London Jazz Festival: Soweto Kinch

Mark Gilbert reviews the Soweto Kinch trio at The Albany, Deptford on 12 November, second night of the 2011 London Jazz Festival

Soweto KinchEnterprise, of the wrong, investment-banking type, was high on Soweto Kinch's agenda at The Albany, Deptford on the second night of the London Jazz Festival as he announced that freedom would be the evening's theme and aligned his musical project with the tenters at St Paul's and elsewhere. But here was a man with a sound entrepreneurial instinct himself, capitalising on age-old jazz themes of injustice and exploitation. His topical titles, raps and occasional singing were complemented by a photographic backdrop imaging slavery and oppression, mostly of the European colonial variety. He was living some sort of parallel, musically - bravely exposed on a bare stage in a chordless trio with only bassist Karl Rasheed-Abel, drummer Graham Godfrey, his own alto, a delay unit and what sounded like a Casio keyboard for company.

The material reinforced the austerity of the message, largely drawing on post-Ornette, post-Mingus stylings, updated, in the contemporary way, with some hip-hop beats. It was tense, dissonant fare, no easy listening for a full house that was mixed but predominantly populated by what looked like comfortably-off white middle-class punters, keen in some cases to voice their solidarity with the oppressed when Kinch uttered the Occupy London cue.

They were rewarded with individual moments of brilliance from all three players, Kinch at his best in the third number when he cooked up a long stew of alto variations. There was nothing strikingly original here, but substantial competence and, once again, commendable nerve in an exposed position. That exposure was equally evident in his vocal work, which unfortunately wasn't always decipherable. The screen at the back could have come in useful here. A temporary abatement of the ensemble maelstrom allowed Graham Godfrey to stand out early in a crisp, creative drum solo.

Overall there were moments when (perhaps in best jazz tradition) the presentation seemed a little ragged, the political button-pushing a little bald, but the music was always energetic, committed and laudably uncompromising. Youth unemployment may be approaching one million, but this young self-starter has found a silver lining in the misery. There may be no pension in it, though.

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