Floating Between Focus and Trance – Yussef Kamaal (UK)

01. May 2017
Joern Peeck

London-based duo and improvisational collective Yussef Kamaal received a lot of attention for their end-of-2016 release “Black Focus”. Thus, their concert was a highly anticipated happening that gave a possible answer to the question of what is currently hot among the younger jazz and instrumental music scene.


The minutes before the concert felt refreshingly different: Not being exposed to the intellectual tensions that jazz events sometimes have, this evening felt much more like an easy-going party inviting us to let loose. The band seemed to embrace this vibe happily and found their playground for the show based on this setting.


Yussef Kamaal underwent some lineup changes for this Saturday night, which gave the impression that the band rather functions as a collective. Keyboardist Kamaal Williams, playing synths, Rhodes and piano, gathered three musicians around him: Electric bass player Tom Driessler kept it stoically stylish with a great deal of understatement. The original duo’s drummer, Yussef Dayes, could not be present and was therefore replaced by Josh McKenzie, known as MckNasty. He turned out to be a powerhouse, constantly rediscovering his instrument and filling the room with forceful creative energy. The band was temporarily joined by a Manchester-based vocalist officially referred to as Diana Adelaide Rocha de Brito. Thematically, her singing circled predominantly around the state of herbal intoxication.


How much this concert differed from Yussef Kamaal’s usual performance, if there even is one, is a matter of speculation. Festival attendees who were expecting a concert full of highly stylized arrangements will have been disappointed. What there was to witness, though, was approximately an hour of highly energized, danceable, more-than-less improvised music. Take an open chord progression, strongly reminiscent of 70s jazz funk, add some super-tasty complementary bass work, and let it all be driven by the inexhaustible motor of human drums. Simple as this may sound, it is remarkable how the musicians floated between preciseness in execution and trance-like joy, continuously captivating the whole room. Many of the listeners were dancing and enjoying themselves deeply.


The concert was an ecstatic celebration and in some parts even a psychedelic experience for those who were willing to be taken there. With their performance, Yussef Kamaal managed to send Jazzkaar visitors off on a euphoric trip to the final waves of the festival.


Kamaal Williams – keyboards

Diana Adelaide Rocha de Brito – vocal

Tom Driessler – bass

MckNasty – drums


Check out photos from the concert here