Shabaka Hutchings is invigorating and leading the resurgence of progressive jazz in London through his three distinct projects: Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming and Shabaka & the Ancestors. The Mercury Prize nominated saxophonist has a colorful upbringing, with many of his childhood years spent growing up in Barbados. Upon his return to London, he honed his chops through training, study, and performance with the jazz educational program Tomorrow’s Warriors.
Hutchings’ extreme skill, coupled with his ‘soca’ sensibility and deep appreciation of wide-ranging genres, places the artists in a unique space amongst his contemporaries. His collaboration with tuba player Theon Cross – Sons of Kemet – finds Hutchings leaning into his Barbadian roots; while the Comet is Coming brings a visceral pulsating punk and cosmic dance perspective to his output. But, it’s his most recent album with Shabaka & the Ancestors that currently has our attention. All three projects are front and center of the relaunch of Impulse! Records. The reverence for Shabaka’s standing in the modern-day jazz world is tremendous.
We Are Sent Here By History is a spiritual awakening and an homage to African and Caribbean traditions. Recorded exclusively in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with a collective of South African musicians, Shabaka says this of the album, “We Are Sent Here by History is a meditation on the fact of our coming extinction as a species. It is a reflection from the ruins, from the burning. A questioning of the steps to be taken in preparation for our transition individually and societally if the end is to be seen as anything but a tragic defeat.”
The album is presented as a ‘sonic poem’ with lyrics weaved throughout by Siyabonga Mthembu (a South African performance artist), bringing an immediate urgency and force to the album. Musically, the compositions are rich, rhythmic, layered and focused.
Hutchings is thoughtful, important, and creating at a prolific level. He’s not only capturing the attention of worldwide audiences but doing his best to sonically save them from the current societal pressures and wrongdoings taking place. words / t hale
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