Yussef Kamaal: A Fresh Take On Funk-Jazz

The London-based duo blends styles to produce the imaginative, funky, albeit flawed Black Focus

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz. Since I’m waiting for Kamasi Washington’s new EP, I decided to search for an album that would satisfy my craving for the time being. Fortunately, I came across the Yussef Kamaal duo, and boy did they blow me away. Their album Black Focus is a collection of innovative beats that features a multitude of different sound effects and funky rhythms.

Yussef Dayes deserves a lot of credit. His use of dynamics and incredible sense of time proved that he is a master percussionist. He also knew when to step aside and let pianist, Kamaal Williams, have the spotlight, which in my opinion, is the most important skill a drummer could have.

Although I usually prefer when musicians stick to the use of real instrumentation, their use of electronic instruments sounds great when used accordingly. The album had great transitions between keyboard effects, as it always kept me guessing what was going to happen next. Granted, I was usually wrong.

The album art for Yussef Kamaal’s debut album Black Focus

Nevertheless, this album is packed with creativity and I can safely say that there was no lack of imagination.

Another thing I enjoyed was the occasional inclusion of extremely funky rhythms accompanied by funky drumbeats. As a huge fan of funky jazz, this addition was well appreciated. Some of you other Jazz enthusiasts probably knew this album was heavily influenced by funk. But I went into this album without a single clue about what I was going to hear, which is something I recommend.

Imagine going into a movie where you already know what’s going to happen, wouldn’t that make those key scenes less impactful? I always prefer going in blind, so when I hear great pieces of work like this, the overall experience is even more surprising.

There were only a few times during my initial experience with this album where I felt it lost its drive, particularly at the end. There are a couple of tracks that did not seem to go anywhere. Although the jazz chords and runs on the keyboard sounded fantastic, I would have loved to hear more structure. In particular, the song Mansur’s Message just seems like a collection of random sounds and effects. In these few cases, I felt the electronic instrumentation in the album was being used as a crutch rather than a complimentary addition. 
Fortunately, this is not the case for the majority of the album.

Overall, I would definitely recommend that you give this one a listen, and keep an eye out for their future projects.

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