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Monday, August 15, 2022

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Kamaal Williams brings London's nightlife jazz explosion to SF

Kamaal Williams brings London’s nightlife jazz explosion to SF

'70s funk and fusion meet contemporary hip-hop and electronics in the DJ's work, representative of a massive scene.

When the South London artist Kamaal Williams, aka Henry Wu, comes to 1015 Folsom on Fri/13 (with Jazzy Jeff as part of the Motown on Mondays 10th anniversary), expect his DJ set to showcase various international peers that have propelled his career as a jazz musician and electronic music producer.

His acumen for uncommon musicality and skilfulness is beyond par. Tapped to curate the 70th installment of the DJ-Kicks series, he distills a liberal assembling of house, broken beat, jungle, soul, hip-hop, and of course jazz. Reading like a non-stop bullet train, the release sets up how the London underground dance movement, over the past decade, informed the current resurgence of jazz by a younger generation weaned on rattling bass bins.

These 29 songs, delivered in a David Mancuso-selector style most of the time (one record right after the other), fit and feed one another in a way that moves minds and hearts first, then asses. As stated in the liner notes, “although not traditionally mixed or predictably sequenced, this unique standout set has a high level of narrative and coherence, linking styles like a family treeʻ.ʻ By selecting Williams and his “Wu-Funk”, the folks at the !K7 label assure us again, their intent is to showcase authentic inventiveness, pushing Spotify metrics and regurgitated algorithms into the trash.

Kamaal‘s inspired work in the studio and live arena has influenced a whole new generation of like-minded musicians, who‘ve helped make London one of the most musically exciting cities in the world. The Yussef Kamaal album ‘Black Focus’ was one of the most talked-about records of 2016, keeping the vinyl pressings hard to get. The follow-up, The Return, came on Williams’ own new Black Focus label and took his band global, making it onto many Best Of 2018 lists.

From earlier in the DJ-Kicks series this year, Laurel Halo’s mix maneuvered through fierce arpeggios, ruff bass lines, space-age micro-house, and machine-like landscapes, damn near shuffling musical microclimates like a card shark elbow greasing a three-card molly hustle. Giving us the audio tour of Berlin nightlife at peak 5 am bustle. In July, Peggy Gou, the first South Korean aoman to DJ at Berlin’s techno institution Berghain, put together a real loose and comprehensive across-the-board mix: disco, house, techno, and electro, from 90 to 150 BPM, that plopped us dead center in her living room, sipping a good red, putting that smoke in the air.

But Williams is on a different undertaking.

“The main aim of this mix for me was to give praise and pay my dues to the forefathers, the originators London’s underground scene. From the likes of Dego, Seiji and Steve Spacek, through to contemporaries like K15, Tenderlonious or myself, it’s about connecting the lineage and giving respect to the creators—those undervalued heroes of this British dance landscape who deserve more recognition today.”

The opening track “Sometimes”, a spiritual edit bourne out of Gospel music sets the standard for what is to come. And itʻs quite lofty. Produced by Budgie, an influential member of the production team behind  Kanye Westʻs Jesus Is King, he keeps the vocals running quick, never displacing their sincerity.

From the “run dem tings” drums of “Spaced Invader” by Lord Tusk into the 20-year-old jungle bedlam called “Buggin Out” by Seiji, to the comedown stillness of “Hey There” by Steve Spacek, featuring an 18-year-old Thundercat playing bass. It leads us into the squiggle vision funk of “Speed Metal Jesus” by Max Greif, matched next to the always identifiable KaidiTatham and his broken beat jazz-funk, mined out of the vast well of the African diaspora. “Two Tens Madam” from 2016, gives us that insight into Williams’ multi-hyphenate journey as musician and producer connecting the two worlds of electronic and live.

KAMAAL WILLIAMS
W/ JAZZY JEFF
Fri/13, $15-$20
1015 FOLSOM, SF
Tickets and more info here

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John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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