Release Date: May 14, 2021
Record label: Impulse!
In many respects, jazz has acted as a vehicle in which musicians can draw from a vast well of historical and contextual memory, transforming their sound to encompass elements of the past, present, and future. Shabaka Hutchings, saxophonist and bandleader of UK jazz group Sons of Kemet, understands the significance that history holds within the realm of music. Having played in several other jazz ensembles, such as Afrofuturist group the Ancestors, and even with Sun Ra Arkestra, Hutchings' work has made him a hot topic within music circles.
Black to the Future succeeds by building on Sons of Kemet 's strengths. The outfit's unusual lineup remains at the center: two percussionists (Eddie Hick and Tom Skinner), tuba (Theon Cross), and Hutchings on saxophone and woodwinds. Afro-Caribbean sounds still shape their work; they eschew American jazz's emphasis on blues scales, swing, and cymbals, opting instead for kinetic drum patterns, bumping brass, and hook-focused horns.
It's difficult to argue with the notion that Shabaka Hutchings is anything other than the most intriguing and consistently exciting force currently at work in British music. Whether on his own (under the pseudonym King Shabaka) or performing as part of his trio of groups - The Comet Is Coming, Shabaka and the Ancestors, or Sons Of Kemet - his singular vision and unrelenting creativity somehow radiate from everything he touches. In the world of Jazz, and music more generally, forces like his don't come along all that often, so best to make a big deal out of it when they do.