1000 Kings ‘Raw Cause’ (Jazz re:freshed) 5/5

1000 Kings. #wecantsaywhoisintheband. According to the PR they’re “a group starring bassist Karl Rasheed-Abel, drummer Kwake Bass and a saxophonist whose identity cannot be revealed for contractual reasons.” His identity CANNOT be revealed. Ooohh…Secrecy and mystery. Not heard it yet and it’s exciting already! Beautiful, powerful cover too – pure. And, look, I have no idea who the sax player is, and I don’t know if Kemet is his Ancestor or not, but this is one serious piece of jazz fusion for the right here, for the right now….even if it was recorded some 4 or 5 years ago…

The 1000 Kings chaps have previously brought their musical power to many lucky musicians – MF Doom, Roots Manuva, Laura Mvula, Omar, Soweto Kinch, Courtney Pine, Kate Tempest etc. etc. We should expect great things, right? Maybe, some of us would even expect a defining moment for UK jazz….even if it was recorded some 4 or 5 years ago…For me these expectations have been met.

I love this album. Start to finish. The variety and fusion of it. The soul of it. The raw strength of it. The sometime minimalism of it. The musicianship of it. The intelligence of it. The freeness of it. The balance of it. The truth of it. The 3-pieceness of it. The UKishness of it. Everything about it. It’s, frankly, my kind of album. 5 stars. Review over.

‘The Drop’ is the perfect statement-making opener. It’s initially sparse, spacey, dubby. All metronomic, bubbling bass and open tenor sax riff before blowing up into a Sanders/Williamson-esque spiritual explosion – a brief but powerful enlightenment. But, just as we’re really connecting with our celestial beings, we’re brought back down to earth again, sparse and calming to a gradual resolution.

‘Kind of Fuji’ has its roots somewhere slightly warmer than London. A tightly rhythmic piece, bass and percussion leading us on a gentle dance. Sax lyrically whispers its call for us to join in the fun. It builds layer upon layer of percussion adding to the comfortable, upbeat, joyous energy.

‘Jimi’ is all about the bluesy riff, as the title might lead you to expect, and the Carmine Appice drumfest. A bit dawn-of-Heavy Metal with a touch of Colosseum about it. The trio really rock on this – convincingly nailing it.

‘Doom’ kicks off with Kwake Bass on a “look-at-me-Mum!” drum solo but that apparent improv morphs easily into a complex pattern that drives the track. Sax works with it sometimes and argues with it other times, while Rasheed-Abel busies away pushing harder and further. Expansive and deeply spiritual.

‘Fulfillment House’ is a slow, end-of-battle lament – evoking ripped, flaccid war flags and beaten men. Or, possibly, inward thought and incomplete journeys. Rasheed-Abel’s pedalling, anchoring lines are moving. Compassionate, empathic and beautiful this. It would’ve/could’ve made a perfect end to an album.

That job here though was left to ‘W.Y.September’. It reeks of 3 musicians really gelling – truly listening to, and bouncing off of each other. Bass’s drumming is pure fire – syncopated and stumbling – somewhere between those technical drumming terms of ‘falling down the stairs’ and ‘chip pan’.

I know I finished my review at the end of the 3rd paragraph but, I’d just like to re:finish it…this album represents everything I’ve loved about the ‘jazz’ coming out of the UK over the last decade. Sonically perfect (to me) with outlandishly great musicianship and a variety of influence you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

For me though this album stands out – it has a raw purity, a stripped down-ness. It is the truth of 3 outstanding musicians empathically communicating their message with a consistency and an authenticity forcing us to 100% believe what they’re saying. Absolutely on message. I really don’t feel that too often. Jazz re:freshed have released a 5 star album. And I think Raw Cause is a perfect title for it.

Ian Ward