An associate of the Tomorrow's Warriors and Kinetika Bloco community projects through whose ranks have passed practically all the leading musicians in London's woke-jazz world, trumpeter Mark Kavuma stands a little apart from many of his peers. While the new London scene is characterized by hefty infusions of modern Caribbean and African music and London club styles, reflecting the cultural heritages and lived experiences of the majority of its vanguard players, the core strand of Kavuma's music is foursquare in the African American hard-bop tradition. The Banger Factory, his second album, is another outstanding essay in the genre, anchored in tradition yet sounding totally present tense within it.
Within two minutes of putting the disc in the player you know you are on to a winner. The hornless ninety-second introduction to "Dear KD" evokes the opening of Pharoah Sanders' "Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt" from his chef d'oeuvre, Tauhid (Impulse, 1967), before the track segues elegantly into a groove which suggests Art Blakey's The Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan and Benny Golson circa Moanin' (Blue Note, 1958), finally concluding with a guitar solo reminiscent of Grant Green's flowing work on Idle Moments (Blue Note, 1964). And so the album progresses, by turns mellow and up-tempo, and muscular throughout.
Nothing sounds remotely derivative or revivalist, however. This is a living tradition inhabited by believers—right down to the youngest member of the band, tenor saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi, still 19 years old and studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (and also going along to Tomorrow's Warriors' sessions), who is making a name for himself in both acoustic jazz, as here, and on electronic mash-ups with Blue Lab Beats.
Hidden behind the CD on the inside of the packaging are words attributed to Lee Morgan which neatly sum up the vibe of The Banger Factory. "There are no natural barriers. It's all music. It's either hip or it ain't." This disc is most definitely hip.
Demonstrating that the group's cultural awareness extends beyond hard bop, Kavuma has another pertinent quote at the top of his web page announcing this album's release. This time the words come, not from a revered jazz musician, but from the Stones' Keith Richards: "Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it. You have to sweat over it and bug it to death. And do a lot of drugs." No, rewind that, neither Richards nor Kavuma said the last six words.
Kavuma goes out of his way to stress that the album is a group effort, and this is no bullshit. He wrote all seven tracks himself, but sits out on two of them, letting others take the spotlight (which he shares generously across the album). And three tunes, "Mussinghi," "Big Willie" (for William Cleasby) and "Mkrakpor," were written with particular band members in mind (or later arranged that way).
The Banger Factory is front-page good news with some delightful surprises up its sleeve, including the chicken shack bossa-nova outro to.... (no spoilers here).
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