Shabaka – Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace

London-born saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings declared earlier this year that he would take a hiatus from performing the instrument with his bands Sons Of Kemet, Shabaka and The Ancestors, and The Comet Is Coming. Instead, he changed to the flute for his solo album “Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace” which came out on Impulse! Records a couple of weeks ago and which is also available on vinyl. The album was recorded at the famed and historic Rudy van Gelder studios, home to hundreds of sessions for the Blue Note label and many more. “We played with no headphones or separation in the room so we could capture the atmosphere of simply playing together in the space without a technological intermediary”, says Shabaka about the recording process.

He gathered a lot of special guests for the album, which comes across as a peaceful, calm and tender meditative journey. Jason Moran plays piano on the moody album opener “End Of Innocence”, starting out this contemplative and tranquil 46-minute set. There are two harps accompanying him on the eerie, almost otherworldly “As The Planets And Stars Collapse”: the much-heralded (and deservedly so) Brandee Younger and Charles Overton. It’s as if Shabaka somehow speaks through his flute. Vocalist Moses Sumney follows suit on “Insecurities”, playing a counterpart and accompanist to the leader’s sometimes oriental-sounding playing. Imagine Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane and Nala Sinephro if you need any comparison.

Shabaka "Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace"

Poet and singer Saul Williams is featured on “Managing My Breath, What Fear Has Become”. Flute, harp, and voice are in perfect unison here. Shabaka plays different flutes on the album, like the Shakuhachi, Mayan Teotihuacan drone flutes, Brazilian Pifanos, and others. Chris Scholar is added to “Body To Inhabit” which also includes Esperanza Spalding on bass and the rapping of Elucid which is actually the only track here which doesn’t really click with me. There is this very contagious piece called “I’ll Do Whatever You Want” which also has Andre 3000 on flute, Laraaji on vocals, and Floating Points responsible for the electronics. It veers towards the experimental, but still stays true to the original pensive attitude of the album.

Singer Eska (remember her 2015 solo album on Naim Edge?) graces the hymn-like “Living” which comes across like an East Asian mystical chant. On “Breathing”, Rajna Swaminathan plays the mrudangam, an Indian percussion instrument and “Kiss Me Before I Forget” features singer Lianne La Havas just lending her voice similar to the piece with Moses Sumney earlier in the proceedings and thus, becoming another instrument in the process. This is a pretty intense and hypnotic record but once you delve deep into it, its effects are worth the effort.

Shabaka is on tour in Europe with his new LP:
05/03 Amsterdam – Bimhuis
05/04 Liège – Trocadero
05/06 Paris – New Morning
05/08 Berlin – Emmaus-Kirche
05/09 London – Barbican Centre
05/30 Barcelona – Parc del Fòrum


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