Kamaal Williams (feat. Mansur Brown), “Snitches Brew” (Black Focus)
As the British jazz renaissance continues apace, Kamaal Williams (aka keyboardist Henry Wu, founder of the crucial Black Focus label) continues to prove himself one of its most interesting catalysts. The Return was one of 2018's most brilliant debut albums, a vital elaboration on '70s fusion moves, a panoply of lithe grooves, cosmic atmospheres, and intriguing melodies. It made a lot of people's year-end lists and whetted my appetite for experiencing them live. (Earshot Jazz Festival director John Gilbreath, if you're listening, please make this happen.)
Kamaal Williams's recent single, "Snitches Brew," wears its Miles Davis influence on its title, but anything referencing that innovative 1970 fusion landmark will be enthusiastically embraced by me. Sorry/not sorry.
The track starts with a bass-synth ostinato that's as insistent and monomaniacal as peak John Carpenter/Goblin/Tangerine Dream. The roiling drums (think Jack DeJohnette circa On the Corner) and Mansur Brown's incisive, staccato, Pete Cosey-esque guitar jabs and watery wahs add to "Snitches Brew"'s cauldron of suspense. The track's a razor-sharp modification of fusion's '70s heyday, when virtuoso musicians fed as much off of blaxploitation soundtracks as they did the conservatory. I can imagine running the voodoo down with utmost urgency to "Snitches Brew."