Yussef Kamaal Perform Idris Muhammad Songbook Live
UK jazz is at an all time high with a new generation of musicians pushing the boundaries, while not forgetting what they owe to the greats of the past. Artists such as Sons Of Kemet, the Theon Cross Trio, Moses Boyd, Gogo Penguin and Ruby Rushton continue to demonstrate why it's such an exciting time for the ever evolving genre. At the heart of the scene is a fundamental appreciation for what came before, and artists have been reinterpreting their greatest influences through a series of exciting shows curated by Total Refreshment Centre’s Lexus Blondin.
Ahead of next week’s Idris Muhammad Songbook show featuring Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams (the Yussef Kamaal Trio), Roco Paladino (D’Angelo’s band), Nubya Garcia (Nérija/Theon Cross Trio), Nick Walters (Riot Jazz/Ruby Rushton), Crispin Spry (Havana Cultura) and Mansur Brown, Lexus tells us about the mind-blowing reinterpretation shows he has begun curating as both a nod to the past and of what's to come.
When I first moved to London, I remember seeing a jazz band perform original material before dropping the tune ‘Red Clay’ by Freddie Hubbard and absolutely nailing it. It was such a joy for me to experience, I went and talked to the guys and booked them to do another show not long after. I had just met my favourite musicians in London, who I would later get to work with on quite a few occasions, namely Maxwell Hallet and Dan Leavers (Soccer 96/Comet is Coming), Ruth Goller (Melt Yourself Down) and Jean De Talhouet. I think Nick Walters was taking on the job of playing Freddie Hubbard’s parts as well. Anyway, later down the line Shabaka Hutchings stepped through the door of our studio and started blowing gold everywhere through his saxophone. He and the rest of this band were the foundations of this project.
With this dream team we covered material by Joe Henderson (such as the incredible album Power to the People), some Yussef Lateef, the whole of Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, and quite a lot of material coming from the CTI/Kudu labels (Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Bob James).
A lot of the jazz funk albums that were coming out in the late 60s and early 70s were covers, where the musicians got creative with their reinterpretation, giving the tunes new life. It’s pretty much the same motivation we have here, bringing material that we feel is paramount in the history of music and bringing it back to the stage. The key in doing those gigs is to pair the right tunes out of a catalogue with the right musicians to perform it, quite literally what the job of an A&R was during those times. Shabaka Hutchings doing Joe Henderson’s Power to the People was incredible. I had listened to the album a lot, and seeing it performed was just mind blowing.
For our next gig, we’ve chosen the guys from Yussef Kamaal to perform Idris Muhammad’s songbook. The idea came when we hosted the 22a Boiler Room takeover at TRC last year, Yussef played on both sets (Ruby Rushton & Yussef Kamaal) and I just could hear Idris Muhammad so much in his playing! The Ruby Rushton set really had that CTI jazz funk vibe and Yussef was so comfortable within it… Shortly after, Henry Wu got a studio at TRC and Yussef regularly dropped by to record for the Yussef Kamaal project. We got talking about music and it quickly became apparent that Idris was a big influence for him. His dad was playing it a lot around his house when he was a kid… So yes, that was kind of an obvious one to do!
For the choice of tunes, it’s always a discussion with the musicians. I come up with a selection and they tailor it to what they think is best. The lineup for this one is very exciting because they represent the new generation that is taking jazz to new heights, and they are as excited as we are to pay homage to this songbook.