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Soweto Kinch, Bop Kaballa: District, Liverpool

Gary Dougherty catches Parr Jazz’s first post-pandemic innings with award winning jazz artist, rapper, saxophonist and producer Soweto Kinch.

By Planet Slop
Sat 09 October, 2021

It’s a hard life being an amateur music journalist; writing copy, taking and editing photos, late nights, deadlines.

Fuck it, who am I kidding? It’s brilliant!

We get the opportunity to see musicians in their ascendency, their prime and occasionally in their twilight. With Soweto Kinch it was definitely a case of seeing him in his prime.

When the invite appeared in the Planet Slop contributors group, I’ll be honest and say I didn’t know who Soweto Kinch was. But ever intrigued by the prospect of seeing something new I took the opportunity and I’m glad I did.

The night opened with local jazz trio Bop Kaballa. Describing themselves as a psych jazz/trip hop collective they played the usual fare of be-bop inspired instrumental jazz.

The trip hop style embodied in Björk’s Homogenic was not evident for me, but perhaps I’m a philistine?  As with many such jazz trios they seem to lack a charismatic stage presence and can come across as a bit nerdy; but that all changed when they were joined by Motormouf (aka Alex Young).  At this point the whole atmosphere of their performance changed, with an added a modern twist. With his fast-paced hip hop lyrics he earns his motormouth moniker and warmed the crowd up nicely.

And so to the main act; double MOBO award winning Soweto Kinch.

With lockdown over he was finally getting an opportunity to promote his 2019 album The Black Peril (and gave us the first of many shameless plugs to sell signed copies ‘available at the bar’).

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Inspired by Britain’s 1919 Race Riots, in the age of Black Lives Matter, The Black Peril is as much an album of our time as that of 100 years ago. It would seem that blaming immigrants for ‘stealing our jobs’ during times of economic hardship is not a modern affliction.

Opening with classical jazz styled Suspended Adolescence, Seweto showed of his skills as a saxophonist. Similarly complex jazz tunes with difficult time signatures followed interspersed with his own brand of jazz/hip hop fusion that displayed his lyrical prowess. This really resonated with the younger members of the audience.

Riot Music was a stand-out track for its fusion of ragtime jazz, modern hip hop lyrics and a very punchy delivery. Simultaneously evocative on The Jazz Age and the current racial tension.

It was through this that he reminded us that 100 years ago, jazz was the punk of its day: irreverent, improvisational and idiosyncratic.

A highlight of the night was an amicable, showboating display in which Soweto drew on the improvisational style of jazz along with hip hop’s lyrical complexity and spontaneity.

Using what appeared to be a random letter generator, he called upon the audience to provide words beginning with A, J, Z and R. Not knowing quite what to expect the audience furnished him with for example, Annabel, jalapeño, zucchini, zigzag and raisin. In a matter of seconds we were treated to a bizarre musical song/tale that somehow incorporated all these elements complete with rhymes, an improv jazz backing and a call-and-response chorus of ‘Parr’ -‘Jazz’ with the audience providing the response. A truly virtuoso performance.

All of this brings us full circle back to music journalism. If I didn’t do this, I probably would never have seen Soweto Kinch. I’m glad I did, and anyone who is a fan of either jazz or hip hop should make it a point to see him. And thank you to Parr Jazz for bringing him to Liverpool.