April 23, 2024

Shabaka played National Sawdust (Early Show)

Following the release of his new album Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace, Shabaka played two shows at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. 

If you've been following the rising U.K. jazz scene over the past several years, you're undoubtedly familiar with the work of Shabaka Hutchings via his time in the bands Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming. In both acts, he was a saxophone wonder that took charge of the groups through his charging display of power as he wielded his instrument with raging command. Recently, Shabaka made an abrupt departure from his primary instrument and announced a change towards another woodwind instrument, the flute. As he discovered his new vehicle for music composition, he began to develop a new age sound of ambient vibes and minimal moments of layered dexterity. With the release of his new, debut solo record, Shabaka is now bringing these musical creations to life in ways that both mimic the recordings, but also in ways that breathe new meanings and traverse different sonic wavelengths. On stage with a harpist, percussionist, and a third on electronics, the ebbs and flows of his breaths would be amplified by the accompanying instruments giving the hollow pangs of the flute some muscle to flex, adding textures to the entrancing vibrations. On the third number of the set, Shabaka invited Moses Sumney to the stage for some added vocal work to the movements. Fusing his soft, angelic croon to the cosmic swirls of sound happening on stage, Sumney's trills and vocal acrobatics elevated the already mesmerizing display and transported the crowd to another realm, states of mind being transformed in real time as the melodies from Moses' voice and Shabaka's flutes danced together with ethereal charm and magic. Creating a heavenly state, the soothing electronics and mystical plucking of the harp helped to set the serene scene and at times the sound of water hitting the shore, the flowing of tides, or babbling brooks brought natural elements into the fold, breaking down the boundaries between humans and the planet which brought forth some surreal spirituality into the night. During one break between songs, Shabaka addressed the crowd to speak about his new journey discovering the flute and his ambition to continue his quest to find new forms of expression. "Creativity beats inertia" he said as he picked up his flute for the next tune, ensuring that the process never needs to be rushed and emphasizing the importance of just living in the moment and following intuition. As the night progressed, there were melodies and motifs that recalled tracks from the album, but there was also a great deal of improv and spontaneity as well, giving off a truly unique feel that could never be replicated again. In one moment, Shabaka had two flutes in hand and played them simultaneously, a feat I've never seen before and one that left the crowd stunned. In unison, the harmonies reverberated around the room bringing the night to its peak. Throughout the night, Shabaka shuffled between a wide variety of different flutes that ranged in size, shapes, and frequencies, each one delighting the artist with subtle touches. Witnessing a true artist in their prime and also on their journey of new self discovery is a rare thing, but those who've been fortunate enough to see Shabaka in his past acts as well as this new endeavor are can attest to watching talent blossom before their very eyes. As forceful and in control as he was with a saxophone in hand, this is a new adventure and the quest is only just beginning.  

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