Friday, October 1, 2010

Soweto Kinch: The New Emancipation

Soweto Kinch (sax, vocals; b.1978)
The New Emancipation (Soweto Kinch Recordings)

Ok so this is the part where I say, "this is going to be one my albums of the year." While let's just say 2010 has been a really good year for jazz. Mainly new stuff. New and creative stuff. I can tell everyone right now that my number one and number two albums, er, uh--well, why don't we wait a few more weeks for that. Today I did want to talk about what will definitely be on my top albums for year.

The long and arduous return of the jazz-hip hop alchemist, Soweto Kinch. I've discussed, London based, Soweto Kinch's incredible qualities before but I think on his new album The New Emancipation (SK Recordings) he has finally achieved the promise and hope that some many of us who have followed him over the years have been waiting for. The New Emancipation is sheer brilliance for a new century.

Early in his career, Soweto Kinch was guided by current British jazz legends Gary Crosby and Courtney Pine. After receiving a nomination for the UK press coveted Mercury Prize and critical acclaim for his debut, Conversations With The Unseen (Dune; 2003). Conversations... as with its follow up A Day In The Life of B12 (Dune) were both commentary on struggles of black British youth. But they can also be observed as the struggles of everyone in lower to middle class around the world. The great thing about powerful music is that the themes when communicated right, stand the test of time. And with Soweto Kinch, I think we may have found another great communicator of the urban theme.

After a great one off single Jazz Planet (Dune), some legal wrangling with his former label and the still unreleased sequel to A Day In The Life titled Basement Fables, now on shelf (hopefully not forever) Soweto began releasing music again in 2009. The Live At iTunes Soho release and an amazing hard hitting hip hop/jazz mini album War In A Rack (SK Recordings) signaled that Soweto was back and stronger than ever.

Now this month with the release of The New Emancipation, Kinch has probably designed the best and clearest document of his vision of Jazz and Hip Hop to date. While the album is based on Soweto Kinch's recent studies on slavery, The New Emancipation is also about the not accepting the pressures that try to hold us down. It's about our efforts to learn and break free from conformity.

Opening with the complex, dichotomy of artist, record label, celebrity and making it rich, "Trying To Be A Star" and moving into the bristling hard bop of "A People With No Past"--very reminiscent of Branford Marsalis circa Crazy People Music. In the first two full tracks Kinch has made his case that Jazz and Hip Hop an coexist within the same sphere. The influence of both someone like Branford, Sonny Rollins, Jackie McClean and Hip Hop artists Mos Def, KRS-One and Black Thought (of The Roots) can be felt throughout Soweto's discography. This is good shit people.

"Suspended Adolescence" is a nice straightforward post bop piece which shifts perfectly into soulful rhythms of "Help" which bases itself in some gospel themes slowly dives into rolling, frenetic Kinch solo. Kinch has embraced his influences and produced some astounding material on The New Emancipation.

"Trade" is another piece of post bop brilliance that put Kinch up there with many of his American counterpart as his skills on the alto begin to flourish beautifully. "On The Treadmill" is a slice of New Orleans funeral jazz funk that sees Kinch and his band having a delightful interaction.

The New Emancipation balances the Hip Hop and Jazz tracks to perfection. This lyrical delivery of Soweto Kinch has never been more clear than now. But also his playing has become more mature and focused. This is an statement of our culture as well as deconstruction of what Jazz and Hip Hop should be.

The New Emancipation is by far one of my albums of the year. I hope everyone gets a chance to hear this because its absolutely brilliant.

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