YUSSEF KAMAAL Black Focus Brownswood
Tenderlonius’s 22a imprint and Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section have both nurtured a wave of artists unbound by genre but nonetheless dealing in a distinctly soulful, jazz-flecked aesthetic. Centred around Peckham, there exists a real community among these artists, and as a result a spirit of collaboration and friendship has defined much of the output. This record, though released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood, is in many ways a culmination of that spirit: between them Kamaal Williams and Yussef Dayes are mainstays on both labels and the supporting cast is a strong reflection of the depth and richness of the area.
At the heart of Black Focus is the chemistry between Williams and Dayes. The way the initiative bounces from keys to drums, egging each other on, is at times thrilling. Moments come and go when extra components cut through and take things to a higher level (notably the piercing saxophone on Strings Of Light) but tracks like Remembrance, Wing Tai Drums and Joint 17 where the pair demand centre stage, are the most effective. If there’s a criticism to level, you could argue it’s a little too languid, too lounge. If you compare it to Ruby Rushton’s Two For Joy from last year (on which Dayes drums), it can feel safe. More so if you consider Shabaka Hutchins’ incendiary Sons of Kemet, or the wildly futuristic Comet Is Coming. Really though, this is splitting hairs: the sound palette is warm, you can feel experimentation at work and the vibe is a good time. Another energetic addition to modern jazz’s growing London movement.