The Duality of Yussef Dayes

Will Schube explores the musically omnivorous London artist's newest single.
By    December 5, 2019

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Will Schube ones got stoned with Joaquin Phoenix on the shores of Gordita Beach.

The dissolvement of Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams’ collaboration still hurts, but the void grows easier to deal with as both prove themselves more than competent on their own. Dayes struck gold with last year’s “Love is the Message,” which was an evolved slice of UK jazz. On the just released “Duality,” Dayes has moved far from the psychedelically-fueled jazz he became known for with Williams and then as a solo composer. His work is far from the traditional bent of London’s modern jazz scene. Here, he leans into R&B themes that wouldn’t sound out of place in the US indie landscape.

Yussef steps back from the glow on “Duality,” letting keys and a fantastically performed bassline lead the way. It’s cosmic and astral—every signifier for the infusion of Alice Coltrane in modern jazz, really—but Dayes shows restraint in honing in on the infectious groove he and his bandmates lay down, hoping to reveal something deeper by burrowing further into the basics of the music. It’s not particularly flashy, but the way in which the musicians blend precision and looseness betrays the sort of expertise it takes to pull of a song like “Duality” so fluidly. 

Of course, because Dayes is interested in more than a nice groove, the song’s back half dives into a half-time krautrock-meets-Thundercat groove, equal parts enthralling and bone-chilling. The guitar chords become more prominent as they become filtered through Radiohead-style effects, and some late hits led by Dayes close out the exercise. It’s an album that shows off both sides of Yussef Dayes: his restraint, and his willingness to go all out and see what happens. This is a perfect blend of improvisation and rigorous composition. Yussef Dayes plays jazz even when it doesn’t sound like it.

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