In the current new release market that is overly saturated and poses a major dilemma for DJs and reviewers alike of which items to select and how to keep abreast of everything new with potential artists consequently overlooked in the process, here is an excellent way to both showcase new talent and provide a wider perspective on an underground music scene in a given city, in this case London and more specifically the south of that city. The music cuts across boundaries with various styles of jazz, with elements of post-bop and free, and even a stunning Afro-jazz cut, but what unites them is a younger generation eager to attract a wider audience and who regularly perform on each other’s recordings as well as in a live context. For those of us who do not reside in London and are unable to regularly view the musicians, this is an ideal way to discover the richness of talent out there. In the 1980s Gary Crosby was at the heart of the Jazz Warriors collective out of which many talented young musicians emerged. This new recording captures the younger generation of 2018 and as such is an important indicator of where that new generation of musicians is presently at.
A growing collective of musicians has emerged on the London scene over the past few years and some are already well-known and regular contributors to jazz on radio, while others are still relatively unknown. Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd are among the best known and are heard here both as leaders and sidemen. Flautist and saxophone player, Nubya Garcia, is a relatively new name, but one who has a very promising future ahead of her, and the same can be said of several musicians, who, as a whole, have reinvigorated the jazz scene and imbued the music with newer elements while still respectful of the jazz tradition, reflecting in turn their own musical influences.
It is the cosmopolitan nature of London-based music that caught this writer’s ear with ‘Pure Shade’ by the Ezra Collective, a fine example of how a more pared down Afrobeat influence can be added to without sounding like a pastiche of the original. Here, the use of collective horns, inventive drum pattern and subtle Fender Rhodes, by Joe Armon-Jones, creates a different type of vibe, with a fine trumpet solo by Dylan Jones. On a Moses Boyd-led number, ‘The Balance’, contemporary drum beats and a guitar riff create a more layered texture, with electronica culture and dub horns all featuring prominently. Simply put, these musicians are reflecting the myriad sounds they hear on a daily basis in the metropolis that is twenty-first century London and these include genres that encompass dance music and world roots as well as jazz. In the case of Nubya Garcia who offers up ‘Once’, this writer especially liked the overall sound which had shades of the Latin tinge in the piano, with Chick Corea’s influence prominent, and the evident empathy that exists within the quartet. A larger ensemble sound is a feature of ‘Go See’ by Joe Armon-Jones, which has a dream-like feel and some wordless vocals that one might expect on a Brazilian record, or maybe a mid-1970s Earth, Wind and Fire recording. Once again electric piano operates with good deal of sensitivity. Standing out with a strong nod to contemporary jazz guitarists such as John Scofield and a change of direction from the rest is electric guitarist Dominic Canning and his group Triforce who contribute ‘Walls’.
In a more experimental vein, Shabaka Hutchings has explored new territory on ‘Black Skin, Black Masks’, the title a probable reference to the pioneering work of Martinique born writer Frantz Fanon who explored issues of racism and colonialism in his work, and it is the unusual combination of reeds, bass clarinet for the leader and clarinet from George Crowley that stands out, both playing off each other, with a tight rhythm section propelling them. If anything, the music as a whole comes across as the kind of music that would be ideally suited to a film soundtrack and here the possible influence of Michel Portal comes into play. Boyd is present also on the experimental trio of Theon Cross and the piece ‘Brockley’, that combines the tuba playing of the leader, the tenor saxophone from Garcia and drumming provided by Boyd.
Last, but by no means least, is a wonderful Afro-roots flavoured piece by Kokoroko, ‘Abusey Junction’, that is receiving heavy air play and appealing to a wider audience and from the outset the gentle intro builds into a strong dancefloor number. The fusion of West African rhythms, dub reggae horns and a nod to historical influences that range from Ambrose Campbell to the early 1960s work of Fela Kuti, combine wonderfully, for a fitting finale to the album as a whole. The title, incidentally, refers to a place in the Gambia.
Hopefully, this will be one of several volumes of this praiseworthy attempt to chronicle the young Turks of the London music scene. Detailed liner notes comes courtesy of Teju Adeleye and the creative artwork of Gaurab Thakali is worth a mention.