JK Group ‘The Young Ones’ LP (La Sape) 4/5

Headed up by saxophonist Josh Kelly, the JK Group release their debut project through La Sape Records entitled ‘The Young Ones’.

While names like Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd and Ashley Henry have become synonymous with spearheading a wave of young and innovative jazz music in the UK, Australia – and specifically Melbourne – have generated that same level of buzz and excitement when it comes to the wave of progressive, neo-soul and nu-jazz-inspired projects that they have been releasing over the past few years; namely, bands like Hiatus Kaiyote and Cacartu are cited along with the efforts of the 30/70 Collective. Having released their third album last year, ‘Fluid Motion’, the band have not only solidified their name amidst this thriving hub of talent as a collective, but also as individual talents as well. 30/70 bassist and producer, Horatio Luna, has gone on to establish himself as an artist in his own right with a slew of albums and remixes; powerhouse lead vocalist Allysha Joy released her own solo project ‘Acadie: Raw’ through Gondwana Records in 2018, and now band saxophonist, Josh Kelly, steps outside of the fold to expand the 30/70 dynasty even further.

To explore Kelly’s output up to this point really demonstrates his indelible ability to adapt to almost any sound – 30/70 music aside, his contribution to the deep house aesthetic on Citizen Maze’s EP ‘Serenity in the Woods’ (2018) seems worlds apart from the more traditional jazz of trumpeter Enrico Rava’s ‘The Monash Sessions’ (2014) which sees Kelly collaborate on a handful of tracks throughout the album. ‘The Young Ones’ serves as not so much a middle ground for these past projects, but as a bold reinterpretation of these experiences forging ahead with his own awe-inspiring new sound. Part synth-inspired, part spiritual jazz-inspired, there’s really very little else to compare this progressive and bold sonic soundscape with.

Recruited for Kelly’s adventure is long-time collaborator, drummer Ziggy Zeitgeist who not only doubles as the drummer for the 30/70 Collective but also fronts his own Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange ensemble as well as being one half of Hayes and Zeitgeist with bassist Matt Hayes, also recruited for ‘The Young Ones’. The project’s core quartet is rounded out with the inclusion of pianist Lewis Moody, another stalwart on Melbourne’s future soul scene.

The album kicks off strong with the fast-paced ‘Seeds’, aided by percussionist Javier Fredes, with that energy carrying over to ‘Jazz Muggle’ and one of the strongest album highlights in ‘Nutha One’ which is exemplary of the aforementioned bold sonic soundscape being pursued.

La Sape, who can also boast releases from Horatio Luna, Antiphon and Godtet feature a tagline on their Bandcamp page which humbly reads “it ain’t jazz”. I’d argue though that an album this eclectic and adventurous could only be jazz.

Imran Mirza