Review: Kentyah (@kentyah) presents M1 (@DeadPrezRBG) , Brian Jack­son & The New Mid­night Band ‘Evo­lu­tion­ary Minded’

Kentyah presents: M1, Bri­an Jack­son & The New Mid­night Band: Evo­lu­tion­ary Minded

@Jazz Café Monday 9th Septem­ber 2013

In a pre­vi­ous post, we told you that Motéma Records/Membran was set to release Kentyah presents: M1, Bri­an Jack­son & The New Mid­night Band: Evo­lu­tion­ary Minded.

On the even­ing of Monday 9th Septem­ber 2013, we arrived at Jazz Café for the UK album launch.

We’d already heard a lot about the album. How­ever we were par­tic­u­larly excited about what M-1, as Dead Prez front man, could bring to the work of the late but non­ethe­less remembered Gil Scott Her­on, whil­st work­ing with his col­lab­or­at­ors Bri­an Jack­son and the New Mid­night Band.

Gil Scott Her­on who passed away in 2011 was a music legend most known for the track “The revolu­tion will not be tele­vised”. Gil was a crit­ic, a poet and a musi­cian that drew on the rich depth of the Blues to chron­icle the jour­ney and struggle of the Afric­an in the US.

The ques­tion we had was: how would M-1 a child of hip hop per­form with a full jazz/funk band? The answer lied in first recog­niz­ing that Gil Scott Her­on was the god­father of hip-hop. Gil’s spoken word poetry was the fore­run­ner to the rhyme of hip hop.

Chuck D of Pub­lic Enemy said “you can go into Gins­burg and the Beat Poets and Dylan, but GSH is the mani­fest­a­tion of the mod­ern word. He and the Last Poets set the stage for every­one else.”

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Gil and Bri­an Jackson’s jazz and funk was the source of beats for count­less hip hop artists to rhyme upon. Indeed Gil’s most fam­ous song “The Revolu­tion will not be Tele­vised” con­tin­ues to be sampled includ­ing by Jay Elec­tron­ica in the track “Exhib­it C”. How­ever as Kentyah, the Pro­du­cer, has poin­ted out: “Often when they talk about GSH being sampled in hip hop, they’re not sampling GSH’s voice, they’re sampling Bri­an, the phras­ing on the keys, the arrange­ment on the songs, that’s all him.” So this was an oppor­tun­ity to see Bri­an Jack­son in action.

Both Gil and hip hop, includ­ing Dead Prez are polit­ic­al. (doesn’t “The Revolu­tion will not be tele­vised?” that chime with the mes­sage of Dead Prez to “turn off the radio”). M-1 is most known for his Dead Prez tune “Its Big­ger than Hip Hop”. Both are polit­ic­al mes­sen­gers. As M-1 has said “Our main enemy is ignor­ance. Not a prop­er polit­ic­al edu­ca­tion.” Both GSH and Dead Prez sought to provide that.

And import­antly both are fun, enga­ging and empower­ing – they make music to MOVE to both polit­ic­ally but in the moment on the dance­floor.

Whil­st Gil and Dead Prez were both overtly revolu­tion­ary, Bri­an Jack­son says that this new pro­ject places emphas­is on some­thing subtly dif­fer­ent: it is “evol­u­tion­ary minded”. He said “See I was always look­ing for some­thing more than revolu­tion. To me revolu­tion was a cycle. The way the Earth turns around the Sun. Start at one point. Go 360. And then you end up at that same point again. To me thats not really change. What I was look­ing for was evol­u­tion. To me thats pro­gress. You start in the past, you move into the present and then on into the future. And hope­fully along the way you learn some things. You learn how to make things bet­ter. How to become bet­ter.”

Jazz Café has hos­ted hip hop legends over the last couple of years so it was fit­ting that M1 would per­form. Also, as a self-styled jazz/blues club it was a place that Bri­an Jack­son and the New Mid­night Band could feel at home. How­ever as we settled down await­ing the band, we observed that the audi­ence were largely middle aged, white Eng­lish, and middle class.

Con­sequently, there was a lot less dan­cing and act­ive audi­ence par­ti­cip­a­tion gen­er­ally than might have been at another ven­ue. We won­der if the ven­ue had been else­where we might have got a dif­fer­ent crowd and vibes. How­ever the lim­ited space in the ven­ue more than made us feel cosy and intim­ate.

When the band arrived we were not to be dis­ap­poin­ted. M-1 stood in front of the mic as a tall and majestic fig­ure with a trimmed goat­ee to pon­der deeply with and wear­ing strik­ing mul­ti­colored trousers and beau­ti­fully sim­ple beaded jew­elry around his neck.

It was a test­a­ment to the humil­ity of M-1 that he con­sciously or not placed the mic to the right of center stage. This was not about M-1. This was about draw­ing on Gil’s past in the present to move into the future. Accord­ingly it was right that the leg­acy of the past in Bri­an Jack­son and the New Mid­night Band were not obscured by M-1’s fig­ure.

When the per­form­ances begun, we were taken on a jour­ney back and forth through time. Unsur­pris­ingly with M-1 at the helm, the band per­formed hard hit­ting songs both from their new album includ­ing Oppon­ent and from GSH’s work includ­ing Home is where the Hatred is and the clas­sic The Bottle. The edgi­ness of the per­form­ances was amp­li­fied by the samples of Bobby Seale, founder of the Black Pan­ther Party, which gave voice to the his­tory of the struggle bey­ond music. Seale struck us with the fol­low­ing explan­a­tion of polit­ics:

“Polit­ics. What is polit­ics? You think polit­ics starts with a seat in the assembly. No it doesn’t. Its related to it but it doesn’t start there. Polit­ics starts with a hungry stom­ach and polit­ics starts a big pres­sure across our skull mur­der­ing our people. Polit­ics starts with the fact that we get a rot­ten edu­ca­tion, and we get brain­washed and fooled into trick-notion and tricno­logy and everything else that goes on with us in terms of the exploit­a­tion that goes down. Polit­ics starts with the fact that we want decent hous­ing fit for shel­ter of human beings.”

The per­form­ances were also marked by great tech­nic­al skill by the band; Bri­an Jack­son on the keys and vocals, a bass gui­tar­ist and a

drum­mer. When the band per­formed the instru­ment­al to Gil Scott Heron’s (GSH) clas­sic Lady Day and John Col­trane, I recalled the open­ing words of GSH: Ever feel kinda down and out, you don’t know just what to do. Liv­in’ all of your days in dark­ness let the sun shine through. Ever feel that some­how, some­where, you’ve lost your way” He then asks “could you call on Lady Day? Could you call on John Col­trane?” and answers his own ques­tion emphat­ic­ally “Now they’ll wash your troubles away”. This reminded me of the import­ant role that music from the Blues and bey­ond has had in the struggle of Black people in Amer­ica, by provid­ing under­stand­ing and com­fort. Bri­an Jack­son amazed us with a improv on the keys show­ing that GSH’s music­al legendary was down to more than just GSH.

To close, M1 returned to the lime­light by pulling out the stops with an accapel­la  that GSH would have been proud of.

(Pho­to­graphy by : Aimee Val­in­ski ) 

For more about the pro­ject and the leg­acy of the band check out this 12 minute video:

YouTube Preview Image

The project’s debut Single ‘Oppon­ent’ is avail­able now here. 

 

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rish­ma Dhali­wal has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rish­ma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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