Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse!/digital outlets)

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Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse!/digital outlets)

Shabaka Hutchings – of The Comet is Coming, Sons of Kemet and other evolving UK jazz/funk ensembles alongside this one – has advanced a strand of retro-Afrofuturism which links to Sun Ra, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry and others.

And given those references it is fitting that the group – back after their Wisdom of the Elders in 2016 – should now be on the Impulse! label alongside the Comet and Kemet releases.

Recorded in South Africa and connecting with the urgency of township jive kicked over into post-Coltrane jazz, We Are Sent Here By History owes as much to the gripping energy of Impulse! artists such as Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, and cutting-edge Sonny Rollins and Pharoah Sanders, as it does to the apocalyptic lyrics of Jo'burg poet/performer Siyabonga Mthembu and a look at black history which has called us to this point.

It's a “meditation on the fact of our coming extinction as a species. It is a reflection from the ruins, from the burning,” says Hutchings.

You certainly get that from many pieces (They Who Must Die) which have an innate tension and energy as much as from the reflective pieces (Go My Heart Go to Heaven).

It has plenty to say for itself: We Will Work (On Redefining Manhood) revives the angry spirit of the Art Ensemble and the Last Poets to lay out the ground for a more affirmative second half.

This is a powerful ensemble capable of great nuance – check how Go My Heart winds down into a meditative coda, and the final reflective piece Teach Me How to Be Vulnerable – as well as commanding energy (the brief free expression of Beasts Too Spoke of Suffering which becomes a clarion call of great, Exodus-like weight) and a spiritual joy (Run The Darkness Will Pass).

This is the kind of muscular and expressive album confirming the viability of 21stcentury jazz which exists in the present but pulls from key aspects of the diverse traditions of black American and African musics.

Highly recommended.


Available on double vinyl or on Spotify here.


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