Review: Kamaal Williams
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
It's not jazz anymore—it's Wu-Funk.
Standing in line for Berghain on a Wednesday night is strange. Doing so surrounded by jazz fans is an even stranger visual experience. At least in comparison to the Sunday morning routine. But when London musician and expert keyboardist Kamaal Williams and his band stopped by the venue for their debut performance in Berlin, it seemed like a perfect combination.
Jazz is changing. “It’s not jazz anymore,” Williams said on stage near the end of the show Wednesday, to a roaring and raucous crowd. “It’s Wu-funk,” he exclaimed, in reference in part to his house music production moniker, Henry Wu.
Williams is a confident musician and an even more comfortable frontman. Whether jamming the keys in an improvised staring contest with bassist Pete Martin or fuelling the crowd with typical British banter, he’s present and in control.
Musically, it was a refreshing performance. Building on Williams’ solo record, “The Return,” it was more than just a rehearsal of polished tracks. Long streams of jazz-tinged jams bordered on house music a la Kerri Chandler, before navigating improvised sections of musical conversation.
Black Focus Records signee Mansur Brown helped conclude the show with a surprise appearance, before a signature standout guitar solo.
Williams has a way of talking to the crowd like he’s on a barstool next to you, trying to be louder than the music. Like that friend of yours, you want to believe what he’s saying, but somehow can’t help but remain hesitant. In any case, he’s like the friend whose energy is so good you’re always smiling and enjoying the experience nonetheless.
“This is the last track Berlin, then we’re off!” he shouted before diving into a rendition of “Salaam.” Afterwards, a rare combination of applause and whistles filled the delightfully lit main Berghain dancefloor. The Funktion One stacks glimmered in a warm yellow light. Guests spilled onto the staircase, some perilously sitting on the railings that line the long drop down.
And then, not surprisingly of Williams’, the band played what sounded like “Catch The Loop” in a relatively long encore. Everybody seemed to love it.
Photo courtesy of Facebook.