Shabaka Hutchings Lets The Tape Roll

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Shabaka Hutchings is among the 25 artists DownBeat thinks will help shape jazz in the decades to come.

(Photo: Courtesy Impulse)

​Shabaka Hutchings’ M.O. is to spend much of each year on the road, circling the globe at the helm of three distinct ensembles: the dance-crazed quartet Sons of Kemet, the synth-driven trio The Comet Is Coming and the spiritual-jazz outfit Shabaka & The Ancestors. The British saxophonist has built a career by being seemingly everywhere at once, cultivating an international fan base inspired by the improvisation-fueled passion he and his various musical mates exude in concert and in the studio.

Forced to put touring on hold, Hutchings has been hunkered down at home in London, focusing on the production of a Sons of Kemet album recorded last year and slated for release in 2021. “I’ve been able to really concentrate on the overriding form and structure of the album, which is always a concern of mine,” he said. “But this time, I have been able to put a lot of extra energy into getting something that’s really crafted.”

When it comes to recording his ensembles, Hutchings likes to let tape roll, let the musicians move into deep grooves and capture hours of raw material that he and his producer later edit and assemble into forms that come across as completely organic. “The lockdown was a chance to go through the material and get the best bits from it,” he said. “It’s a progression from previous albums in that this was the first time I’ve been able to come back to the recordings and work in a concentrated, prolonged way on the overall vision of the music.”

In the process, Hutchings has learned how to use basic recording and production software on his iPad. He said he has begun work on making an album by himself, playing saxophone and various instruments he has collected during his world travels. “It might take me three years to do it,” he said. “I’ve got no expectations of how it’s going to sound. It will be just coming up with ideas, recording them into this device and then spending all my free time in manipulating it in as creative a way as I can.” DB

This story originally was published in the November 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.




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