Few projects captured the aura and musical lavishness of the buzzing London jazz scene as Yussef Kamaal’s Black Focus, released back in 2016. The group, consisting of keyboardist Kamaal Williams aka Henry Wu, and drummer Yussef Dayes captured the imagination and spirit of London through their intricate compositions, taking influence from jazz, soul, hip-hop and afrobeat in a raw, vibrant form that still sounds fresh. Sadly, Yussef Kamaal are no more, at least for now, but the spirit of their music has still transpired through us all.
So much so, that Kamaal Williams has come through with his electric debut album on Black Focus Records titled The Return. Playing in a group consisting of Pete Martin on bass, MckNasty on drums and Richard Samuels as the engineer of the project, Kamaal comes through on keys, with incredibly detailed and complex compositions that spand throughout the album. His signature west-coast inspired synths can be heard on tracks such as “Broken Theme” and “Rhythm Commission,” with bass and groove heavy vibes on tracks such as “High Roller” and “Catch The Loop.” You can hear the interpolated roots of “Strings of Light” on “The Return,” which acts as an homage to that Black Focus album. Another standout track, “LDN Shuffle,” features Mansur Brown of Mansur’s Message, explodes into a cacophonous, funky and guitar-heavy track that completely overpowers the energy of the tracks up until that point.
Kamaal’s compositions are stunning. It’s sometimes crazy to think that with 3 members, he is able to create such a raw, textured and audacious sound that keeps pushing the boundaries of what jazz should sound like in 2018. The grooves and funk throughout this project are infectious to no end, and I am sure that a lot of these gems will be played on London dancefloors for years to come.
Listen to Kamaal Williams’ debut album The Return below via Bandcamp and please make sure you support this project in any way you can.