There’s something decidedly old fashioned about this young duo comprising drummer Yussef Dayes and keyboardist Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu). Jazz funk and broken beats are the labels most often attached to their work, genres that had their heydays 30 and 10 years ago respectively.
That attitude extends to how they approach music making. Like artists from yesteryear, these south Londoners honed their craft by gigging in pubs and clubs. And that has paid dividends. A 30-second video of them jamming in a bedroom attracted 80,000 views on social media by the time Black Focus was released. The clip featured Strings of Light, one of the LP’s stand-out tracks in which elaborate rhythms dart beneath lush chords and a free-flowing bass line.
The following song, Remembrance, switches styles as the duo venture into fusion territory once occupied by Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters. Here, Kamaal’s improvising Rhodes glide over a backdrop of mid-tempo percussion. Later, Lowrider and Joint 17 set about accentuating the funk in jazz funk.
The first batch of vinyl for this album sold out swiftly, as did tickets for the pair’s London promotional gig — proof, if any were needed, that Black Focus is a white-hot hit.
Yussef Kamaal’s Black Focus album
1. Black Focus
2. Strings of Light
4. Yo Chavez
8. Mansur’s Message
9. WingTai Drums
10. Joint 17