SONS OF KEMET — Your Queen Is A Reptile (review)

SONS OF KEMET — Your Queen Is A Reptile album cover Album · 2018 · World Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
They say there's no jazz for young people? Wrong, just look at the burgeoning London jazz scene! British-Caribbean reedsman Shabaka Hutchings rules there with his space jazz project, Comet Is Coming, plus Afrobeat Ancestors and the spiritual jazz of Sons Of Kemet.

New "Sons'..." album (already third) is just released and it burns. If Shabaka's "Comet..." is hardly jazz in traditional sense with lot of danceable electronics, "Sons..." music is rooted in jazz tradition for sure. Its an unorthodox band containing sax player, tuba player and two drummers playing music which comes right from the Paris clubs of the late 60s (Art Ensemble of Chicago's early European years) and London's Notting Hill of the late 70s (read - 2-Tone ska). Add modern rap on some songs (in a nod to the Afrocentric poets of the late 60s) - there it is.

Even more - "Your Queen Is a Reptile" is a politically sharp criticism on the British Monarchy, growing nationalism and anti-immigration moods. By its atmosphere this music is closer to BLM and anti-fa punk than more conservative jazz. Shabaka builds his own Monarchy by coronation of more or less known black women (incl. activist Angela Davis, Harriet Tubman, Ashanti queen mother Yaa Asantewaa and yes - his own great-grand mother Ada Eastman among others). Possibly surprising, the album's music is not particularly angry at all, more relaxed and even danceable in moments.

Right from the very first seconds of the opener, "My Queen is Ada Eastman", the listener is caught by the drummers' African rhythms and sax/tuba tight collaboration (ok, vocalist Joshua Idehen's rap is a matter of taste, but many will dig it). Then you get Caribbean tunes, dub and more African rhythms - all spiced with quite free jazz sax and tuba solos. Different from decades of modern jazz evolution, where complexity is usually a mandatory attribute of the genre, "Sons..." keep their music in the pocket.

The single (and one of the strongest album's songs) "My Queen Is Harriet Tubman", has been released prior to the album's release and received strong media exposure, start on this one in case of doubt. It's interesting that the album itself is released on legendary in past "true" jazz label "Impulse!", home for John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders among many other jazz greats of their generation.

Here is a jazz for our modern days, returning back to the streets, and away from concert halls, arrogant city intellectual clubs and marginals fests, becoming people's music as it was in the late 60s (and as it was with the punk/ska explosion in London in the late 70s).
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