Soweto Kinch’s creative CV reads like a series of success stories in whichever field he explores. Since learning the saxophone and piano from an early age and going onto earn recognition from the MOBOs, Mercurys and BBC Jazz Awards, he’s opened his own mind and others’ to the possibilities of artistic expression, from jazz abstractions to freestyle raps, and from connecting international music dots with urban renewal through his Flyover Shows to his Dante-inspired concept album written for the stage, The Legend of Mike Smith.
These days, he spends his time tracking down the best jazz genre personalities to interview on his Jazz Now show on BBC Radio 3, alongside extending his creative reach ever further, including a new album in the pipeline.
Soweto answered our quick-fire quiz on the eve of his appearance at this month’s Pen:Chant cabaret showcase. Its all-star cast also features Bellatrix and Gein’s Family Giftshop at Gorilla on Wednesday 21 September.
How have you taken to radio presentation for Radio 3’s Jazz Now? How does it compare to the buzz of live performance, when you’re not able to see your audience?
I’ve really enjoyed the presenting role on Radio 3. It’s allowed me to hear so many different approaches to the jazz idiom. It’s easy to get comfortable in your own stylistic bubble, but interviewing musicians from New Orleans to New Delhi is giving me a really panoramic view of jazz.
Is there anyone in particular you’d like to interview but have yet to get hold of? Who would you like to have a conversation with from jazz music history?
I’d love to have an interview with Kendrick Lamar actually. I know he’s not a jazz musician, but I think he’d have interesting things to say about the continuum of black musical expression and where he draws inspiration from.
Nicholas Payton’s another guy I’d love to talk to. He’s so critical of the jazz ‘industry’. He refuses to accept the jazz musician label. I don’t necessarily agree, but it would be a great chat.
You faced Pen:Chant’s last headliner, Harry Baker, in a Don’t Flop rap battle a few years ago – do you have any memories of that? What’s been your favourite Don’t Flop experience so far?
That was probably my favourite battle on Don’t Flop to date. Baker’s a super skilled guy – so many layered punchlines that went over the crowd’s heads on a first listen. Plus he had one of the best freestyle rebuttals in DF history. The Joker Starr battle was good too though. We’re both fans of each other’s work, so I could be affectionately brutal!
Do you have any plans to re-run The Legend of Mike Smith, or produce more shows with a theatrical format?
Yes! Legend is definitely going back on the road next spring – hopefully at Contact Theatre in the near future.
Is there anything you’d still like to accomplish in music or other creative practices that you’ve yet to do?
10 Grammies and 11 Oscars? Just kidding… I’d like to continue pushing back the boundaries of genre, and extending the scale of works I create. I’d like to write more for big band and orchestra.
What can we expect from your set at Gorilla?
I’m going to try some new tracks from a forthcoming album, Nonagram. I’ll also throw in some surprises. Expect the unexpected.
Tickets are available for £6 (supported rate), £9 (standard rate) or £12 (sponsored rate) from penchant.org.uk