Stories » Shabaka Hutchings certainly has cause to feel confident / Evening Standard

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Shabaka Hutchings certainly has cause to feel confident / Evening Standard

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Arriving at a small café in Kentish Town, Sons of Kemet's leader, saxophonist and clarinet player Shabaka Hutchings, greets me with a huge smile. "Do you want to listen?" he asks, immediately passing me a new pair of expensive-looking headphones he's just bought. Every textured note of a jazz composition filters into my ears with razor-sharp precision. I comment on the complexity of the sound, it not being dissimilar to the detailed, intricately layered music of his band's Mercury-nominated album Your Queen is a Reptile, released earlier this year. For Hutchings, the sound may be complex but the process of making it was anything but. 

"It's not a science, it's not a complicated procedure," Hutchings says, laughing. "You write music and you record it: you just do it. I trust in my ability to write really dope s*** and I will do that consistently for as long as I can." His fellow band member, tuba player Theon Cross, is sitting listening on the adjoining table and laughs. He nods and smiles when I ask him if Hutchings is always this confident. "All we have is our confidence in ourselves," 33-year-old Hutchings beams. "You've got to have confidence or you're doomed."

Hutchings certainly has cause to feel confident. Together with Sons of Kemet and his other two projects, Shabaka and the Ancestors and The Comet is Coming, he's one of the driving forces behind a south London jazz scene so exciting that it's capturing imaginations on a global scale. "It's young people taking jazz music and making it something that's relevant again," Hutchings says, describing the movement. "It has nuanced integrity and is bridging the gap between the history of jazz and the sounds people need in modern spaces." 

On Your Queen Is a Reptile, their third album, Hutchings directs Cross alongside drummers Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick. Traditional jazz shapeshifts alongside everything from Afrofuturist beats, dub, calypso and hip hop to jungle, spoken word and rap via New Orleans, the Caribbean, the Middle East and London.