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The Crossing Digbeth
High Street Deritend Digbeth, B5 5SU Birmingham, United Kingdom
'THE RETURN TOUR'
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 8TH
TICKETS; £15 FROM SKIDDLE, SEE
PRESENTED BY Leftfoot
AND Town Hall and Symphony Hall
London's Kamaal Williams is a gifted keyboardist, DJ, and producer known for combining his love of '70s-style jazz fusion and funk with more contemporary hip-hop and electronic dance influences. Although he had played in various bands since the mid-2000s, including a two-year stint with dubstep singer Katy B, Williams first came to prominence in 2016 as a member of the jazz-funk duo Yussef Kamaal with drummer Yussef Dayes. Influenced by the '70s albums of artists like Miles Davis and Eddie Henderson as well as works by acid jazz artists like Brand New Heavies, the duo garnered praise for its 2016 album, Black Focus. Since then, Williams embarked on a solo career, releasing his similarly cross-pollinated 2018 debut, The Return.
Born Henry Wu in South London, Williams grew up in a culturally diverse family with a Taiwanese mother and British father, both of whom worked in graphic design. Influenced by his parents, he learned some Mandarin as a child, and even picked up Muslim calligraphy, which he later put to use as a graffiti artist. By his teens, however, he was passionate about music and played percussion in the school band. An early love of the garage/grime duo Oxide & Neutrino led him to hip-hop. Around the same time, his father introduced him to jazz and fusion via artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Carlos Santana. He later discovered acid jazz groups like Brand New Heavies and Incognito.
By the time he left high school, he was an in-demand keyboardist, working in various funk groups around London. He joined dubstep singer Katy B's backing band, and spent two years with the group. Around 2011, he left the band and converted to Islam, adopting the name Kamaal Williams. He signed with the artist-run 22a label and began producing his own tracks, combining his love of jazz with house music and electronic broken beat sounds. Around 2016, he befriended drummer Yussef Dayes and formed the jazz-funk duo Yussef Kamaal. After parting ways with Dayes, Williams returned in 2018 with his solo debut, The Return. The album found him honing his jazz-funk and electronic hybrid sound, working alongside bandmates drummer Joshua McKenzie (aka McKnasty), bassist Pete Martin, and sound engineer Richard Samuels.