When UK jazz act, the Comet Is Coming played a South by Southwest showcase earlier this year, a mosh pit broke out in the front of the crowd, but there was no slam dancing at Austin City Limits Festival when UK jazz crew played a dinner time set.
But the avant garde trio does is not average supper club jazz act.
Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings unleashed furious licks over a churning sound bed fueled by grimy rhythms. Sounds tumbled into each other dancing around the edge of chaos before settling into hypnotic grooves.
The band is part of a wildly adventurous cohort of London artists who are reimagining jazz for the modern era.
“They’ve managed to take jazz out of the kind of fusty, kind of conservative small venue thing and bring it into the clubs,” keyboardist Dan Leavers said when he dropped by the 360 tent before the set. “It’s gone really dance conscious. It’s got really banging drums, heavy beats and I think it’s really refreshing to have people in the crowd who just want to watch people slay on their instrument.”
At ACL Fest, Hutchings played impossibly fast riffs while Leavers and drummer Max Hallet unleashed an electro grinder of pulsing noise.
Some fans trance danced, while others stretched on the lawn, escaping the evening sun under the Tito’s tent. The crowd was a diverse mix, which Leavers said is common at their shows.
“We have all kinds of people at our shows, from, like, older guys with long hair who were into psychedelic music first time around, who compare us to Hawkwind and bands like that, to young kids who are into Flying Lotus and West Coast kind of electronica,” Leavers said. “Then we get people who are just straight up into jazz who just gawk at Shabaka and Max who are just extraordinarily gifted”
There was certainly gawking as Hutchings unleashed his monstrous chops, building plaintiff phrases to climatic wails.
After a decade in which UK music leaned heavily on digital production and club grooves, Leavers believes there’s a new appetite for instrumental excellence.
“It’s a far cry from pushing buttons on a sequencer,” he said.