Kamaal Williams finds the essence of groove in jazz | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Kamaal Williams finds the essence of groove in jazz

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The line on the the current UK jazz scene is that its top exponents—Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross—merge the American-bred genre contemporary dance music, strains of UK hip-hop, and sounds of the African diaspora. Keyboardist Henry Wu, aka Kamaal Williams, brings a background in broken beat to the proceedings, and in his latest trio he leans a bit more heavily than his peers on Herbie Hancock’s spaciest explorations. Following the dissolution of his previous group, Yussef Kamaal, which released only one album, Wu splayed his meticulously crafted soul-jazz and sprightly funk across the ten tracks of last year's The Return (Black Focus). Along with a handful of his other recent works, that album shows Wu’s seamless transition between projects while exemplifying his love of hip-hop and sample culture; he’s even made a recording titled Catch the Loop 2: Kamaal x Wu Tang, which is wholly given over to incorporating Wu-Tang Clan samples into music from The Return. While Wu's work will likely roil adherents of acoustic jazz, the worst criticism of it that anyone might be able to truck out is that at times it all just sounds like a spun-out mix of a Digable Planets track.   v

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