Review Summary: 'salright innit
You like music, kid? Well then; Yussef Dayes is your fucking guy. He plays the drums. He's so good at playing the drums that people on the internet actually agree with each other
about it. He's not talented in a limited and show-offy way, like one of those people that spins pizza dough on Twitch without ever actually cooking it, but in a heartfelt and pure way that sounds dope even to the common philistine who is entirely ignorant as to what the fuck a hemidemisemiquaver even is.
This uncanny talent didn't strike Dayes overnight. Reputable sources suggest that he was tutored by Billy Cobham (Miles Davis
, The Mahavishnu Orchestra
) as an adolescent, and since about age sixteen he's been leaving evidence of this hard-learned talent on wax. Fourteen years on, following collaborations with his siblings (United Vibrations); Kamaal Williams (Yussef Kamaal
); and Tom Misch (Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes
); with an impressive catalogue of loosies, videos, and a live album to his name; and
having produced songs for Kali Uchis
, Dayes has accrued a harem of four-skin fans who have been drooling for a proper solo studio release to announce the dawn of Dayes for many an orbit.
Credentials aside, Black Classical Music
, and it is looooooooooong
. 74 minutes long, and packed with so many details and flourishes that AI won't be able to generate anything of its ilk until quantum computing develops itself. As a matter of fact, while the roots of Yussef Dayes' drumming draw from waters percolated in West Africa, Jamaica, Mauritius, Haiti, and Cuba*, Dayes' rapidfire variations often tap into something reminiscent of the quasi-linear, programmed percussion of jungle, suggesting that he might actually be the drummer that makes AI redundant. Add to that his innate feel for the song — the deep splash of the cymbals in "Rust'' that welcome the addition of the mood-enhancing and bliss-inducing lead melody from the vocals; the many tension-building rolls that dramatically precede reprises throughout; the way he'll start to really hammer away and go full dial-a-fill mode to punch a track's conclusion into its rightful place — and crikeygoshfuckgeewhiz this fulla is really something special isn't he. Don't you just want to put him in your pocket?
You know who else you really want in your pocket? Rocco Goddamn Palladino, man, son of Pino Palladino (bassist of, um, like, every band ever), and one of the most accurate bassists in the game. When he hits those drunk rhythms ("The Light", for instance), by God, have a towel ready, because he makes the oddest shit groove in ways that'll have you sweating buckets as you try to count those 64th note rests. Lil Palladino accompanies Dayes across many of these tracks, heaping tinder on the burning rhythmic heart that passionately pumps throughout Black Classical Music
Oddly, "Black Classical Music" opens the album with a domineering performance on the keys from Charlie Stacey. This is the only track on the album where a guest really lets loose, and with the skittering backing of Dayes glueing things together Stacey has room to really explore. The following run of tracks is masterful, with "Afro Cubanism" following up the looseness of "Black Classical Music" with a tight, tricky, and cheeky rhythmic foundation, "Rust" bringing a familiar and practised Dayesian feel with the ever-pleasant Tom Misch, "Turquoise Galaxy" breezing through spacey timbres on the back of a laser-precise triplet feel on the hi-hat, and "The Light" feeling like a culmination of this whole movement, foregrounding Dayes' personal connection to his music and his family through the simple but evocative act of including recordings of his daughter in the mix. This 25 minutes of music is well worth the price of entry — get your arse on Bandcamp this fucking second and finance the future of jazz, will ya?
Of course, Black Classical Music
keeps going for a hot minute yet, and thus we must ask lofty and holistic questions about What This Album Is beyond a mere collection of tracks. Dayes has discussed the significance of the album's title, which is a term coined by Miles Davis. Black Classical Music, according to Davis, was a term that would free jazz from its era-specific confines, allowing it to be dissected, discussed, and enjoyed for centuries to come. I strongly suspect that this will happen anyway and that the gun was somewhat jumped there, but the idea is as poignant as it is pointed. Dayes, then, would like to expand on this idea, drawing on the past to make music that will last far into the future, and, well, to be fair, you'll certainly find yourself hurtling through large chunks of the present whenever you listen to the whole shebang.
Facetious quips aside, when it comes to LPs, it's less about the length and more about how it's utilised. Following the explosive opening, there are a fair few standout tracks and moments in the likes of "Chasing the Drum" and "Tioga Pass", but the stylings and influences begin to blur together into something of an easy-listening haze, the sequencing becomes a bit stop-start, and momentum flags. Damn. Accordingly, the impetus of the record's title starts to seem more like a coat of paint than a true performance upgrade. It doesn't feel as if we are pulling from jazz's rich and varied canon in order to showcase its many sides and potential futures. Much of the time it feels as if thoughtful composition or creative implementation of studio time and technology is forsaken in the name of capturing that one cool part of a jam jammed previously. In this way, Black Classical Music
is perhaps too much like Welcome to the Hills
— Yussef Dayes' previously released live compilation — in that its main effective function is conveying what's already evident: if the London Ladz come to town you'd better go and fucking see them, because even the four-count that starts proceedings will probably groove hard enough to stank the joint up good and proper. But as far as timeless record releases go, well, keep your Alans on bruv.
*https://15questions.net/interview/yussef-dayes-about-body-rhythms-metronomic-time-and-family-ties/page-1/ as detailed here because why the *** else would I know that
https://www.loudandquiet.com/interview/yussef-dayes-ive-always-been-on-a-search-to-study-rhythm/ I may have also referenced this, I can't remember anymore