Stories » Sons of Kemet and Melissa Laveaux, set for Millennium Park / Chicago Reader

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Sons of Kemet and Melissa Laveaux, set for Millennium Park / Chicago Reader

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Sons of Kemet play the Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, This Thursday June 28

Jazz-related music rarely gets any sort of mainstream hype these days, and it's gratifying when one of the figures attracting wide attention outside of the jazz press actually deserves it. British reedist Shabaka Hutchings, a dynamo rooted in jazz, is an agile and curious musician who spreads his soulfully biting improvisation across wildly disparate projects. Last year he made his local debut at the Chicago Jazz Festival, playing in a band led by veteran South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, where he extrapolated dancing solos sparked by free-jazz exploration and fueled by kwela melodies. This week marks his first Chicago show with Sons of Kemet, the group that's proven his most fruitful and exciting platform to date. Earlier this year the quartet's third album, Your Queen Is a Reptile, got a global release on Impulse Records. The powerful recording captures the ensemble's infectious hybrid of funk and various Caribbean styles while the leader unspools probing lines steeped in vintage Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Born in London, Hutchings spent most of his childhood in Barbados before returning to his birthplace for high school, but this early immersion in reggae, calypso, and soca made a deep impact. Those styles still run through his veins, so his jazz approach sounds unlike anything that would come out of the U.S., even though it wouldn't be possible without the American jazz tradition. In this band he's formed an indelible bond with tuba player Theon Cross, as shown when they team up for a firestorm of contrapuntal riffs or engage in freewheeling call-and-response, or when the tubaist is puffing fat bass lines for Hutchings to wildly run over. Meanwhile the group's tandem drummers (Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick) produce a tight-knit feast of polyrhythmic joy that shares nothing with postbop apart from a magically elastic sense of time. The music possesses a fiery undercurrent of protest, rejecting the hereditary privilege of the English monarchy and celebrating nine women who've made powerful contributions to the world, among them.   

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