UK-based modern jazz artist Kamaal Williams brought his band to Brooklyn this past Saturday for a headlining show at Bushwick’s Elsewhere. Also known as Henry Wu, Williams has been putting out hip-hop-infused jazz music since 2012. With a musical foundation as a drummer, Williams has brought a percussionist mentality to his music, developing deep layers and rhythms on the keys.
In 2018, Williams founded his own record label, Black Focus Records, and released his debut as Kamaal Williams, The Return. The album is a true representation of the modern jazz scene, with influences from hip-hop, UK garage and funk melding with the jazz foundation in a unique way. All of these influences feature heavily on William’s NTS Radio residency as Henry Wu.
The show relied heavily on The Return, but throughout the night the band ventured in and out of unidentifiable musical passages and jams. The connection between Williams and the drummer was obvious as they cued off each other constantly, all while keeping in sync. Along with Williams’ large keyboard setup, the band consisted of drums, bass and tenor saxophone, but the depth of their sound made them seem much larger.
Shifting back to his roots as Henry Wu, Williams also released the 70th edition of the legendary series DJ Kicks this earlier this month. Still with jazz influences throughout, this release focuses more on the eclectic history of UK beat and garage music with Williams’ jazz style layered in. After the show at Elsewhere, Williams moved up to the second floor loft to DJ a late night party celebrating this release.
The band continues a tour of North America through December. It will be very interesting to hear how Williams follows up The Return in 2020.