Nubya Garcia ‎’Nubya’s 5ive’ LP/CD/DIG (Jazz Re:freshed) 4/5

We picked up the vinyl of this at the annual UK Vibe excursion to the excellent Jazz Re:freshed event in London in August 2017. Unfortunately, too good of a time was being had to write a cohesive review for this year, but it was a very enjoyable day! But at the event, Nubya and her band performed and it was this project that the group mainly performed live. For this short LP (so an EP then?), the musicians involved included Birmingham Conservatoire alumni Daniel Casimir on Bass, Joe Armon-Jones on keys (who also has another project with Maxwell Owin) and on two tracks Theon Cross (Sons of Kemet, Theon Cross Trio). Drummer and man of the moment Moses Boyd is featured on three cuts with Femi Koloeso playing on the others. And finally, Sheila Maurice-Grey has a trumpet solo on the first track ‘Lost Kingdoms’. But the star of the show is composer and tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia.

Released on Jazz Re:freshed’s own label, Nubya’s 5ive showcases Nubya and her team, displaying both conventional jazz compositional work with more contemporary ideas and themes. ‘Lost Kingdom’ maintains a neo-soul quality, but just slightly looser in feel, with Nubya’s at times hypnotic playing style working well alongside the rest of group. ‘Fly Free’ which is a more ensemble affair, heads in a slightly more spiritual jazz direction featuring some excellent interaction between Boyd, Casimir and Joe Armon-Jones. The vaguely Dilla-influenced ‘Hold’ maintains a melodic centre until about the midpoint where the playing becomes more frantic and unattached, especially via Theon Cross and drummer Femi Koloeso. Track four, ‘Contemplation’, begins with some meandering upright bass before Nabiya’s sultry but not cheesy playing weaves between the trio of piano, bass and drums, and ‘Red Sun’ is more of a bop workout for the guys. Finally, an alternate version of ‘Hold’ is provided, with its slight increase in tempo to the original and with more pronounced Afro beat leanings within the rhythm section.

Many of the musicians featured have already previously worked together over recent years. And this cross-pollination of all these young UK players is the key to creating and maintaining a musical infrastructure and culture. A few dozen musicians all working simultaneously within a particular geographical location, working on each other’s projects as well as having their own groups is obviously not new in jazz, but I can’t remember a time when I could name so many young jazz musicians. And even here, Nubya’s 5ive moves slightly away from the more heavily contemporary work of some of her peers. But the future looks bright.

And concluding, this was released digitally a few months prior to the vinyl being issued but digital releases can sometimes get missed, so having vinyl pressings is to be commended and positively encouraged!

Damian Wilkes