In London right now there is an explosion of a new genre of jazz. I’m not even sure what the genre’s name will ultimately be. It’s jazz, but it’s so new and set upon its own path and identity it is truly its own sub genre. Many well established jazz tropes are discarded and yet it’s still jazz, but stirred in a pot with other styles with a solid base in African rhythmic roots. It’s exciting and fresh and innovative. The grooves are delicious, with earthy soul dripping like honey.
The scene is everything a real scene is supposed to be. Its a collection of musicians all winding in and out of each other, trading ideas and building the genre together. Everybody plays on everyone else’s albums, everybody shows up randomly at jam sessions, everyone knows each other and work together in a spirit of adventure and exploration.
Here is a list of 7 essential albums of the scene. As with all lists, this is just my own personal pick, meant to share something i’m legitimately excited about and into.
7. Ezra Collective – You Can’t Steal My Joy
The only reason that this album is number 7 is in case you start with this one, because this one is a great introduction. It can be like listening to a groovy, psychedelic rock band except its another direction. It’s spacey and full of modern sounds and yet is the spirit of jazz. It’s utterly delightful and incorporates so many elements while forging its own identity. It paints with sound and musical tropes.
6. Theon Cross – Fyah
I know if i say “jazz tuba” you’re going to roll your eyes and say “you gotta be kidding me”, but come on, these grooves are delicious. This thing kicks, just listen. Theon Cross will pop up later with Sons Of Kemet, but this album itself nails this genre’s prevalence for delicious, earthy grooves, favoring hi hats over ride cymbals, playful rhythms that bounce and drive forward without regular jazz’s ever present swing. There is an africaness behind much of the rhythms that run through many of these album, sometimes subtle, sometimes out front, but it is this that has replaced the swing.
5. The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
The sci fi afrofuture arm. Remember when Todd wrote a sci fi rock opera back in season 1 of Bojack Horseman? Well this is the band he would have hired to perform it.
4. Maisha – There Is A Place
This album was so joyous and alive with wonder, like a spiritual journey into nature itself. It’s wonderful. Masterful. Beautiful. Rapturous.
3. Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
African musical roots permeate this entire genre, but no where more so than with Sons Of Kemet. Featuring Sabaka Hutchings, saxophonist and of the centerpieces of the movement and Theon Cross who we just saw, as well as two drummers giving this music a deep, earthy, tribal, percussive feel. The title alludes to the nutjob conspiracy theory about earth’s powerful leaders being repitilian aliens. Many of these musicians are first generation children of immigrants, and not just the musical roots of their parents’ homeland, but their struggle to find a place and future in english society drives much of what they have to say. Son Of Kemet is a shining example of the newness of this type of jazz. Percussive beats and grooves and riffs and attitude defines the music. Plus more jazz tuba. By now you should understand why jazz tuba is awesome.
2. Joe Armon Jones – Turn To Clear View
This is my personal favorite album on this list. I just love Joe Armon Jones’ sound. LOVE it. Go straight to track 3, Gwana Sweet to hear what i mean. This music sends me into fits of ecstacy. This genre uses electric piano (such as rhodes) instead of piano, and its his sound that defines this sensibility.
1. Shabaka and The Ancestors – Wisdom of Elders
Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings is a centerpiece of the movement and this album is a defining statement. It’s one of the most ubiquitus shots fired in the the British new jazz explosion, a soulful, spiritual, afrofuturist musical vision, breaking boldly from american jazz tropes that have defined jazz forever. This album’s approach can be felt in all the other albums listed here but this is perhaps the most iconic statement.