Despite the incessant echoes that jazz’s era is over, Kamaal Williams has become a predominant figure in the new-jazz wave flourishing in London. His presence emerged after his wild success as one-half of musical due Yussef Kamaal, featuring eclectic drummer Yussef Dayes as his musical counterpart. Since the duo split, both musicians have thrived in exponential success, with Williams recently touring the world with The Return, his new album dropped under Black Focus Records.
Whether he is injecting his jazz-infused broken beats into Berlin’s exclusive Berghain (Panorama Bar) or the rejoiced funk-house festival stages of Melbourne’s Strawberry Fields, Williams is absorbing and exchanging influence across the globe. Given his passionate love for his hometown, it seems only fitting that Williams makes his return to the heart of chaotic South London in Electric Brixton for the final night of his 2018 adventure. Along with bass guitarist, Pete Martin, and drummer, Dexter Hercules, the trio encapsulates all outstretches of London, superimposing the stage with the musical sub-cultures and histories of their respective neighbourhoods. The end result is a dynamic chatter between musicians capturing an undeniable essence of London groove.
Throughout the night, Williams invites the audience to jump on his intergalactic narrative, beginning with bone-tingling improvisation and soulful experimentation. The musical trio stare deep into each other’s souls, regardless of sunglasses, and the passion of this new-wave of jazz floods the arena, revoking the right for motionless bodies. The Snitches Brew melody, Williams’ new song featuring Mansur Brown, is seeded throughout the beginning few tracks as a metaphor, teasing the audience. When the song finally roars into full-blown form, there is crowd spread eruption while audience members concurrently remember Brown’s wicked solos from earlier in the night as the supporting act.
After some playful banter between the trio, familiar rhythms such as Salaam and Broken Theme transpire through the venue as audience members call out mimics of Williams’ smooth key melodies, eager to be a part of the musical connection. The bopping subsides and instead turns into a hushed silence when Williams’ departs from his keys in favour of the grand piano centre stage. With romantic precision, he swoons the audience into a gentle lull while playing Situations as his fingertips embrace the audience into a musical trance.
The entire crowd, including myself, was left surprised when the familiarity of The Return songs was replaced by the rousing presence of rappers D Double E and Mez. The rappers bounced around the stage, shifting the atmosphere from cosmic bliss to electrifying madness. Who knew that the muddled pool of music that was rap, hip-hop, broken beats, drum and bass, jazz and electronic infusion could be so compatible? Kamaal Williams’ performance showed me that it was.
As expected, the night ended with a bang with oscillations of cosmic vibration and electronic pandemonium reverberating throughout the three levels of Electric Brixton. Crowds swarmed to get a Black Focus tee so as to have the imprinted memory of the beautiful madness that was the Kamaal Williams’ 2018 world-tour in their possession forever. Kamaal Williams’ show was an ode to London and an unforgettable time for all those who came– until the next groovy tour.