To an audience composed of members of almost every conceivable social group, Soweto Kinch showed why he is one of the most refreshing UK jazz figures, as well as one of the few that, when on stage, still seems to want to be alive. Accompanied by the sound – although not very brilliant – Gregory Hutchinson on drums and Nick Jurd on bass, his performance was a mix between jazz and rap, Soweto’s trademark.
Soweto’s music is complex and intense. However, these two features could be said about almost any single jazz musician there is. Soweto’s tunes have something that used to be common in jazz and that isn’t no more: it is danceable. But this does not mean that the audience obey to this trait. At the end of the concert, when he encouraged the audience to stand up and, in his words, “shake that booty” only the elderly of the crowd tried to dance. The youngsters, quite numerous for what is normal at Turner Sims, just confined themselves to smile in a very ironic way.
I have to admit I did the same: what this shows is that we are constrained to a quite narrow conception of what jazz is or ought to be, and more concretely, about what you can do at a jazz concert. But Soweto seems to have just the opposite idea. Improvising over hypnotic pre-recorded loops, he creates an effect both complex and catchy. Songs like ‘Crosswinds’ or ‘The Sum Of All Parts’ were a good proof of this. However, it is also true that sometimes his compositions can get too cacophonic; it is easy to get lost among so many modern/arcane sounds and funny beeps he does. Tracks such as ‘Convergence Of A Singularity’ perhaps demand more simplicity.
It would be equally absurd to deny the great influence rap is for him, basically for he mixes it with jazz: in at least three songs he left aside the saxophone and started to sing. However, Soweto is more of a Coltrane than a Tupac. His music is much richer when it comes to jazz, even when he flirts with free jazz. Tracks such as ‘Triangle’, from his album Nonagram, are meditated but fresh compositions, easy to enjoy, which is something that his rap songs lack. But overall he is an outstanding performer, and his concert was probably one the best of the season. I don’t know if it would have satisfied a rap fan, but it definitely was a good hint of what jazz can become in the future.