Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus \\ Best Albums of 2016
What keyboardist Kamaal Williams and drummer Yussef Dayes have created is nothing less than monumental. A particular scene in London is no longer brewing, but stands clearly developed and identifiable; two musicians with an appreciation for jazz sensibilities have taken the notion of ‘progressive’ a step further. Grime, drum and bass, seventies funk, jazz; a van diagram of rarely teamed influences makes Black Focus a distinctly British album. In fact, it’s the sound of London, and more specifically, South-East; warehouse gatherings, start-up radio stations, independent coffee shops, DIY music venues. It has an identity that record collectors and tastemakers around the world can distinguish as being different to contemporary jazz from anywhere else. It’s the sound of Yussef Kamaal. The sound of London. The sound of a city changing what it is to ‘do jazz’.
Stunted shuffles on acoustic drums and slippery, chunky synths are versatile throughout the ten tracks. Lowrider encourages shit to be lost on a grimy but inviting dance-floor, although you could easily slip into dozy reverie on Yo Chavez, which has something subtly Roy Ayers about it. Mastered by Eric Lau, the production is perfectly light as to not saturate the minimalist textures.
The South East London duo have plenty to follow through with in 2017; there’s rumours that Yussef Dayes will be putting forward a new album with United Vibrations, whilst Kamaal Williams will be continuing to represent Peckham under his alternate alias Henry Wu. Eyes are on the album’s collaborators to continue the momentum. South-East London; the world’s ears are listening.
JS | Tina Edwards
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