In Conversation - Shabaka Hutchings


With a breathful intensity that coarses through his tenor saxophone, Shabaka Hutchings’ playing is instantly recognisable on his many projects.

From frequently guesting with cosmic jazz legends the Sun Ra Arkestra to his work with punk-jazz ensemble Melt Yourself Down, the synth-fusion of the Mercury Prize-nominated Comet Is Coming and the free jazz of his South African project Shabaka and the Ancestors, Hutchings is a chameleon of the genre.

Like any chameleon, surface appearances may change but the underlying substance remains. This very changeability belies the fluidity of jazz, a genre which Hutchings only discovered upon returning to England after having spent a decade in Barbados and subsequently trading his classical clarinet for mentorships under Soweto Kinch and Courtney Pine.

Musical directing the We Out Here compilation of London jazz on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label last month, Hutchings is now a mentor of sorts to this new generation, as much influenced by his idols of Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Rollins, as they are by his own career.

His latest project takes on loftier ambitions than just jazz though, it is a scathing critique of the monarchy we live under: Your Queen Is A Reptile. Recorded with his Sons of Kemet group, featuring the tuba of We Out Here’s Theon Cross and the double drums of Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford, Hutchings combines the lassitude of dub with a propulsive swing in putting forward his vision of ‘alternative queens’ to replace our own.

We spoke to Hutchings ahead of the album release about comparing the ‘myth’ of monarchy with the myth of the reptilian illuminati, shape-shifting through different projects, and melding minimal electronica with jazz.

Read the interview in Clash Magazine.

[This piece was published on 01/03/18]