Updated: Tuesday, 19th March 2019 @ 10:52am

Review: Community - Motor City Drum Ensemble, Kamaal Williams & more @ Albert Hall, Manchester

Review: Community - Motor City Drum Ensemble, Kamaal Williams & more @ Albert Hall, Manchester

| By Laura FitzPatrick

It’s no surprise that the Kamaal Williams ensemble has been hailed as the most seismic jazz to come of out Britain in the past two decades. Their latest performance at the Albert Hall, Manchester was a beautifully explosive performance of their extremely tight, Afrocentric music complemented with their Western flare.

Easter Sunday saw a seven-hour-long electro-jazz performance at the historical Peter Street venue, with a strong line-up featuring London jazz ensemble Kamaal Williams, DJ Henry Wu and German house pioneer and soulful DJ, Motor City Drum Ensemble.

The most notable performance of the night came from headliners Kamaal Williams, made up of Kamaal Williams (AKA Henry Wu), Josh “McKnasty” McKenzie on drums, Pete Martin on bass and Richard Samuels responsible for sound. Taking inspiration from African music but with their own pop-structure spin on it, the London-based group performed an eclectic set, each sporting sunglasses, no less.

Going from jazz to broken beat to RnB seamlessly, the group’s blatant enjoyment and sheer talent made it look extremely effortless. The ensemble’s drummer, McKnasty, played to this further by carrying a faultless, almost comedic smile throughout the set.

With chemistry like this, it’s no surprise the group’s tight experimental jazz has been compared to The Robert Glasper Experience.

Following his performance on the keys as part of the Kamaal Williams ensemble, Wu set up front and centre to DJ - what he’s best known for. As expected, he encapsulated the crowd and kept them moving with his selection, some of which sounded akin to the beats of Manchester-based producer, Fono.

That said, his set was notably short and felt like a placeholder at times, with a number of people disappearing to the bars and smoking area. Perhaps if it were kept to a live performance, the reception would have been stronger as everyone stayed to hear something fresh.

Tying off the night, Motor City Drum Ensemble took over the decks. To the surprise of some tired dancers, Motor City Drum Ensemble is in fact a sole DJ, Danilo Plessow, where ‘Drum Ensemble’ is actually a nod to Plessow’s many drum machines which hold up the technicalities of his electronic fusion of jazz, funk, soul and house.

Following a strong set from Wu clearly did not put Motor City Drum Ensemble off as he smoothly continued the aural narrative of the night, naturally progressing into heavier beats as his set drew to a close.

Sadly, the sound system seemed ill-prepared for this – the piercing frequencies projected conflicted with his deeper bass. However, being the only criticism to his two-hour set, we can take our hats off to Plessow.

Surprisingly, this Easter Sunday service at the Albert Hall was not sold out – but not to the dismay of the strong dancers who revelled in the beautifully experimental music until curfew.

The fact that many came to dance non-stop meant some of the unexpected grooves threw them off into sporadic moves. This opportunity in such a unique space is one that’s so often lost in the plethora of ‘samey’ venues offering identical nights out. 

Clearly a line-up not to be missed again.

*Image courtesy of nik0_mcr via Twitter, with thanks.