While jazz seems to be undergoing reinventions every other day in the bubbling hotpot of London, it’s rare for each one to be largely attributed to one person. Bandleader and man-on-the-reeds Shabaka Hutchings is a constant, and while his visions are always bold and forward-facing, the astonishing craftsmanship and deep spirituality of his group Sons of Kemet’s fourth LP, Black To The Future, might just be the greatest in his long line of masterpieces.
The title itself is very revealing; a sly in-joke that reckons with the horrors wrought upon Black histories in the UK and beyond, delivered as a celebration of Black culture’s defiant joy. Brass sections bounce and blare to the shared rhythms of two drum kits, swaying at a near hip-hop and grime pace on the likes of ‘Think of Hope’ and ‘Let The Circle Be Unbroken’, as Hutchings weaves lyrical sax flows and skronks over each bombastic tuba stomp, eking out somnambulant melody and free jazz skirmishes. The viscerally gleeful racket finds spoken word form in the fearsome invocations of Moor Mother, Josh Idehen and Kojey Radical set out narratives of vivacity in the face of long-suffering struggle.
As formidable, heavy and tenacious Black To The Future is, Hutchings never lets you forget that jazz is fundamentally an expression of resistance.