Sons of Kemet
“Now more than ever, the easiest answer to that pesky question—what’s keeping jazz vital these days?—appears to lie in London,” The New York Times wrote in 2018, placing Sons of Kemet at the center of the British jazz renaissance and Shabaka Hutchings at the center of Sons of Kemet.
The quartet’s unusual lineup—Hutchings on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Theon Cross on tuba, and two drummers, Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick—produces a “relentless, jouncing sound anchored in the rhythms of the Caribbean” (Hutchings lived in Barbados for a time as a child) whipped along by a frenzy of political conviction, calling on the ancestral power of Ashanti queens and civil-rights icons. The band anchors a triptych with the electronic futurism of The Comet Is Coming and the elemental spiritualism of Shabaka and the Ancestors, two other ensembles led by Hutchings, who was also the musical director of the flashpoint London jazz primer We Out Here in 2018.
In 2021, Sons of Kemet’s purposeful turbulence was catalyzed by worldly turmoil on Black to the Future, their fourth album. With a tonal range from delicate to delirious and esteemed guest stars such as Moor Mother and Angel Bat Dawid, the record won crossover acclaim, received with equal warmth by The Guardian (“an eloquent dance between anger and joy”) and Pitchfork (“highly accessible, politically engaged jazz that’s more focused on communication than individual experimentation”). With such an unqualified success in hand, they come to Big Ears ready to meet the high expectations bred by their electrifying 2019 stand.