Kamaal Williams The Return
Published May 24, 2018Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu) is back with a sparkling followup to his collaboration with Yussef Daves. The pair's 2016 disc, Black Focus, released under the name Yussef Kamaal, deserved a good deal more praise than it earned. The Return is just as good.
This is the kind of jazz fusion brought back to life by Robert Glasper's Black Radio collective. Acoustic hip-hop beats (from MckNasty), funky keys (Williams) and inspired bass (Pete Martin) combine to produce a thoroughly listenable collection of ten tracks. The musicianship is extraordinary, but never self-indulgent. There is a timelessness to this record that's as connected to the electric jazz pioneers of the '70s as it is to today's best fusion players.
The Return defines itself with "Aisha," a minimalist synth piece, while "Broken Theme" delivers a rhythm section tutorial destined to inspire every young player within earshot. MckNasty doesn't so much steal the show as set its pace. He races through "Catch the Loop," stopping, starting and changing up tempo like an MLB all-star.
If his partners weren't so perfectly matched, MckNasty would have stolen this show, but they are. Martin's bass on "LDN Shuffle," which also features a Prince-worthy electric guitar addition from Mansur Brown, is crisp and detailed. Meanwhile, Williams' keys pull it all together. From the heavy funk of "Rhythm Commission" to the soulful ballad "Medina," his aim is true. (Black Focus Records)