Sons of Kemet Come to California :: Take One

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The Sons of Kemet came to The Echo-Plex in Echo Park, California and blew the house down. Twice. Both times were completely surreal and sublime. It has been at least two weeks and I still catch myself absent-mindedly reconstructing those pulsating baselines, beat box style. It has been at least two weeks and I still find myself excitedly sharing the moment with one of my friends and dope saxophonist from the Katalyst Collective (We’ve admitted it, total fanboy and girl)

They set fire to the trail and left a mostly stunned crowd slack jawed and limber jointed, from the disbelief and unadulterated grooving. A saxophone, a tuba, and two drummers. It defies logic and confounds reason that such a bizarre quartet could be possible for making some of the most interesting and rebellious jazz music I may have ever heard.

First thing, shoes are removed in reverence for the sacred space. At least that’s how I felt watching the pre-show rituals twice (I’m so lucky) and along the way the hat, the jacket are removed until the brothers are looking quite at home, and we share the feeling, as now we have bonded and committed to the journey.

They have captured the essence and revelry of carnival music, steeped it for hours in a jazz tea, and transformed it. No longer for the purist, never for the weak-hearted. “My Queen is _______,” enter the name of Pan-African freedom fighter of choice, but “Your Queen is a Reptile.” Its bold declaration seems almost absurd and after a few hours of rejoicing in the invocation of divine feminine ancestors. Shabaka Hutchings shines a light on the meaning of the album title and individual song titles. Nowhere near as sinister as it sounds, there is a tongue in cheek protest of the lack of inclusion of POC in political and societal establishment. It is has the grass root and raw indigenousness of folk music and the complexity and driving storytelling of jazz.

Nothing at all about the entire set feels like sit down relax style of Jazz, this is on your feet, stomp down the house Jazz. The band takes a round of solos, which only bear testament to how masterfully they sculpt sounds. It is a masterwork!




The Nonsemble