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THE UK JAZZ RENAISSANCE AND THE ARTISTS LEADING IT
- 29 Jan
Jazz has been popular worldwide since its heyday almost a century ago. But streaming sites are reporting a growth in younger audiences, with Spotify telling the Guardian that about 40% of jazz listening on their site is done by people under 30 – and the listenership in this age group is rising year on year. Deezer’s Chill Jazz playlist, for example, has had a 555% increase in UK streams over the last 12 months.
What’s driving the new jazz scene?
British jazz featured heavily at last year’s Glastonbury (including Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming) and new jazz festivals have been popping up, including DJ Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here festival last August. Plus, there are more residencies available – as Peterson says, those such as Jazz re:freshed create the opportunities to build a scene around jazz music and up and coming musicians: ‘Jazz is about finding places to play regularly and constantly… The reason Britain is good is at the moment is that we’re going through a period where lots of people are coming through and sounding great because they are playing a lot and creating their own spaces to do that. They are setting up their own record labels and putting on their own nights. They are taking a DIY approach.’ The Jazz re:freshed organisation embody this idea, as they also encompass a record label, festival, film club, band development programme, club night and workshops.
Plus, as 6 Music found, part of what makes the UK’s current jazz scene refreshing is, ‘the melding and crossover with other genres’ such as grime (Moses Boyd, a drummer, composer and producer, grew up listing to Roll Deep), while Mercury Prize nominees Sons of Kemet explore dual Caribbean and British identities. Jazz re:freshed’s promoters, meanwhile, come from a hip hop/broken beat background.
Regional stars are also on the rise, such as Matthew Halsall from Manchester (the founder of Gondwana Records) – together with big names internationally, including Kendrick Lamar, who’s been incorporating jazz and hip hop (as on his 2015 album, To Pimp a Butterfly) and Kamasi Washington’s Afrofuturism-tinged jazz. Their fans can often find themselves being turned onto the whole jazz genre.
Who are the up and coming jazz artists to listen to?
The UK is home to a range of soon-to-be-huge jazz names – here’s our pick:
- The Comet is Coming – their album Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery was described as ‘a 21st century take on spiritual jazz that is part Alice Coltrane, part Bladerunner’
- Bandleader Shabaka Hutchings heads up The Comet is Coming, together with Shabaka and the Ancestors and Sons of Kemet. His music features everything from calypso to dub, Afrofuturist to Miles Davies
- Guitarist Shirley Tetteh, who’s featured on Zara MacFarlane’s Arise, Camilla George’s The People Could Fly and is a member of Maisha, SEED Ensemble and the Nérija collective.
- Trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Emma-Jean Thackray ‘sounds like Bitches Brew-era Miles entering the dub chamber with a New Orleans marching band – in a good way’ according to the Guardian.
- Drummer Moses Boyd is a two-times MOBO winner whose band Exodus is packed with the cream of London jazz talent. Plus he’s worked with Sampha, Little Simz and enjoyed a residency with BBC Radio 1Xtra
- Trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey – also a member of the Nérija Collective, Maurice-Grey’s mother is from Sierra Leone, her father from Guinea Bissau and her stepfather from South Africa and Zimbabwe. She says that heritages such as hers – ‘this idea that I’m British, but I’ll never be classed as English’ – is ‘what’s adding to the scene everyone keeps talking about.’ She reckons that she and her peers are changing things up because they are ‘taking from different aspects of their culture and making it a British thing.’
- Matthew Halsall – the Manchester-based trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader is also the founder of Gondwana Records and says his sound is, ‘definitely different from the London scene. In some ways it’s more mellow and floaty. The people I work with are quite spiritual and into meditation, and a lot of them live in the countryside, so they are very chilled out.’
- Blue Lab Beats – a North London duo whose debut album, Xover, features Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, Nérija and poet and rapper Kojey Radical.
Plus, you can catch original acid jazz pioneers the James Taylor Quartet (aka JTQ) as they head out on the road this spring and summer, gigging everywhere from the legendary 100 Club in London to Milan and Bologna, or listen to their new album, People Get Read (We're Moving On).
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