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With 'Black to the Future,' Sons of Kemet Offer a Provocation, and a Salve

Sons of Kemet Full Band
Udoma Janssen
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Sons of Kemet

During a halted year, Shabaka Hutchings keeps chugging. The relentless multi-reedist and composer has mobilized his first working band for an album with new dimensions.

That band, Sons of Kemet, marks its 10th anniversary this year. It's an unusual chord-less quartet with Hutchings on flute and a variety of woodwinds; Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick on drums; and Theon Cross on tuba. Both Hutchings and Cross interlock their horns with pointillistic precision to magnify the group’s complex yet rarely overlapping rhythmic propulsion.

For the first part of this podcast, Cross and Hutchings dive into Black to the Future and provide their observations behind the album, which sonically strays into territory not heard on their last Impulse outing, Your Queen Is A Reptile. (Jazz Night In America filmed the quartet at the 2019 Big Ears Festival, when they were touring behind that album.)

While in quarantine, Hutchings unlocked the magic of the MPC, a holy grail tool of hip-hop producers. By sampling woodwind and flute riffs, he’s able to paint orchestral swirls and spirals floating above its hypnotic rhythms.

In the second portion of the interview, Hutchings elaborates on the strong message behind his mostly joyous sounds, not counting the first and last numbers, "Field Negus” and “Black." The names of all the songs, read in sequence, form an original poem that Hutchings intended "for the invocation of power, remembrance, and healing." Apply the music when needed as a salve to get us through this difficult period.

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.