Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Recorded in London, this third album by the saxophonist/composer Shabaka Hutchings brings together tenor sax, double drums and tuba into a stew of Afro-Caribbean jazz-funk and, as much as the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen during the Queen Elizabeth's jubilee year, in its own way this is direct dismissal of those born into royalty while Hutchings titles his tracks after those who became real queens in his mind.
They include Ada Eastman (Hutchings great-grandmother), Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis and other black freedom fighters and activists. Including Doreen Lawrence, the mother of young Stephen Lawrence murdered in London in '93.
Musically it is a humid mix of rolling New Orleans grooves, some rather chunky Caribbean funk with guest vocalists Congo Natty and poet Joshua Idehen chanting down righteousness, and a nod towards dub production.
Maybe it comes up more compelling and powerful live but this lacks the adventurous musical spirit and reach of Hutchings predecessors on the label like Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and others.
Like so many Afrobeat bands (and they aren't in that bag, that's just a point of reference), this locks into a groove and seems happy enough to sit there with sometimes repetitive sax lines and melodic figures which too often pull back inside when the door is wide open.
Ironically then it is at its best when it pulls right back on My Queen is Nanny of the Maroons, a gentle and groove-riding piece with a light touch.