Though he’s still a young man, 34-year-old MOBO winner, Shabaka Hutchings, has the status of a veteran compared with the young pups now breaking through and making a big noise on the vibrant and very exciting contemporary British jazz scene. The London-born, Barbados-raised, multi-reed man has been a mover and shaker of the English capital’s music scene for many years, since he was a member of the prescient jazz group, Tomorrow’s Warriors, in fact (UK’s very own version of The Jazz Messengers, perhaps). These days, Hutchings – who has never been one to limit his musical options – leads three exciting, cutting-edge groups, all of which have been signed to the revived Impulse! label. They are Sons of Kemet, Shabaka & The Ancestors, and The Comet Is Coming. The latter is a trio that whose sound is defined by resonant saxophone and bass clarinet framed by filmic electronica, and comes across like the offspring of an unlikely union between Tangerine Dream, Grime music and Alice Coltrane. To add to the surreal, sci-fi dimension of the group’s music, Hutchings uses the guise of his alter ego, King Shabaka, in the group alongside keyboardist Dan Leavers (aka “Danalogue”) and drummer Max Hallett (aka “Betamax”).
‘Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery,’ the group’s second album, is a bold and breathtaking opus whose music takes the listener on a mind-expanding sonic journey. The killer cut for many will be the album’s first single, ‘Summon The Fire,’ which is a veritable musical conflagration that comes across like Archie Shepp backed by a speed-fuelled New Wave group. Stirring, too, is ‘Super Zodiac,’ another compelling example of the group’s uptempo material and is characterised by a febrile tempo and jabbing saxophone motifs.
The trio, though, are effortlessly able to switch gears and also excel on slower songs. ‘Astral Flying’ is a beautifully reposeful soundscape. There’s more urgency in ‘Timewave,’ which is vibrant yet delicate and highlights Max Hallett’s creativity behind the drum kit. In sharp contrast, is the visceral thrust of ‘Blood Of The Past,’ a tune driven by an industrial rhythm track, searing sax and features spoken cameo by UK poet, Kate Tempest. Tranquil vibes emanate from the peaceful ‘Unity,’ which channels Pharoah Sanders while the album’s beatific closer, ‘The Universe Wakes’ radiates cosmic mellowness before being transfigured by a Coltrane-like sense of spiritual ecstasy. The album’s deepest track, it features some of Hutchings’ most lyrical saxophone playing on the album, which floats on waves of celestial keyboard from Dan Leavers.
British jazz is experiencing a wonderful renaissance right now and rising stars like Binker & Moses, Nubya Garcia, and Theon Cross – together with bands such as Ezra Collective and Maisha – are making the headlines but they probably wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Shabaka Hutchings. With this exciting and highly original new album from The Comet Is Coming, he shows that he’s still a leading pathfinder of cutting-edge jazz in the UK.