Review: seed. @ Turner Sims, Southampton, 01/10/21

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After finally being allowed to begin their inaugural tour, seed. performed a captivating and emotive set of original material that demonstrates the high calibre of jazz performance in the UK.

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Several years ago, a friend of mine made the erroneous suggestion that the UK had no true Jazz heritage or major scene, paling in comparison to our global output in other genres and musical fields. Cassie Kinoshi and her Mercury Prize-nominated ensemble seed. are just one example of why that is far from the truth and their performance at Turner Sims on the 1st October 2021 serves as a shining example of the high standard of performance in contemporary British Jazz music.

The ten-piece jazz ensemble (formally known as Seed Ensemble) visited Southampton as the fourth stop on their first ever UK tour, postponed twice due to the pandemic. While the tour was originally planned to support their debut album Driftglass, the group has since evolved significantly and so the two sets offered to the audience were an almost 50:50 split of old and exclusive new material. The audience was treated to a passionate description by Kinoshi of her stimulus for writing each new composition in the programme, which varied from her reaction to the domestic policies of Theresa May and Priti Patel, to the works of author Samuel R. Delany.

One of the first things I noticed when the ensemble were setting up was the instrumentation. On the far end of a standard horn section of trumpets, saxophones and a trombone, Hanna Mbuya could be seen holding a tuba – certainly the first time I had ever seen or heard a tuba in a jazz setting! Mbuya created a fantastic effect within the overall impression left by seed., with her role in the ensemble mostly alternating between doubling Joe Bristow’s rasping trombone lines or Rio Kai’s walking bass patterns on Double Bass. In either role, Mbuya excelled in boosting the lower register, resulting in a powerful and formidable sound. I could only have wished that Mbuya was featured more as a solo player, as I was left waiting until the encore item ‘The Darkies’ to finally hear an authentic jazz tuba solo.

Some minor issues arose with the sound mixing early in the first set, however the impact of the music on the audience was left unhindered thanks to Kinoshi’s professionalism and swift communication with the backstage crew and her band. Featuring in the first set were the tunes ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Afronaut’ which came directly from their 2018 album, however I paid closer attention to some of the new material being showed off that I hope will feature on a studio release soon. ‘Vessel’ featured some lovely flugelhorn and piano voicing, while a cover of Pharaoh Sanders’ ‘Upper and Lower Egypt’ was an effective opener to the second set, both were well received by the audience.

A stand-out moment in the program was the penultimate item of the second set titled ‘Neptune’. As Kinoshi explained, this item in the set was inspired by a recent discovery of an ancestor of Kinoshi’s who was enslaved by a wealthy estate at just eight years old. This left the greatest impact on myself and the audience of the night, the raw emotion could be heard throughout the composition and in the exceptional performances, specifically from Mbuya (a fantastically written gloomy tuba baseline), Patrick Boyle’s tight bebop fills and of course from Kinoshi herself.

seed. demonstrates the strength in the diversity of the UK jazz scene in a post-pandemic industry. I for one enjoyed the experience of sharing live music with a hall filled with people again after 18 months and it was clear the band were also as grateful to be back sharing their talent with us.

seed. will be performing at the Hare & Hounds, Birmingham on 5th October 2021, you can buy tickets here: Buy seed. at Birmingham tickets for Birmingham Hare & Hounds on Tuesday, 5th October 2021 | Band On The Wall Ticketline

Their debut album, Driftglass, is out now; seed. — Cassie Kinoshi 

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