Shabaka Hutchings (sax/clarinet) leads Sons of Kemet, a band that’s been called a jazz “super-group” due to the calibre (and other commitments) of the members. It features two drummers (Tom Skiinner and Seb Rochford) and Oren Marshall on Tuba. And Burn is the band’s debut album after a couple of years of sporadic – apparently jaw-dropping – performances.
Burn closes with Rivers of Babylon – it’s almost worth skipping to the end of the album to take this in first, a careful, patient re-enabling of the tune, a post-Treme John Zorn-conducts-Dirty Brass Band type of a cover.
It’s beautiful, stately – it wafts and drifts and you hear the history of gospel music, the history of Africa, in the spaces within the notes.
And before you get to that, if you do follow the album in sequence, you’ll be pummelled by drums, dazzled by the flight of the tuba, frightened by the beauty of the squall inside the saxophone, it’s Charles Lloyd and Oliver Lake and Zorn and, arguably, it’s scorn thrown at jazz as All Will Surely Burn transitions to the tribal groove and snake-charming clarinet of The Godfather; almost a post-rave comedown or a pre-nightclub come-on.
Inner Babylon gets the two percussionists knitting down a skitter of groove as the tuba parps a bassline for Hutchings to kite over.
Going Home has the Hot 8/Hypnotic Brass Ensemble feel but without the so-pleased-with-itself party-vibe smugness. The clarinet helps to keep this hinting at, well, a type of shoegazer-jazz.
And then – before long, it’s a beautiful whirlwind of colours of sound – we’re back at Babylon. Back being guided through its rivers.
Burn is a thing of beauty, a measured, but still somewhat untamed beast of sound. It’s stunning. It’s really, really fucking good!