REVIEW: Soweto Kinch at Hideaway (2017 EFG LJF)

The Soweto Kinch Trio at Hideaway

Soweto Kinch
(Hideaway, 12 November 2017. EFG LJF. Review and photo by Lauren Bush)

The band looked cooler than cool as they found their places on the Hideaway stage and dove right in. Anyone familiar with Soweto Kinch’s newest album Nonagram would recognise this first song straight out the gate – hooking the audience in one instrument at a time – as the layers of the track and bass and drums fell into a rhythmic loop.

The combination of veteran Nick Jurd on bass and newbie Will Glaser on drums is exciting, as we saw Kinch stop to take a breath in his first solo and give a glance and a smile to his band mates. This music may have been for us, but they were clearly enjoying it just as much.

The set up is small, considering the sound, Kinch had a Hideaway table with laptop and dials as well as a pedal board and mic set up for effects. His concepts proved thrilling for the audience, as it’s hard to know what he’s doing before hearing the new idea come out of his sax. The first song shifted into a second unnamed bass-driven tune with no computerised effects and then to a third, faster, more frantic loop with a hook that had us bobbing our heads along to the steady beat.

At just the right moment, silence struck and there was an audible release from everyone in the room as it gushed with whoops and hollers. It was obviously a home-town gig with lots of family, friends and locals. As Kinch addressed us on the mic for the first time, it felt like we’re all family. He briefly explained the concept of Nonagram – the whole album based on mathematical principles that, he joked, are better kept quiet for the audience sake. But we didn’t mind – he makes it sound so positively romantic, explaining how geometry can be healing and hopefully contribute to a more joyful, loving life. “But it’s just a gig,” he quipped. How could you not want to hear more?

The first set continued with Soul Bearings, another instrumental that is reminiscent of Roy Hargrove’s the RH Factor. Though Kinch was playing the humble alto-sax, his effects contorted his sound through the rest of the saxophone family reaching way down deep into the depths of the bari.

Kinch called on our support in the next song, Forecast. His preamble conveyed a message that everyone could relate to with regards to the news, our current political state and trying to hold positive throughout. The phrase “What’s it all for?” was patiently taught to the audience and we followed our conductor as he rapped insight about our crumbling world, our interjections hitting home.

The Engine Drivers starts off poetically with an ostinato driving behind the sax solo before falling again into a familiar beat that contagiously washes over everyone.

The second half felt comfortable, like a year-long relationship had been built in only an hour. Again, Kinch asked for the audience’s participation in a hip-hop number called Nostalgia. We were reminded again how divided our world is in and how we need to focus on unity and equality. Each half of the room was given a response: “I know you, You know me” to act as though we’re all long-lost friends. It’s a powerful sentiment that was received beautifully.  

Mitosis is next and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Kinch has diverse interests – a history degree, a dedication to politics and current events and now an aptitude for science and maths, all on top of his passion for music. Glaser on drums stood out here as he developed the beat with so many colours and effects that it was easy to sink in.

Another opportunity for audience input reminded us how much fun these musicians are having. A freestyle-rap based on suggestions from the audience for each letter of the word "hideaway". The end result was impressive, endearing and hilarious.

Things started to wrap up with a more serious note – a tribute to a dear friend called At Peace. It was lovely to hear so much meaning and connection come out of all three players. There was such a detailed mix of ebb and flow, complexity with originality, fun and intellect laid out in this powerful composition.

As if our hearts weren’t warm enough already, the final tune, Triangle, gave each musician one last time to show off their prowess and love of this music.

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