Country : United Kingdom Label : Black Focus Genres and styles : Contemporary Jazz / Funk / Jazz / Soul Year : 2020

Wu Hen

· by Steve Naud

In recent years, the blue note has become popular again. A young audience is finally taking an interest in jazz, thanks to the young wolves who have managed to revitalize the genre. The London jazz scene is particularly vital, and keyboardist Kamaal Williams is one of its strongest pillars. The artist, who also acts under the pseudonym Henry Wu, made a name for himself in 2015 thanks to the Yussef Kamaal project, with the fabulous drummer Yussef Dayes. However, that adventure lasted only a short time, and Williams then began his solo career with the album The Return, on which the percussionist’s absence was felt.

With Wu Hen, Williams continues to put forward funky jazz rather similar to what Herbie Hancock was already doing in the ’70s. He does so, though, while broadening his palette. For example, while the album starts with the silky “Street Dreams”, lulled by the tinkling of a celestial harp, it shifts radically on the second track, “One More Time”, one of the most powerful pieces Williams has offered us to date. The same applies to the rest of the journey.

The guests invited by Williams contribute a lot to the enrichment of nuances observed on Wu Hen. Harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, soul singer Lauren Faith, and saxophonist Quinn Mason (who’s on fire on the frantic “Pigalle”) all contribute their stone to the edifice, but it is without a doubt arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Flying Lotus, Ray Charles, Dr Dre, Thundercat) who shines most brightly. The strings he wraps around three of the pieces on the program give wings to the keyboardist’s music. Without reinventing the wheel, Wu Hen shows us a very good time.

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