The Comet has Come, Seen, Conquered.

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The Comet is Coming – St Luke’s and the Winged Ox 

Friday 3rd March 


Dylan Brewerton-Harper (he/him)

On a night where Jupiter and Neptune were visible in the clear night sky over Glasgow, it felt only right that I travelled east to St Luke’s Church to see The Comet is Coming. The London jazz trio have built an iconography of space travel, interplanetary adventure, and the interaction with alien “others” through their music, and continue to impress on record and live. It was my fifth time seeing them play and, whilst the first time I saw them in 2017 would be hard to top, it would be fair to say that they’ve gone from strength to strength. This time around I truly noticed, for the first time, the variety of music genres that influence their raucous sound. 

With the release of their third album in September of last year, Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, they’re beginning to build a true roster of genre-bending music. Yet, whilst I looked forward to years and years of their lead saxophonist (and all-round jazz legend), Shabaka Hutchings, continuing his meteoric rise, I found out just before the gig that 2023 would be his last year performing live on saxophone. In a way it made me appreciate his performance even more than I already knew I would, having also seen his other, now-disbanded, outfit, Sons of Kemet, twice last year. I feel blessed to have been at that show, Hutchings being one of the principal artists behind the revived and thriving UK jazz scene, with Sons of Kemet at the forefront of that revolution. 

Will Hutchings continue in other guises? Well, I suppose the luxury of a multi-instrumentalist is there in the title – perhaps saying goodbye to the saxophone will make way for new instruments. I do hope so. One of the truly remarkable things about The Comet is Coming, and Hutchings in general, is an ability to transfuse their music with so many overlapping styles that it almost becomes impossible to call them a jazz band in the traditional sense. They certainly wouldn’t describe themselves in those terms, and that open-ended creative impulse comes across so clearly in their live show. When I saw them at Love Supreme Festival, in the summer of 2017, with maybe fifty to a hundred people in a hot, sweaty, tent, it was more like a rave than a jazz gig. Better, even, than many raves or club nights I’d been to, at least. Hutchings played with all three of his bands that day, Shabaka and the Ancestors first, then Sons of Kemet, finishing with Comet for a late-night send-off – his genre-spanning, ground-breaking, jazz served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

The night at St Luke’s was just as raucous and refreshing as they’ve always been, and will no doubt continue to be for however long they decide to continue. With the drummer, Max Hallett or “Betamax”, who plays like he’s in a heavy metal band, the synth player and keyboardist, Dan Leavers or “Danalogue”, who plays like an original dubstep DJ, and “King Shabaka” who plays saxophone like a grime or jungle MC, you’re left feeling like you’ve journeyed through the whole history of music to get to where Comet leave you at the end of the night. It was the sheer amount of noise and power that three people can make onstage with their instruments that left me almost speechless at the end. 

From afrobeat to electronica, dub to grime, drum and bass to spoken word, it would be fair to call them the “jazz band that aren’t a jazz band”. And that’s the beauty of them. That’s why even, for non-jazz listeners, they’re an accessible and exciting band – they infuse their music with such a timeline of musical history, differing styles and motifs, and most importantly get you moving from minute one. Maybe it was seeing their performance in a church setting that made me think they had the crowd moving like an American Pentecostal parish, imbued with a spirit or life force outside of us. 

For those of you who’ve never listened or seen them live, I will define them by giving you my answer to this question: What could we send to aliens to teach them about Planet Earth? I’d be sending three The Comet is Coming albums. 


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