You simply cannot talk about jazz in the UK without mentioning Kamaal Williams’ influence. As Yussef Kamaal alongside the drumming maestro Yussef Dayes, the two talented artists were able to create a timeless body of work with 2016’s Black Focus, a phenomenal, rhythmic and highly intricate jazz record that pretty much helped mold a sprawling jazz scene that started in the UK but is now a global phenomenon. As a keyboardist and producer, Kamaal Williams has worked under different aliases, producing music that ranges from spiritual jazz, funk and house music. His music sounds visceral, lively and beautifully textured, creating atmospheric compositions that are just utterly captivating. He is back with a brand new project following his incredible 2018 album The Return and his Dj-Kicks Mix he released last year. The album is titled Wu Hen and contains 10 tracks of pure rhythmic jazz bliss, with additional string arrangements from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and vocals from Lauren Faith.
The album kicks off with the mesmeric “Street Dreams” a string-heavy track with otherworldly arrangements from LA legend Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. The incredible energy created by both musicians make for a stunningly beautiful opener to the album. “One More Time” switches gears, with a drum and synth-heavy composition that also features some incredibly groovy basslines, creating a funky and infectious groove. It flows perfectly into “1989” featuring Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who again adds a mesmeric, angelic string section that creates a grandiosity to the melody that feels so necessary to the tone and overall vibe of the track. The slower and more subdued tone of “Toulouse” is also incredible, as the slower, moodier horn sections throughout this track bring a reflective tone that just sounds incredible. “Pigalle” picks right back up, with a dynamic, hard-hitting beat and horn sections that sound frantic, almost cacophonous. The dynamic, powerful nature of this track is almost overwhelming, as its groovy and rhythm pulsates throughout its 6-minute runtime. The soothing synth-leads on “Big Rick” are fantastic and coupled with the slow-paced and reflective bassline and beat, makes for a incredible listen. Both “Save Me” and “Mr Wu” are frantic, upbeat tracks that feature smooth synths but crazy drumming and basslines that bring a thunderous energy to the album. Lauren Faith’s vocals on “Hold On” are angelic, with a smooth and slow-paced melody that’s just beautiful. And the closer, “Early Prayer” is a similarly smooth, sensual track with incredible synths and horn sections that create a mesmeric, reflective tone that bring a peaceful end to this dynamic and eclectic album.
Kamaal Williams’ incredible eclecticism and musicianship shines through yet again on this album, with a diverse set of sounds and rhythms that perfectly capture his aura as a musician. Wu Hen is a concise body of work that feels orchestral, lively and stunning from front to back. He is a true legend in contemporary jazz, and I’m sure he’ll continue releasing timeless gems in the future. Big ups!