There is something always special about the homecoming gig. A sense of excitement that eludes most venues fills the air, as the crowd swells with early fans, friends of the artist and the promise of special guests. South London keys player Henry Wu's new project Kamaal Williams ticked all those boxes. One of the leading lights in the current, bubbling resurgence of Jazz, Wu first made his name on house records released by Rhythm Section, leading to a noticeably young crowd. Boys decked head to toe in Carhartt and Palace waited patiently at the barrier while men who could very easily have been their Dad waited at the back, pint in hand. For any other band this might have felt strange, but it highlighted what makes Kamaal Williams so vital at this time; who else's gigs could fill a crossover between Boiler Room and 6 Music?
While not a total sell out, the excitement in the air built after the opening act had finished and people made their way to establish their spot. The band was built around a core of bandleader Wu on Keys and Dexter Hercules on Drums. Hercules; tight work on the drums took centre stage at many points with Wu even getting off the keys to watch, with sheer awe of what was happening in front of him. Alongside them was Pete Martin on Bass, who through Stage design and arrangement very much took a backseat to his bandmates while providing a vital and consistent groove to the proceedings.
The performance itself was top quality, with the band moving between the album arrangements recognised by the crowd, and freeform sections. The energy was kept high all night apart from when Wu chose to step away from his synths and onto a grand piano. Though he played a nicely somber piece of music, it was slightly ruined by noise from the crowd. That is not to take away from the crowd; it was a group that was there to party, with the show feeling more like a dance during certain tight, housey looping sections. This led to an interesting dynamic, as you had Jazz that was influenced by House that itself was influenced by Jazz. A snake eating its own tail if you will.
The night's highlight however was the guest appearance by up and coming MC Mez and Grime legend D Double E. While Mez was entertaining through the energy he brought on stage it felt slightly out of place, his spitting seemed as if he was hoping for a reload. However, the same can’t be said for Double who justified his fans' reverence with a flow that fit perfectly atop the jazzier beats. He perfectly paced his performance and very actively would play his own performance down to give younger MC Mez a chance to shine as they shared bars.
Overall, my only real complaint was the £5.20 for a red stripe at the bar. Alas this is to be expect at London venues of that size, but honestly if the performances are always as extremely good as this one, I could learn to live with it.