It’s 2020, which must mean it’s the turn of the Ancestors. In my review of this album for Louder Than War, I asked whether there was a harder working man in show-business than Shabaka Hutchings?
We Are Sent Here By History is his second album fronting the Ancestors. Hutchings somehow manages to fit this project in alongside leading 2018’s Mercury prize nominated Sons of Kemet and playing an integral role as a member of The Comet is Coming, who were also nominated for the Mercury in 2016. A different year brings a different project.
Hutchings is an absolute tour de force. A whirlwind who throws himself into each and every assignment with utter gusto and propels it skywards. The engine driving it all forward is his melodic and forceful sax and clarinet. He is a veritable colossus, a key architect of the rebirth of British jazz.
We Are Sent Here By History has a different vibe from his other projects. As I said back at the beginning of May, this album has a real taste of Africa. I guess that’s hardly surprising given that the Ancestors comprise a stellar cast of South Africa’s finest jazz musicians.
It reminds me a lot of Miles Davis’s seminal work, Bitches Brew. The grooves are loose and supple all built upon a fluid rhythm section. Afro beats pulsate and scorch. It is dark and electrifying and mesmerising. Riding on top of it all are Hutchings’ lascivious licks.
All-in-all it is an astonishing album, built upon individual brilliance of each and every contributor and a collective tightness (but looseness – you know what I mean), all performing fantastic compositions. It’s deep and it requires proper concentration to truly appreciate it. But take the time, you won’t regret it.
And as 2021 sits on our shoulder awaiting its invitation to creep in, we can eagerly look forward to yet another Shabaka Hutchings project.