We Out Here Exclusive \\ Listen to the premiere of Shabaka Hutchings’ ‘Black Skin, Black Masks’.

We Out Here, a coming compilation album from Brownswood, documents London’s formidable young Jazz scene. Released on 8 February, the album is made up of a game-changing roster of artists including Shabaka HutchingsMoses Boyd, Nubya Garcia and Ezra Collective. These musicians have all received critical acclaim by disregarding rules and expectations in preference of creativity and innovation.

Saxophonist and clarinettist Shabaka Hutchings is artistic director behind We Out Here. The release wouldn’t be complete however without his own composition. Sophisticated and pacing, EZH present the premiere of Black Skin, Black Masks. 

On Black Skin, Black Masks, the first track to be revealed from We Out Here, Hutchings curates an exciting line up to join him on bass clarinet, with George Crowley on clarinet, Ruth Goller on double bass, Alexander Hawkins on piano and Tom Skinner on drums. The unusual interplay of two clarinets over rapid, constantly-shifting drum patterns and a sinister chord progression marks the piece out as a unique and intriguing composition.

To celebrate the premiere, we talk to Shabaka Hutchings about Black Skin, Black Masks, We Out Here and his role as a “vibe conductor”.

\\ Tell us about leading the We Out Here project.

My role was to support each group in whatever way the music demanded. Some of the groups came in with fully formed and well rehearsed pieces, my role in these cases was minimal. I might just comment on some structural adjustments I felt a need for or give advice on how to pace elements within the composition. In other groups I functioned like a ‘vibe conductor’. I’d get into the studio with them and do whatever was needed to get the energy up to where it was needed. In general, my purpose was to lend my studio experience since we recorded in a limited time frame. It’s always good to have someone listening and commenting who isn’t wrapped up in playing or invested in the interpersonal expectations within the band.

\\ What’s the concept behind the title ‘Black Skins, Black Masks’?

The title is a variation of Franz Fanon‘s seminal Black Skin, White Masks which explores the complex psychological patterns which the system of colonisation imprints on the minds of black people living under this form of domination. I’m very interested in the idea of ‘blackness’ in a post colonial world. The mask worn by the disenfranchised being not exclusively that of whiteness but a version of blackness which is commodified and seemingly authenticated at the expense of a multi-dimensional approach to self identification.

we out here ezh shabaka hutchings

\\ This piece has a distinct sound. What inspired the compositional process, especially the pairing of the clarinet and bass clarinet?

My harmonic language in this piece is different from what I employ in my regular bands Sons of Kemet, Shabaka and the Ancestors’ or what I bring to the group The Comet is Coming. While writing and having in mind the continued efforts of thinkers such as Franz Fanon to disseminate and nuance simplistic ideas of blackness, I tried to present a version of my own conception which stretches the musical identities I’ve carved for myself in this period of my career.

\\ This project is a great testimony to the incredible music of our time in London right now. Where do you hope the scene will go next?

I hope all the individuals and groups who make up the scene push themselves to create epic albums which allows audiences and media outlets to comment on their depth and maturity as opposed to youth and energy.
EZH | Gail Tasker