October 11, 2016

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YussefKamaal_PRESSPHOTO_by_Larissa Araz_2

If the lowrider is a classic symbol of Los Angeles living alongside Palm Trees and asphyxiating traffic, it seems almost absurd to think of a ’64 Chevy hitting switches on the wrong side of the road. Maybe London has lowriders. After all, Britain’s Eric Burden first brought War to the public consciousness, who then helped make the concept of the gravity-slanting sedan a global phenomenon.  Hence, in this delirious fever nightmare known as 2016, we can get “Lowrider,” the latest single from the London duo of Yussef Kamaal — a song that swiftly glides with low-to-the-ground rumble and funky swing  — as though Xzibit’s most artful mechanic friends had weaponized it.

Drums and keys, that’s really all you need. The percussion comes from Yussef Dayes, who came up on Mandrill, Herbie Hancock, Max Roach, and Herbie and the Headhunters. He’s sublimated these influences and converted them into singular groove. A similar thing can be said about Kamaal Williams (nee Henry Wu), whose keyboard solos reflect both indelible 70s jazz fusion but also the scuffs of London living: drum and bass, grime, hip-hop — the darker, intense and colder winds swirling around.

Somehow, it combines to something substantially brighter than you might expect. A UK analogue to the work that Thundercat, Kamasi Washington and Brainfeeder are doing on the West Coast, another instance of the Trans-Atlantic two-way street between London and LA. Yussef Kamaal would make War proud.

Their official debut, the stellar Black Focus drops on November 4th on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint. Between this and the Shabaka & The Ancestors record, they’ve produced two of the best jazz-inflected releases of the year. You can pre-order Black Focus at the Bandcamp. You can #ListenToMoreJazz as well, but you already knew that.