Soweto Kinch’s Top 10 tracks for headphone listening

Soweto Kinch is one of only a few artists whose appeal traverses underground and mainstream audiences, and who is equally respected in jazz and hip-hop circles. His latest album, The New Emancipation, is out now.

Here is his headphone sonic top 10.

1. John Coltrane – Naima

There’s something almost cinematic about the way that Tommy Flanagan’s piano solo sounds and the sibilance of the cymbals. It’s as though time slows down when I hear it on headphones. Not to mention the elegiac tone of Coltrane’s playing


2. A Tribe Called Quest – Butter

This is a classic combination of gritty and smooth. The beats on this album really bang, Phife’s vocal sound is really present and the Gary Bartz sample just takes the track to a different level. It takes me back to my teens when I hear it, and the kick and snare sound particularly good in the cans.

3. D’Angelo – Chicken Grease

You can really hear the nuances of the production on headphones. The tiny spaces between the drums and bass, the clipped sound right across the album gave it a really distinctive sound when it dropped. The guitar matched with D’Angelo’s own voice sound really warm up close.

4. Roberta Flack – Angelitos Negros

There’s a real drama in the production on this song. Flack’s own timeless voice as well as the tremolo strings make it feel larger than life. You really get a sense of the scale and attention to detail when you hear it on headphones. I’m not sure how accurate Roberta’s Spanish accent is but I could listen to it over and over.

5. Wayne Shorter – House of Jade

This is a classic song, from a classic album with a classic line up. Everything Wayne plays on this album seems to be carved by the gods. Elvin and McCoy’s synergy is as strong as ever. You really feel as though you’re in the studio with them when you hear it on the cans. This particular melody has a romance and sensitivity to it that always makes me feel nostalgic.

6. Madvillain – Accordion

One of the few true hip hop anthems from the past ten years. The raspiness of DOOM’s delivery and his wit sounds great. Beat makers such as myself are always trying to glean secrets from Madlib’s techniques hearing them up close on headphones. He’s a true maverick, the way his uses sub bass kicks, as well as the genius selection of the accordion sample makes this tear up jams whenever its played.

7. Wynton Marsalis – Love And Broken Hearts

Jeniffer Sanon’s voice is one of the smokiest and most seductive things I’ve heard. On headphones it really reels you into Wynton’s sonic world.  As the lyrics instruct it’s the ‘return of romance’, it’s hard to think of many records with such classic content combined with modern production values.

Georgia Anne Muldrow8. Georgia Anne Muldrow – Roses

Much like Madlib Georgia Anne is a ingenious producer. She has a very distinctive approach to vocals, composing, and putting the beats together. This track sounds great on headphones as you get a sense of space from the piano mixed with the presence and impact of drums when they kick in. It always brings a smile to my face when I hear it.

9. Branford Marsalis – Ayanna

All the musicians sound great on this record particularly on headphones. The break on the chorus has a mantra like quality to it, and when Branford comes in you hear the breathiness and his use of dynamics. Something about the melody really tugs on the heart strings and Tain and Eric’s sound combines weight with sensitivity.

10. Eric Dolphy – Ode To Charlie Parker

This song is really visual. When I hear it on headphones I can imagine being in Central Park on a crispy morning in autumn. Dolphy’s bird-like phrasing and as well as Jaki Byard’s writing are a fitting tribute to Parker and again evoke a lot of nostalgia. This ensemble is one of the great unsung line-ups, Booker Little inspite of only being in his early twenties, brought a confidence and a classic quality to everything he recorded.

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