Albums of the week: Black to the Future, Fat Pop (Volume 1), Wind Sonatas
New releases from Sons of Kemet, Paul Weller, and Les Vents Français
Sons of Kemet
Black to the Future
“Jazz is most often a collegial endeavour, but it has a star system too,” said Kitty Empire in The Observer. On the young British jazz scene, the “urbane, bold and deep-thinking” saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings shines as brightly as anyone. Known for his “relentless energy and pioneering spirit”, Hutchings has three bands on the go. This one, Sons of Kemet, has musical roots in brass-laden carnivals, with undercurrents of hip-hop – and its fourth album, which includes more vocals than before, is its best yet. The music is urgent and political, much of it recorded following the murder of George Floyd a year ago. Yet it is “party” music, too, which “lifts the spirit and feeds the soul”.
Hutchings and his band have attracted an “all-star” cast of guests, said Dhruva Balram on NME. Collaborators include rapper Kojey Radical, the Chicago bandleader/vocalist Angel Bat Dawid, singer Lianne La Havas and poet Joshua Idehen. Together, they’ve made a “career-defining work that makes the case for Sons of Kemet as jazz greats in their own right”.
Fat Pop (Volume 1)
“Has there been a more remarkable late-career run than Paul Weller’s?” I can’t think of one, said Dan Cairns in The Sunday Times. Fat Pop, Weller’s 16th solo album, is “another beauty” in a glorious sequence that started with 22 Dreams in 2008, “stylistically and lyrically, the album roams far and wide, encompassing pop, reggae, blues, soul, balladry, polemic, whimsy and regret”. The title track is a “sinuous, clarinet-flecked, Ian Dury-like ode to music”. The “arch, self-mocking” Cosmic Fringes recalls early Roxy Music and Ziggy-era Bowie. And In Better Times is the “sonic equivalent of a sun-dappled walk along a meandering riverbank”.
This is Weller’s second album in less than a year, after On Sunset, said Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in the FT. And it ranges so widely across genres, it feels slightly “scattergun” – from the Spanish guitar in Cobweb/Connections to the mix of reggae and orchestral soul in That Pleasure. Even so, there are some definite “keepers” among this “eager, zesty” and “frisky” collection.
Les Vents Français/Eric Le Sage
Hindemith: Wind Sonatas
The German composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Hindemith was in the 1920s an “avant-gardist” in the Schoenberg mould, who was denounced by the Nazis. But he had “abandoned serialism by the late 1930s”, said Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times, and it’s hard to hear, in Emmanuel Pahud’s “witty account” of his 1936 Flute Sonata, what would have made Goebbels ban its Berlin premiere. Other “starry names” who give pleasing accounts of Hindemith’s “delightful” wind sonatas on this splendid disc include François Leleux, Paul Meyer and Radovan Vlatkovic.
The members of the quintet Les Vents Français are all front-rank soloists in their own right, and give “fabulously fluent performances”, agreed Andrew Clements in The Guardian. Leleux’s account of the oboe work is “smooth and suave, the epitome of French woodwind playing”, and the agility of clarinettist Meyer and bassoonist Gilbert Audin is impressive. But it’s the four-movement Tenor Horn Sonata that’s “the real treasure here”, revealed by Vlatkovic as “a work of unexpected beauty and depth”.