sounds of the group working to create subtle ideas, both individually and together, and crucially the two drummers are able to showcase something tasteful and notably different from most usual twin-drum line-ups. ‘Going Home’, that follows, offers a more fun approach and Hutchings at his most lyrical - all the while weaving around Marshall’s tuba that offers a steady and insistent pulse for the listener to hang onto.

Although ‘Burn’ is their debut recording, Sons Of Kemet have been around and playing the live circuit for more than two years, gathering rave reviews wherever they’ve played. Given the electric sense of fun and energy they create on record, it would truly be something to behold to see them live, but for once here the studio doesn’t neuter the experience. Boasting power, groove, melody and soul, it’s an album that manages to cram in a massive amount, all the more impressive given its more experimental line-up, but this is no exercise in experimentation – this is wall-to-wall music of the highest order and certainly one of the best British groups currently on the scene.


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