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Shabaka Hutchings Explores New Musical Horizons with Flutes

by Madonna

Renowned as one of the most thrilling young saxophonists globally, Shabaka Hutchings continues to captivate audiences with his second release featuring hypnotic flute and clarinet performances.

“Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace” follows his 2022 “mini-album” “Afrikan Culture,” marking a new direction for Shabaka’s music.

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Shabaka had already showcased his versatility with the electro-fusion trio The Comet Is Coming, the two-drum-and-tuba quartet Sons of Kemet, the one-off project 1000 Kings, and his own Shabaka and the Ancestors.

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Although the news shook the jazz world much like Andre 3000’s unexpected flute album “New Blue Sun” did the pop world last fall, Shabaka’s fans will likely embrace this new musical path.

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Recent shows in Portland and Seattle saw packed venues, featuring modern jazz icon Esperanza Spalding on bass and vocals.

The concerts started with spiritual-feeling duets with each band member, consecrating the stage before the full band performed together.

The album opener, “End of Innocence,” begins slowly with Jason Moran on piano, drummer Nasheet Waits, and percussionist Carlos Nino, all seasoned jazz musicians creating a relaxed sonic space for Shabaka’s clarinet explorations.

The melodies are slight, improvisational, and loose. Tracks like “As the Planets and the Stars Collapse” feel ephemeral, as if the song itself is disintegrating.

Conversely, “Insecurities” is built around a compelling melodic flute idea supported by Charles Overton’s harp and enhanced by Moses Sumney’s beautiful voice. Shabaka’s playing remains adventurous but consistently returns to this memorable hook.

The mesmerizing sonic atmospheres of “Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace” are imbued with the legacy of the African diaspora. Shabaka’s previous saxophone-based albums explored the music of various African countries, and the flute continues this journey, connecting globally with flutes from Japan, indigenous North America, the Caribbean, and beyond.

The album’s closing track, “Song of the Motherland,” features Shabaka’s father, Anum Iyapo (Orville Hutchings), delivering the poetic central theme over gentle harp and flute interplay.

Recording his own album in 1985, Iyapo’s resonant Barbadian accent declares, “I am your culture, know me. I am blackness. I am identity. Take with me the knowledge that I am undeniably yours…”

Each song title on the album comes from a longer poem written specifically for the album, intended to reach completion only when combined with the music.

Guest performers include vocalists Eska, Laraaji, Elucid, and Saul Williams, while bassist Spalding and jazz harpist Brandee Younger feature on several tracks. Each contributes significantly while maintaining the album’s relaxed, hypnotic flow.

With “Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace,” Shabaka has carved a unique space for his musical explorations. His music may drift beyond traditional jazz boundaries, but listeners, without judgment, will find a sonic paradise to enjoy and explore.

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