Sons of Kemet – Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do ★★★★

NAIM
Shabaka Hutchings (ts, cl), Seb Rochford (d), Tom Skinner (d) and Theon Cross (tba) Rec. date not given

Unlike bands at the youth end of the mainstream music culture, young jazz ensembles tend to be looked upon as a work-inprogress. So it’s a rare thing for a young group’s debut to be showered with praise as much as Sons of Kemet were on the eve of their debut CD Burn in 2012. But Shabaka Hutchings’ double drum-sax-tuba quartet isn’t your typical jazz group, anyone who’s seen them live especially will have experienced the band’s intensely sensual and exhilarating combo of rhythm and melody – we can perhaps see a loose parallel on a larger scale in the US with the positive reaction to the debut of LA based saxophonist Kamasi Washington, in spite of his more stellar Flying Lotus connections.

Compared to the effects-laden, dub-like studio production on Burn, Lest We Forget... benefits from a pared down, earthy ‘live’ feel although it also gains from the kind of sonic precision associated with contemporary beats and electronica in the artful hands of its producer/band member Seb Rochford. There’s a pivotal contribution from Theon Cross, the tuba player who replaced his mentor Oren Marshall 18 months ago, delivering on the promise he revealed as a pivotal member of LOOP Collective saxophonist Tom Challenger’s Brass Mask. While Marshall’s experimental approach to the tuba is less evident, Cross’ fat brass grooves are charged with a precision and energy.

Besides the pervasive influence of Caribbean New Orleans and AfroBeat rhythms in the details, as well as on the danceable surface, for the opening track ‘In Memory of Samir Awad’ Hutchings’ raunchily stabbing tenor sax riffs have something of the flavour of Ethiojazz about them – he’s a member of Mulatu Astatké’s Heliocentrics the more eastern/Arabic influences being tied to the tragic plight of the young Palestinian of the title.

– Selwyn Harris

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