The second month of the year has come and gone and while a few good LPs have been released over the past 29 days, even with the extra day it’s the EPs that have drawn the attention of our ears this month. While offerings from the jazz-orientated mind of Moses Boyd (Dark Matter) and the afrobeat rhythms of Brooklyn-based Antibalas (Fu Chronicles) have been launched our way with gusto, the real excitement has come in the form of two singles hinting at full LPs in the very near future. Both feature musicians that marry rhythm and melody perfectly, making it a wonder they haven’t come together before now.
Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela
Slow Bones/We’ve Landed
These two names together should be enough to get anyone remotely into rhythm shuffling their feet and twisting the shoulders. As the drummer for Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 Tony Allen won international recognition and his most recent solo record on the legendary Blue Note, 2017’s The Source, was critically acclaimed. He has been hailed as the Afrobeat drummer, playing and releasing an insane amount of inlfuential music both as a solo artist, session recording artist and under the politically charged Fela Ransome Kuti, who’s own brand of anti-government afrocentric music brought acclaim and a cost to himself and the Africa 70. Post Fela however, Allen has experimented with bringing his unique skillset to more electronic-based music, creating fresh new styles and creating conversation about what afrobeat is and will be.
As for Hugh Masekela, the man is a musician who has brought south African jazz to the forefront of the world stage despite living in exile from his home country, leaving in 1960 after the Sharpeville Massacre and not returning until the release of Nelson Mandela. His brand of horn playing is colourful and expressive while remaining accessible to all manner of music-lovers. He performed and played on many pop numbers in his years, splitting his time between Africa and America, but always came back to his ethnic roots and playing. Masekela unfortunately passed away in January of 2018, but he leaves a long legacy of music of which this offering is a just representation.
Together, these two legends of African jazz produce such wonderful music that sounds both fresh as well as timeless. The beats coming from Allen’s more than able hands and feet tap out rhythms that pull your soul along while Masekelas playing leads you melodiously down the path to what I expect to be a fantastic album if these two singles are anything to go by. The lead single We’ve Landed truly feels like it is setting the pace for a blistering album that will have you tapping your toes and swinging your shoulders like you’re in an East Bristol community center, I’m sure Masekela would be doing the same.
Rejoice is set for release on March 20th, 2020.
Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes
What Kind of Music
Again here come two artists, albeit two far newer to the scene that Masekela and Allen. However they are arguably well on their way to jazz stardom, with both having hits on the fringes of the mainstream in the past few years. Tom Misch, the bedroom-producing multi-instrumentalist here teams up with the off-the-wall eclectic jazz drumming of Yussef Dayes to produce a single that many hope is a good representation of what’s to come. To anyone familar with both of these artists body of work the pattern and style of both is easy to take not of, but neither feels like it dominates. Instead a swirling, ebbing piece occurs, with both musicians lending parts of themselves to the song where it needs it most.
This project has been in the pipeline for a while, with both artists taking note of each other as early as 2014. Dayes’ interest in Misch was piqued when the latter started putting self-produced Youtube videos up, showcasing a lazy neosoul vibe with the complexities of newer jazz artists like Jacob Collier. Misch started following Dayes and his work after the seminal album Black Focus. Released as part of the project YussefKamaal with the young and upcoming keyboard player Kamaal Williams.
With Misch’s seemingly intrinsic understanding of harmony and chords coupled with Dayes’ equally if not more mesmerising sense of rhythm and groove, this album is surely one to watch out for. It looks to be a truly beautiful marriage of melody and groove, producing hopefully one of the best albums of the UK jazz scene this year.
What Kind of Music is set for release on 24th April, 2020.