Living as I do in rural Surrey, hitting up a good jazz gig more often than not means making a laborious journey into London and spending extortionate amounts on travel. So imagine my joy at finding out that one of the best up-and-coming British jazz acts was playing right on my doorstep in neighboring town Teddington- a place which, up to now, i’d only really come to see as the place I work and have a beer or two of a Friday. But all that was to change, when a chance encounter with a gig poster at work, would lead to an impulsive decision to the explore the local area better.
The artist I was to see on Saturday 27th September was Soweto Kinch- A London born Alto Saxaphonist and Emcee, noted for an eclectic style which in recent years has seen him take the stage at Ronnie Scotts and the Royal Festival Hall, and win both The Rising Star Award and a Mobo Prize for best jazz act. The venue I would see him at was The Landmark Arts Centre- A 19th Century Grade 2 listed building and former Church, perfect for an intimate jazz gig.
Cavernous inside and still retaining the aroma of candles, wood and burning incense, one would be forgiven for thinking they were sitting down to a sermon as a Kinch took the floor. His introduction was minimal and cool, his appearance much the same. In a simple long sleeve black t shirt and jeans and sporting a afro, he set the perfect tone for a performance which would combine generous measures of street and chic, as hip hop and jazz became fused in a most spine tingling show. Accompanying him on stage were a bassist and drummer- together they form The Soweto Kinch Trio, as established by the front-man in 2001.
Running approximately two hours in length with a single interval, his performance went to demonstrate his flair for jazz in experimental form. His style fuses broken beat funk, swing, post bop and most notably, hip hop, with themes broadly covering introspection, capitalism, urban living and modern slavery. Bouncing between genre and theme his music rides like a roller-coaster of high and low moods, full of energy and surprise. This clash of style and temperament is best demonstrated on ‘Road Block’ (The Legend Of Mike Smith)– a sonic frenzy of rumbling bass and raspy sax improvisation which calls to mind a Monday morning traffic jam: sirens blazing, voices raised and tyres screeching.
Playing down the largely middle class, mature audience Kinch interjected a much welcomed freestyle mid-performance, which made me feel instantly more and home as a scarce twenty something hip hop enthusiast. The imaginatively crafted freestyle drew upon letters from the venue name landmark as a acronym for new words chosen at the discretion of participating audience members. Words designated included, Love, Dark, and hilariously still, Aardvark.
An aspiring alto saxophonist myself, I couldn’t help but look on at Kinch with envious eyes. By approaching jazz from the perspective of it’s hip hop, he proves the music form to be, not simply the preserve of 40 somethings with goatees, but as a defining voice to inner city youth. Whether acknowledged for spellbinding rhyming, or superior alto sax improvisation, Soweto Kinch is an excellent artist in his own right, and one definitely worth seeing if you get the chance. His next performance is to come at Chelsea’s famous 606 Club- see below link for more details: