Soweto Kinch, Komedia, Bath Festival, Monday 30th May

Blowing: a term used by jazzers to refer to the section of a composition over which a soloist will improvise, albeit within the boundaries suggested by harmony and form. I like the word. It’s got a definite technical meaning but it also captures the sense of the unscripted and something raw and maybe unleashed. Soweto Kinch’s quartet performing material from his new album have burned that thought into my mind. After the often tricky, mixed rythmns of many of the themes, they settled down to some full on, good honest blowing. More often than not the underlying pulse was a driving contemporary swing feel with every one playing broken stuttery rythmns that meshed around a blazing solo from sax, guitar or trumpet for the section of the second set for which Byron Wallen joined them on stage. The rapping and vocals on a few tunes felt like a natural part of the music. So after one of those blazing boppish solos on the opener Never Ending, You Want to be a Star’s lyrics examined the corrupting lust for fame. The second set started with what sounded like a jazz waltz layered on to the stop start hip hoppy drum patterns from the drums before more incendiary soloing.  That interplay with clattery cross rythmns was the other stand out element of the show, injecting energy and drama into every tune.  ‘Trade’ saw the band reduce to a classic chordless line up of alto trumpet and rhythm section and I found myself wanting to listen to Soweto in a simple trio. For all the rapping, electronics and street beats, what held and compelled me was that saxophone voice and the relentless, blazing inventiveness of it.  The serious and insightful interview and discussion beforehand with Kevin Le Gendre,  illuminating as it was  almost made this music seem too hard to listen to or understand. In the end, as we ‘did the hippo’ for the encore all you really needed to do, apart from wave your arms around, was open your ears.

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