sat 25/02/2017

Soweto Kinch, Kings Place | reviews, news & interviews

Soweto Kinch, Kings Place

Soweto Kinch, Kings Place

A jazz/hip-hop version of the Seven Deadly Sins? With dance? Paging Soweto Kinch

An unparalleled fluidity and fecundity of ideas: Soweto Kinch

Soweto Kinch's set last night as part of the eXplorations mini-series featured gluttony, envy and a host of other vices. No, not A Life in the Day of an Investment Banker, but a tantalising glimpse of Kinch's take on the Seven Deadly Sins.

Presenting material from Kinch's most recent release (The New Emancipation) in the first half, “Trying to be a Star” set the mood for the entire evening: a riotous mix of sax, bass, drums, pre-recorded material and spoken/sung elements, with Kinch flexing his singing voice on the chorus hook. From the outset, his rhythm section of bassist Karl Rasheed Abel (electric and upright) and drummer Graham Godfrey caught the ear, providing incredibly subtle syncopations, pinpoint start-stop motifs and the kind of intense listening that marks the truly great from the merely workmanlike.

Kinch dedicated “The Love of Money” to 'the psychopaths, the people who run our economies all around the world'

The boppish “A People with no Past” saw the first of many tumultuous solos from Kinch, incredible both in its fluidity and its fecundity of ideas, with guest trumpeter Jay Phelps blending easily into the tightly knit sound world,

Kinch dedicated “The Love of Money” to “the psychopaths, the people who run our economies all around the world”. Rather like the music of Erik Satie, the piece appeared to exist outside of 'real' time, its musical surface seeming to change perspective around a central core that remained essentially motionless. The impression of moving in concentric circles was bolstered by the slowly shifting chords of the pre-recorded element.

The wholly acoustic trio piece, “Trade”, featured more searching, impeccably constructed solos from both Kinch and Rasheed-Abel, while the alliterative-rich “Axis of Evil” saw Kinch's rhymes begin to flow increasingly freely (“I'm the face behind the face” was the refrain that was singed onto our consciousness). Best of all was “Never Ending”, featuring the trio with both special guests, Phelps and pianist Alex Wilson. Incorporating snatches of montuno and other rhythmic sleights of hand, Wilson's solo appeared to divide a humble bar of 4/4 in ways which didn't seem humanly possible.

The second set gave the Kings Place audience the privilege of being the first to hear extracts from Kinch's forthcoming, Dante-inspired, project, The Legend of Mike Smith, which sees its protagonist - an emerging urban music star - doing battle with the aforementioned vices.

Also featuring the incredible skills of dancer Tyrone Isaac-Stuart, “Gluttony” presented a multimedia jazztravaganza in which Kinch's unique layering of material produced something genuinely new and completely transfixing. There was almost a ritualistic aspect to the piece, as Isaac-Stuart circled around the stage, buckling under the weight of ever increasing amounts of High Street shopping bags, accompanied by the repetitive riffs – organ and xylophone, slightly Mr Benn, slightly deranged – that were emanating from Kinch's sequencer.

The much more elemental bass/drum groove of “Envy” was counterpointed against lines of an almost Bach-like clarity (“When I will be gettin' mine?” was the increasingly bitter refrain). “On the Treadmill” reached a higher rhythmic plane altogether, with the trio shuffling around intricately constructed rhythmic motifs like seasoned croupiers.

The evening came to a blazing conclusion with a completely improvised finale with all hands on stage

As Kinch said at one point, the final opus could yet take many forms: a play, a musical. Whatever its final form, The Legend of Mike Smith is going to offer the jazz world its equivalent to the Weill/Brecht satirical ballet chanté, Die sieben Todsünden. A truly mouth-watering prospect.

The evening came to a blazing conclusion with a completely improvised finale with all hands on stage. Kinch freestyled brilliantly on an acrostic of “freedom”, with words/themes shouted out in advance by the audience. The final trio of letters (d-o-m) presented a tricky combo of “Dirty”, “Octopus” and “Massive Selector” (OK, that's two words - the leader was feeling generous) which were nonetheless dispatched in a continuous flow with practised ease . Where Kinch is concerned, anything is possible. Of the solos, Phelps's sustained trilling elicited an appreciative roar from the audience.

The eXplorations mini-series concludes this evening with pianist Wilson presenting the London premiere of his Concerto for Kora, Piano and String Quartet (featuring Senegalese kora player, Kadialy Kouyaté), followed by a set from the trio and another Wilson work, The Compass Suite.

Watch the Soweto Kinch Quartet playing at the Banlieues Bleues Festival

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