Soweto Kinch | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Soweto Kinch 

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Continuing the age-old jazz tradition of using pop currents for improvisational navigation, a handful of American jazz musicians have embraced the rhythms of hip-hop, starting with altoist Steve Coleman in the 80s and continuing through to trumpeter Maurice Brown in this decade. Recently some British players have taken this synthesis a step further, expanding the boundaries of jazz to include rapping itself. Preeminent among these is the gifted 27-year-old alto saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch. Kinch won a pair of BBC jazz awards plus a Mercury prize for his 2003 debut, Conversations With the Unseen (Dune), which announces his career the way "A Night in Tunisia" heralded Charlie Parker's. From the first notes, he articulates a clear and compelling vision--one that comes as close as anyone's yet to achieving the legitimate bebop-hip-hop fusion that, for some artists, seemingly remains the holy grail. A convincing if not a revolutionary rapper, Kinch is certainly a potent saxist, ranging from edgy, angled lines to tender, sweet-toned lyricism, and deserves much of the praise that's been lavished on him. His band includes London-based American trumpeter Abram Wilson, whose 2004 debut for Dune, Jazz Warrior, caromed from faux swing a la Wynton Marsalis to a splashy title cut combining a spoken-word intro, a delirious vocal hook, and Wilson's own multitracked rap. Both Kinch and Wilson cut their teeth in the ska-inflected UK group Jazz Jamaica All-Stars; this rare U.S. appearance is their first in Chicago. Sat 9/3, 3:30 PM, main stage, African Festival of the Arts, Washington Park, 51st & Cottage Grove, 773-955-2787, $10. See page 42 for a complete festival schedule. All ages.

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