We Out Here
The new wave of London jazz bands is united more by a sense of common cause and a penchant for rhythm than a tightly defined shared aesthetic. Its roots lie in spiritual modal jazz and the sharp grooves of 1970s jazz funk. But with each band adding contemporary and cross-cultural references, its parameters stretch from rocking blues to the avant garde. This jazz resurgence sidesteps both revivalism and a search for the pure.
This zippy nine-track compilation, curated by leading figure Shabaka Hutchings, pulls the strands together to introduce the bands and overlapping personnel of this musically diverse and rapidly evolving scene.
The album is at its most referential with Maisha’s opening track, “Inside the Acorn”. Here, Nubya Garcia’s flute and Hutchings’ throaty bass clarinet interweave over a meditative wash of piano and drums to rekindle the spirit of late-period John Coltrane.
Garcia and Hutchings are featured again, but on these tracks, more abrasive forces come into play. Drummer Moses Boyd’s “The Balance” conjoins dance-fuelled electronica with echoing brass while the steady tuba whump of Theon Cross’s “Brockley” is sustained by a brittle broken march — both peak with raspy roughed-up Garcia tenor sax.
Hutchings and Garcia deliver warmer tones and the subtleties of an acoustic rhythm section on their own-name tracks. Hutchings layers his bass clarinet with George Crowley’s clarinet on “Black Skin, Black Masks” with Kit Downes on piano; Garcia leads her quartet through a modernist romp on “Once”.
There’s a trace of modernism in the Ezra Collective’s trumpet and tenor sax front line. But the band have been jamming on drummer Femi Koleoso’s explosive breaks and fills since 2012. Here, “Pure Shade” twins edgy Afrobeat with a laid-back funky fade.
The album finishes with Kokoroko’s “Abusey Junction”, a gentle mood-piece composed of minor-key trumpet and rich female vocal harmonies supported by patters of percussion and the lilt of West African rhythm guitar.
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