Soweto Kinch - British jazz star on the horizon

ONE OF the young talents appearing on the world jazz scene, the 25-year-old Soweto Kinch, from London, will perform on the first day of the Bratislava Jazz Days (BJD).
The saxophonist, composer, arranger, lyricist, and rapper Kinch won the International Saxophonist of the Year award at the Montreux Jazz Festival last year, when he also became the BBC Radio Jazz Awards Rising Star. Since then, the career of the essentially self-taught musician has been on the rise and critics.


KINCH plays various saxophones, raps, and is a snazzy dresser.
photo: Courtesy of AIR media

ONE OF the young talents appearing on the world jazz scene, the 25-year-old Soweto Kinch, from London, will perform on the first day of the Bratislava Jazz Days (BJD).

The saxophonist, composer, arranger, lyricist, and rapper Kinch won the International Saxophonist of the Year award at the Montreux Jazz Festival last year, when he also became the BBC Radio Jazz Awards Rising Star. Since then, the career of the essentially self-taught musician has been on the rise and critics, who see Kinch as "one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians to hit the British jazz scene in recent years", suggest that he is "more than ready for a place on the world stage".

His 2003 debut, Conversations with Unseen, which is inspired by bebop, hip-hop, and funk, and cut with playful as well as thoughtful sax and rap solos, has been nominated for Album of the Year in the Mercury Music Prize.

Shortly before his visit to Slovakia, the ex-Jazz Jamaica player, who has nurtured his affection for reggae and Jamaican folk music, went to collect the MOBO Award for Best Jazz Act 2003 at Royal Albert Hall in London. The MOBO Awards highlight creativity and the influence of music of black origin in the works of their recipients. Kinch's fellow nominees were Norah Jones, Roy Hargrove, Kirk Whalum, and Jamie Cullum. Among past winners are such stars as Eric Clapton, Britney Spears, Lionel Richie, and Mariah Carey, in whom the awards enhanced the ambition for mainstream acceptance.

Born in London in 1978 to a Barbadian father and British-Jamaican mother, Kinch first became interested in music at the age of eight, when he started playing clarinet. Soon he switched to alto saxophone and, after meeting Wynton Marsalis four years later, he fell for jazz.

Studying music by gathering information from books and transcribing jazz recordings, Kinch's quickly developing talent caught the attention of two of the most significant British jazzmen - saxophonist Courtney Pine and bassist Gary Crosby, both of whom have performed at the BJD.

After graduating from Oxford University in 1999 with a BA in Modern History, Kinch planned to become a journalist. However, an offer of a place with Tomorrow's Warriors, Jazz Jamaica, and Nu Troop lured him to choose a different path. He also learnt to play soprano, tenor, and baritone saxophones in addition to alto sax, and piano. He also raps and arranges music on computer.

Kinch plays music that is firmly rooted in jazz but is open to other musical influences, which he integrates with jazz. He admires saxophonists Benny Carter, Charlie Parker, and Ornette Coleman for "extending the 'voice' of the alto-saxophone".

In 2001, Kinch founded the Soweto Kinch Trio with bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Troy Miller. His aim with the Trio was to "move audiences with the simplicity of my band and to discover the breadth of sounds and dynamics I can achieve with these basic elements".

At the Bratislava Jazz Festival, on October 17, Kinch will be joined by Karim Merchant on keyboard, Larry Bartley on double bass, and Troy Miller on drums.

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