Album Review: SEED Ensemble – Driftglass
Cassie Kinoshi’s SEED Ensemble
From altoist and sometime Nérija frontliner Kinoshi, comes this big, joyous project featuring a host of luminaries from the hipper end of the young London scene. Kinoshi favours big brass fanfares over hypnotic bass ostinatos, beats drawn from club culture as much as from jazz, and an energetic, freewheeling approach to collective improvisation occasionally reminiscent of the Mingus bands. Opener The Darkies sets out the stall – powerful chords from the massed horns, a pumping groove from the excellent Patrick Boyle, spirited solos from Miguel Gorodi’s trumpet and Theon Cross’ tuba, interspersed with comments from the lushly arranged woodwinds, all presented with a title that highlight’s Kinoshi’s engagement with contemporary political issues. Elsewhere, titles like Stargaze #1 and Interplanetary Migration evoke images of afro-futurism, but the overall sound is closer to Gil Evans’ hip modernism as filtered through the soundtracks of 70s cinema than Sun Ra; Afronaut matches the retro vibes of wah-wah guitar and reverb-heavy rhodes (from the virtuosic Sarah Tandy) with poetess Xana’s thoroughly contemporary London voice recounting tower-block tales of being “the only afronaut brought up on Desmond’s”. W A K E comments on the shameful tragedy of the Grenfell fire, expressed via a group chant of a Langston Hughes quote and a soulful vocal from Cherise Adams-Burnett. The Dream Keeper has a standout conversation between Boyle and pianist Joe Armon-Jones; Mirrors has a typically flowing and inventive solo from guitarist Tetteh and a beautifully structured contribution from Chelsea Carmicheal; trombonist Joe Bristow has plenty to say on Interplanetary Migration. Throughout, Kinoshi deploys the array of talent at her disposal effectively; a mix of creative arrangements and heartfelt jazz blowing is tempered with the distinctly downhome South London voices of Xana and Mr Eskow so that this album feels like a showcase for her contemporaries’ talent as well as a distinctive statement of identity in its own right. This is a powerfully coherent document of an important strand of UK contemporary jazz that’s also a lot of fun to listen to. Highly recommended.
Cassie Kinoshi, alto sax; Miguel Gorodi and Sheila Maurice Grey, trumpet; Chelsea Carmichael, tenor sax & flute; Joe Bristow, trombone; Theon Cross, tuba; Joe Armon-Jones or Sarah Tandy, piano & Rhodes; Shirley Tetteh, guitar; Rio Kai, double bass; Patrick Boyle, drums.