In case you missed my gig preview (…and why would you have? If you did, I’ll expect your full report on my desk first thing tomorrow morning) here’s the story so far.
Soweto Kinch is a multi-award-winning saxophonist, MC, composer, spoken word performer, and one of the most exciting original jazz and hip hop artists around today.
This would be his second visit to Newcastle’s Hoochie Coochie. His first was a late night impromptu performance back in April 2013 when he ‘called in’ following his appearance at the Sage Gateshead International Jazz Festival that same evening. It was unexpected, unusual and explosive. A quite incredible display of freestyle rap and dexterous alto-sax playing. It blew us all away. We had already witnessed a quality gig from Brighton funksters The Impellers, but this, wow!
There was a healthy crowd in for his latest appearance, always good to see. It was also boosted by some of the north-easts finest jazz and funk musicians. It seemed that anyone who had ever blown a trumpet, trombone or saxophone in anger who was from the north-east was here to see Mr Kinch. A fine accolade indeed. If you were unable to find a dep for your band’s horn section on Friday, blame him.
The band took to the stage. Nick Jurd on upright bass and electric bass guitar, Jonathan ‘Silky’ Silk on drums, and the man himself looking fly with braided hair and sharp threads, on alto-sax and vocals aided by live laptop sampling and loops. He immediately hit us with a mesmerising and seemingly highly technical avant-garde sax solo. The audience was silent, transfixed. Those who have seen the man before will know that this audience situation doesn’t last long. A Soweto Kinch gig is an interactive experience.
The material would be taken from his 2013 concept album ‘The Legend of Mike Smith’. This is a modern take on the seven deadly sins encountered during a day in the life of an aspiring young MC who the record industry is trying to exploit. Mike Smith struggles with his inner-city nightmares of violence and war, police harassment and temptations along the way. Subjects covered many times in the not too distant passed but brought bang up to date and made relevant for the urban Britain of today. Mr Kinch began by splitting the room down the middle with the “haves” (my side!) on the right and the “have nots” on the left, asking us to chant alternately ‘Privatise the Gains’ and ‘Socialise the Losses’. His lyrics are hard hitting and thought provoking, delivered in a ricochet high speed rap style but with each word clearly defined.
I may be making this sound like hard work to listen to, but this was worth any additional listening effort. Jazz, Rap, Hip-Hop, musical story telling if you like, all combining to make up quite a performance and the audience were totally immersed.
This is by no means a one man show either with both Neil Jurd mostly on upright bass for the night and Silky on the drums providing a constant back beat and given plenty of opportunity to take centre stage themselves, additional sounds provided by the live looping created by the main man on the laptop.
There was a change to a slightly faster pace in the second half with the music becoming a little funkier whilst losing none of its cutting edge. It was at this stage that he treated us to his trademark off the cuff rap. He chose the word ‘Hoochie’ lit up on the wall behind him (next to the word Coochie!) and invited the audience to pick a subject starting with each of the letters on the wall. There were a lot of ideas! He settled on Happy, Ostentatious, Orbital, Cameron, Hydrogen, Intelligence and Ecstasy (all of which may contribute to a typical night out in Newcastle!) rapping them back to us in the order they were given within a poem made up on the spot. Quite a thing.
After we ‘Stroked the Hippo’ (it’s a dance move -no animals were harmed during it’s making ) – one of the aforementioned local jazz musicians Hannabiel Saunders joined the band onstage playing her very restrained trombone. She’s probably still smiling.
Soweto Kinch is a class act. The whole performance lasted close to two hours. Skilled, technical, relevant. An event. If you haven’t seen him already, add him to your list.
Photographer – Joe Fowler
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