Nu jazz cosmic wanderers, sax reputation rejuvenating, bass bothering heroes, The Comet is Coming visited Edinburgh for the Edinburgh International Festival’s 2021 contemporary music programme with a set drawn mostly from 2019’s Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery. 

The trio ‘King Shabaka’ (Sons of Kemet), ‘Danalogue’, and ‘Betamax Killer’ (tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, keyboardist Dan Leavers, and drummer Max Hallett) made it a night to remember under the open sided, airy dome of EIF’s festival-in-a-field-esque canopy. They opted for a largely crowd-pleasing set, perhaps rightly sensing that with it being many audience member’s first gig back after lockdown, this wasn’t the time to be tearing hooks to pieces or letting improv completely overshadow the source material. 

They kicked things off with an energetic run through of Super Zodiac, during which the movement of Danalogue’s oversized hood had the pleasing effect of making his head appear to spin and King Shabaka’s stripped-back rhythm-driven sax playing provided the torch paper jolt into their world. 

Any concerns about the big airy space and socially distanced seating consuming the atmosphere were quickly put to rest with the audience lapping it up from the start, grooving away on the pleasingly bouncy seats provided by the EIF. 

Whoever made the decision to stick a visualiser on the big-screen backdrop behind the band, leaving the narrative to the audience’s imagination deserves a pay rise. It was a set for escapism and surrender to the experience.

Summon the Fire, being their biggest hit, was as eagerly received as anyone might expect. The measured punctuation and drama of Blood of the Past, was a skin shivering, emotionally moving experience, even without the vocal contribution of the brilliant Kae Tempest. With its bone massaging bass and taut energy it bolted back memories of hearing Prodigy’s Poison, live in their prime.

Was the set occasionally self-indulgent? Yes. Irritatingly so? No. Not for an audience who clearly knew what to expect, relishing every solo and diversion. It just shows what can be achieved with a limited palette of sounds and tones when those wielding them are as fiercely talented and committed players as this cosmic trio.

Photo courtesy of Matt Beech

For more on the Edinburgh International Festival’s programme click here