Post Jazz?

I had not come across the expression “post-jazz” until I read the preview of the forthcoming Sons of Kemet gig at Band on the Wall (1st December 2015). I suppose it was inevitable, we have had post-punk, and post-rock so someone was bound to come up with a way to shoe-horn post-jazz into an increasingly crowded genre classification pile.

My take on this is that Sons of Kemet aren’t post-jazz. Their combination of Reeds, Tuba and percussion has been done before, Arthur Blythe’s “Spirits In The Field” album with Cecil Brooks and Bob Stewart (Savant 2000) is a case in point. The difference with Sons of Kemet is that there are two percussionists in play. An expression like post-jazz would imply a significant stylistic change whereas this band builds on a strong tradition and adapts and improves on it without necessarily delivering a paradigm shift in content.

Led by saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and BBC “New Generation Artist” Shabaka Hutchings, this is putatively a jazz ‘supergroup’ , with Theon Cross on tuba and  Seb Rochford (Polar Bear. Andy Sheppard Quartet) and Tom Skinner (Melt Yourself Down) performing the dual percussion role.

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Their latest release “Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do” is a marvellous set of joyous percussion dominated work-outs. Echoing the extensive workouts of Fela Kuti, absorbing a Caribbean party atmosphere, but also reflecting the sonic extremes of avant garde jazz in places, the talented four piece deliver a satisfying mostly up tempo selection of pieces. There is also a sense of klezmer, or eastern european culture, in some of the tunes, I was reminded of Pachora in places (Hutchings clarinet echoing Chris Speed’s approach with that band), with the riff centred lengthy workouts mixing several genres at once.

The more reflective “Mo’ Wiser”, the stand-out piece on the album, marries shuffling percussion with a funky bass line from the tuba and a middle eastern tonal/melodic feel from the reeds. There’s a nod towards John Zorn’s more relaxed Masada work in places. Hutchings’ playing on this track in particular is a delightful mix of textured growl and bitter-sweet melodic exploration. The playful “Breadfruit”, another memorable track, plays with calypso/carnival motifs and puts my in mind of the tongue in cheek approach of Sex-Mob. Another favourite is the marching beat riffing of “The Hour of Judgement” which allows Hutchings some space to let rip while the rest of the band maintain the pulse behind him.

I have no doubt people will be up out of their seats and dancing to this infectious and fun sound at the Band on the Wall next week. A great album and a “not to be missed” gig.

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