NPR

First Listen: Kamaal Williams, 'The Return'

Williams is a central figure in London's jazz renaissance. Stream the producer's debut full-length in its entirety.
Kamaal Williams' The Return comes out May 25. Source: Salem Wazaki

The Return, keyboardist and producer Kamaal Williams' debut full-length as a bandleader, presents ideas about London's renewed flirtation with jazz and improvisation that are both illuminating and misleading. Yet this collection of instrumental miniatures also underlines what continues to make the city's music exciting, presenting another chapter in its decades-long rhythm-culture continuum, an inter-generational mix that pushes things forward.

Funny thing is, isn't a jazz record at all — a fact made slightly odder by its billing, an album that was partially driven by Williams' keyboards, and which really is among London's recent jazz masterworks. Credited to the duo (Williams' short-lived project with long-time colleague, drummer Yussef Dayes), was an electric, eccentric dervish, a rhythm section record that veered between expansive ambiance, frenetic invention and compositional poise, celebrating fusion-era textures and grooves that London has been using as musical building blocks at least since jungle's love affair with and. When Yussef Kamaal got heavy — as on the incredible "" — they were plugging into the city's original musical software, but also updating it.

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