Kofi Flexxx: Flowers in the Dark review – jazz-hip-hop ensemble masterminded by Shabaka Hutchings

(Native Rebel)
The Sons of Kemet frontman joins forces with associates including Alan Hawkins and Daisy George in an expansive collaboration that’s more than the sum of its parts

Native Rebel is the label run by Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Shabaka and the Ancestors), who will be retiring his principal instrument, the tenor sax, at the end of the year. He also produces this debut, credited to Kofi Flexxx, “a creative principle” rather than an artist. It’s probably safe to assume that Hutchings (who also records mononymously as Shabaka) is a key conduit of this expansive, collaborative record, a jazz-adjacent work with elements of improvisation featuring many Hutchings associates.

Poet Anthony Joseph lends eloquent righteousness to By Now (Accused of Magic), a percussive broadside in which Alex Hawkins’s piano trades off against Ross Harris’s flute. More acerbic lyricism comes from NYC rapper Billy Woods on Apothecary, a murky and restless jazz-hop cut that has an echo in Hutchings’s guest spot on the forthcoming Woods LP under the name Armand Hammer. Throughout, the core Flexxx ensemble – Hawkins and Harris, plus drummer Jas Kayser and bassist Daisy George – conjoin then fall away, making way for one another on a project that is intentionally more than the sum of its parts. Just as arresting as the hip-hop content is Aim, a sinuous outing where sonorous South African vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu daubs low-key intonations over the impressionist piecework of the players.

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