Hutchings was born in London, but from the age of six was raised in his parents' native Barbados. There as a nine-year-old he picked up the clarinet and practised along to the hiphop verses of Nas, Notorious BIG and Tupac, as well as the rhythms of Crop Over. He returned to England to receive a classical-music degree on the instrument. In London he joined the Tomorrow's Warriors programme, a blues workshop led by expat New Orleans trumpeter Abram Wilson, where Hutchings met many of his future collaborators in the burgeoning South East London jazz scene.
Hutchings and many of his contemporaries shrug off the "jazz" label, eschewing the restriction especially as the many groups reflect influences ranging from acid house and drum & bass, to hiphop and soca, with less of a blues influence than jazz, which reviewers have noted marks a distinction between the London scene as represented by Hutchings and American jazz music.
Shabaka and the Ancestors debuted in 2016 with the album Wisdom of Elders on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings label. The Comet Is Coming, a trio with keyboardist Dan Leavers and drummer Max Hallett, received a Mercury Prize nomination for their debut album Channel The Spirits, released on The Leaf Label in April 2016. Sons of Kemet, a quartet of saxophone, tuba and two drummers, launched with the album Burn in 2013, followed up with Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do in 2015, both on the Naim Jazz label, before moving to Impulse! for Your Queen Is a Reptile in 2018, which coincided with a breakout into wider public consciousness of the UK jazz scene, captured by the attention on the Hutchings-directed compilation We Out Here on Brownswood.
Awards and achievements
- Marcus J. Moore, "On 'Wisdom of Elders,' Shabaka Channels the Spirit of South African Jazz" (interview), Bandcamp Daily, 2016-09-12.
- NY Times - Ambassadors of London's Revitalised Jazz Scene come to New York - UK Jazz showcase article in NY Times featuring Shabaka Hutchings as part of Jazz re:freshed Outernational showcases. 31/08/2017
- Pyotr Orlov (2018-03-02). "Jazz's New British Invasion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
- Giovanni Russonello (2018-03-28). "With Sons of Kemet, Shabaka Hutchings Brings London Jazz Into the Spotlight". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
- Robert Whitfield (2016-09-14). "Mercury Surprise: An Unlikely Award Nomination for Jazz Act The Comet Is Coming". Bandcamp Daily. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
- "Revealing the curators & initial line-up for Le Guess Who? 2018". www.leguesswho.nl. 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
- "Winners 2013 | MOBO Awards". www.mobo.com. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
- Stephen Doble (2014-11-17). "Shabaka Hutchings & Pat Thomas Win 2014 Paul Hamlyn Awards". Jazz Line News. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
- "2018 Jazz FM Award winners revealed". M magazine: PRS for Music. 2018-05-01. Retrieved 2018-06-21.