The New Wave of UK Jazz: Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, and Beyond
The UK jazz scene is since some years experiencing a renaissance, with a new generation of talented musicians pushing the boundaries of the genre and infusing it with fresh energy. This resurgence is led by artists such as Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, who are redefining the sound of British jazz and gaining international recognition for their innovative approaches. In this article, we will explore the key figures in this new wave of UK jazz and discuss the unique factors that have contributed to their success.
Shabaka Hutchings: The Genre-Bending Visionary
Shabaka Hutchings, a saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer, is one of the most prominent figures in the UK’s new jazz scene. He has been involved in numerous projects, including Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, and Shabaka and the Ancestors, each with its distinct sound and style. Hutchings’ music is characterized by its genre-defying nature, as he effortlessly blends jazz with elements of Afrobeat, electronic music, and Caribbean rhythms.
Hutchings’ work often addresses socio-political themes and challenges the traditional perceptions of jazz. His album “Your Queen Is a Reptile” with Sons of Kemet, for example, critiques the British monarchy and celebrates influential women of African descent. His ability to merge thought-provoking themes with captivating melodies has garnered him critical acclaim and a growing fan base.
Nubya Garcia: The Saxophone Virtuoso
Nubya Garcia, a tenor saxophonist and composer, is another leading figure in the UK jazz scene. She released her debut album, “Source,” in 2020, which showcased her skills as a bandleader and composer, blending jazz with reggae, dub, and Afro-Latin influences. Garcia’s music is driven by her powerful and emotive saxophone playing, which has been praised for its passion and technical prowess.
In addition to her solo work, Garcia has collaborated with numerous artists, both within the jazz scene and beyond. She has performed with the likes of KOKOROKO, Joe Armon-Jones, and Moses Boyd, all of whom are also contributing to the revival of UK jazz.
Collaboration and Community
One of the defining aspects of the new UK jazz scene is the sense of collaboration and community among the musicians. Artists frequently work together on different projects, share stages, and support one another’s creative endeavors. This collaborative spirit has fostered a tight-knit and diverse community of musicians, with each artist bringing their unique influences and experiences to the table.
Venues and festivals such as London’s Total Refreshment Centre, Jazz re:freshed, and the Love Supreme Jazz Festival have played crucial roles in nurturing this community and providing a platform for emerging talent. Furthermore, record labels like Brownswood Recordings and International Anthem have championed the new wave of UK jazz artists, enabling their music to reach global audiences.
In addition to Hutchings and Garcia, there are many other noteworthy musicians and groups contributing to the UK jazz scene’s resurgence. Some of these include:
- Moses Boyd — A drummer and composer known for his fusion of jazz, electronic music, and Afrobeat.
- Yussef Dayes — An innovative drummer who has collaborated with artists like Kamaal Williams and Tom Misch.
- Alfa Mist — A self-taught pianist and producer whose music fuses jazz, hip-hop, and neo-soul elements.
- Ezra Collective — A London-based band that combines jazz, Afrobeat, and reggae to create an energetic and eclectic sound.
- Kamaal Williams (also known as Henry Wu): A talented keyboardist and producer, Kamaal Williams co-founded the jazz-funk duo Yussef Kamaal with drummer Yussef Dayes and has since released solo work under his own name.
- Theon Cross: An innovative tuba player, Theon Cross is a member of Sons of Kemet and has also released his own solo work, incorporating elements of jazz, dub, and electronic music.
- Zara McFarlane: A British-Jamaican jazz vocalist, Zara McFarlane’s music is a blend of jazz, soul, and reggae influences, and she has been praised for her unique style and powerful voice.
- Joe Armon-Jones: A keyboardist and composer, Joe Armon-Jones is a co-founder of the band Ezra Collective and has released critically acclaimed solo albums, featuring his inventive fusion of jazz, dub, and electronic music.
- Kokoroko: An Afrobeat-influenced jazz collective, Kokoroko has gained attention for their vibrant live performances and infectious grooves, drawing inspiration from West African and Caribbean music.
- Matthew Halsall: A trumpeter, composer, and producer, Matthew Halsall has released several albums that showcase his spiritual and atmospheric take on jazz, often drawing comparisons to the work of Alice and John Coltrane.
- Ashley Henry: A pianist and composer, Ashley Henry’s music merges jazz with elements of hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music, resulting in a unique and contemporary sound.
- Blue Lab Beats: A London-based production duo, Blue Lab Beats combines jazz, hip-hop, and electronic influences to create a fresh and innovative sound that has garnered critical acclaim.
- SEED Ensemble: Led by saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi, SEED Ensemble is a ten-piece band that blends jazz with Afrobeat, hip-hop, and Caribbean music, creating an eclectic and energetic sound.
- Nerija: An all-female jazz collective, Nerija features several prominent musicians from the UK jazz scene, including Nubya Garcia and Sheila Maurice-Grey, and their music incorporates elements of jazz, Afrobeat, and hip-hop.
- Sons of Kemet: Led by saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings, Sons of Kemet is an innovative band that combines jazz with elements of Afrobeat, Caribbean, and electronic music. The group features Theon Cross on tuba and two drummers, Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick, creating a unique and powerful sound.
- Portico Quartet: A Mercury Prize-nominated band, Portico Quartet fuses jazz with electronic, ambient, and minimalist music, incorporating the use of the hang drum, which has become a signature part of their sound.
- Ruby Rushton: A quartet led by Tenderlonious, Ruby Rushton combines elements of jazz, funk, and Afrobeat to create a distinct and lively sound that has earned them a dedicated following.
- Mammal Hands: A trio consisting of saxophonist Jordan Smart, pianist Nick Smart, and drummer and tabla player Jesse Barrett, Mammal Hands combines jazz with elements of electronic, classical, and world music, creating a unique and captivating sound.
- Rosie Turton: A talented trombonist and composer, Rosie Turton is a member of the all-female collective Nerija and has also released her own work, which blends jazz, hip-hop, and Indian classical music.
- Binker and Moses: A duo consisting of saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, Binker and Moses have gained attention for their intense and boundary-pushing performances, which explore the intersection of jazz, grime, and electronic music.
- Ill Considered: An improvisational jazz group, Ill Considered creates spontaneous and experimental music that pushes the boundaries of traditional jazz, incorporating elements of free jazz, spiritual jazz, and Afrobeat.
- Chip Wickham: A flutist and saxophonist, Chip Wickham’s music combines jazz with Latin, funk, and Middle Eastern influences, creating a rich and distinctive sound.
- Maisha: Led by drummer Jake Long, Maisha is a London-based ensemble that incorporates elements of spiritual jazz, Afrobeat, and Indian classical music, resulting in a lush and transcendent sound.
As the UK jazz renaissance continues to unfold, it is clear that these musicians are not only redefining British jazz but also contributing to the global evolution of the genre. Their collective creativity, passion, and dedication to their craft ensure that the future of UK jazz is in good hands.
In addition to the musicians and groups that are shaping the UK jazz scene, several record labels have played a vital role in supporting and promoting these artists, helping their music reach broader audiences. The following are some key record labels that have been instrumental in the growth of the new UK jazz movement:
- Brownswood Recordings: Founded by DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson, Brownswood Recordings has been a crucial force in promoting the UK jazz scene. The label has released albums by artists such as Zara McFarlane, Moses Boyd, and Nubya Garcia, as well as the influential compilation series “We Out Here,” which features many of the UK’s rising jazz stars.
- International Anthem: Although based in Chicago, International Anthem has played a significant role in supporting UK jazz artists. The label has released albums by artists like Shabaka Hutchings (with his project The Comet Is Coming) and Emma-Jean Thackray, showcasing their innovative approaches to the genre.
- Jazz re:freshed: More than just a record label, Jazz re:freshed is also an event promoter and cultural organization that has been at the forefront of the UK jazz scene for nearly two decades. They have supported a diverse range of artists, including Ashley Henry, Triforce, and Kaidi Tatham, while also nurturing the community through events and festivals.
- Rhythm Section International: Founded by DJ and producer Bradley Zero, Rhythm Section International is a label that embraces various genres, including jazz. They have released music by artists such as Alfa Mist and Yussef Dayes, demonstrating their commitment to supporting the UK jazz scene.
- Blue Note Records: While Blue Note is a legendary American jazz label, it has embraced the UK jazz renaissance by signing and promoting artists like Moses Boyd and Ashley Henry, further expanding their reach on the global stage.
These record labels, along with others, have been essential in nurturing the UK jazz scene’s growth, providing artists with the resources and platforms they need to share their music with the world. Their dedication to promoting new and diverse talent has significantly contributed to the flourishing of the contemporary UK jazz movement.
Venues & Clubs
Several venues and clubs have been essential in fostering the growth and development of the new UK jazz scene. These spaces provide a platform for musicians to perform, collaborate, and connect with audiences. Here are some notable venues that have played a crucial role in the UK jazz renaissance:
- Total Refreshment Centre (London): The Total Refreshment Centre is a creative hub and performance space that has become a cornerstone of London’s jazz scene. It has hosted numerous concerts, jam sessions, and workshops, providing a supportive environment for emerging and established artists.
- Jazz re:freshed (London): Jazz re:freshed is a weekly live music night that has been promoting the UK jazz scene for nearly two decades. It takes place at Mau Mau Bar in West London and has become a go-to destination for jazz lovers and musicians alike.
- Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (London): Established in 1959, Ronnie Scott’s is one of the most iconic jazz venues in the world. While it has a rich history of hosting legendary artists, it continues to support the new UK jazz scene by featuring contemporary acts alongside the jazz greats.
- The Vortex Jazz Club (London): The Vortex is a not-for-profit venue in Dalston, East London, that has been an essential platform for new jazz talent. It offers a diverse program of events, including performances by established and emerging jazz musicians.
- Church of Sound (London): A unique venue situated in a repurposed church, Church of Sound hosts live jazz events with an emphasis on community and collaboration. It has become a popular destination for both musicians and audiences seeking a more intimate and immersive experience.
- Band on the Wall (Manchester): This historic venue has been supporting live music in Manchester since the 1930s. Band on the Wall is committed to promoting a diverse range of genres, including jazz, and has hosted numerous UK jazz artists, contributing to the scene’s growth outside of London.
- The Blue Arrow (Glasgow): Located in Glasgow, The Blue Arrow is a dedicated jazz club that features both local and international artists. It has become a vital part of Scotland’s jazz scene, providing a space for musicians to perform and connect with audiences.
These venues and clubs are essential to the UK jazz scene, offering artists the opportunity to showcase their talents and fostering a sense of community among musicians and fans. As the new wave of UK jazz continues to grow, these spaces will remain integral to the genre’s ongoing development and success.
DJs, selectors, and journalists
Several DJs and journalists have been influential in promoting and documenting the new UK jazz scene. Their work has helped raise awareness of the artists and contributed to the growth and development of the genre. Some of the most notable figures in this space include:
- Gilles Peterson: As a DJ, broadcaster, and founder of Brownswood Recordings, Gilles Peterson has been one of the most significant supporters of the UK jazz scene. Through his radio show on BBC Radio 6 Music and his online radio station, Worldwide FM, he has showcased numerous emerging jazz artists and helped them gain wider recognition.
- Jamie Cullum: An acclaimed jazz musician himself, Jamie Cullum hosts a weekly radio show on BBC Radio 2, where he often features music from the new UK jazz scene. His support and promotion of contemporary jazz artists have played a vital role in increasing their visibility and reach.
- Tina Edwards: A journalist, broadcaster, and DJ, Tina Edwards is the host of the Worldwide Daily on Worldwide FM and has contributed to publications like Jazzwise and Mixmag. She is a passionate advocate for the new UK jazz scene and has interviewed many of its leading figures.
- Kevin Le Gendre: A respected journalist, broadcaster, and author, Kevin Le Gendre has written extensively about jazz and its development in the UK. He has contributed to publications such as Jazzwise, Echoes Magazine, and The Independent, providing insightful commentary on the new wave of UK jazz artists.
- Emma Warren: Emma Warren is a journalist, author, and broadcaster with a focus on music and culture. She has written about the UK jazz scene for publications like The Guardian and Red Bull Music Academy, and has also hosted panels and discussions at music festivals and events.
- Mike Flynn: As the editor of Jazzwise magazine, Mike Flynn has played a crucial role in documenting and promoting the UK jazz scene. Under his leadership, Jazzwise has featured numerous interviews, reviews, and profiles of emerging and established UK jazz artists.
- Chris Philips: A DJ, broadcaster, and programmer, Chris Philips hosts a radio show on Jazz FM, where he often plays music from the new UK jazz scene. He has also been involved in curating live jazz events and showcases, helping to support and promote the genre’s growth.
- In Italy: Nicola Conte: A renowned Italian DJ, producer, and musician, Nicola Conte is known for his unique blend of jazz, bossa nova, and electronic music. His interest in jazz and its various forms has led him to support and feature the work of UK jazz artists in his sets and productions.
- In Italy: Giorgio Valletta is an Italian music journalist, DJ, and radio host who has been influential in promoting various music genres, including new jazz. He has hosted radio shows on Radio Popolare, and now radio Raheem Milano, where he has showcased a diverse range of music from around the world, including the new UK jazz scene. Valletta has also been involved in organizing music events and festivals, such as the Club to Club Festival in Turin, which has featured jazz and electronic artists. His work has helped raise awareness of the UK jazz renaissance among Italian audiences and contributed to the genre’s growing popularity in Italy.
These DJs and journalists have been instrumental in the rise of the new UK jazz scene, using their platforms to champion the work of the artists and foster a greater appreciation for the genre among music fans. Their continued support and coverage are vital to the ongoing success and development of the UK jazz renaissance.
Some notable magazines and publications that have supported the UK jazz renaissance include:
- Jazzwise: As the UK’s leading jazz magazine, Jazzwise has been at the forefront of covering the new jazz scene, featuring interviews, reviews, and in-depth articles about the artists, albums, and events shaping the movement.
- The Wire: While not exclusively focused on jazz, The Wire is a British magazine that covers a wide range of experimental and underground music. They have featured numerous articles on the UK jazz scene, exploring the genre’s connections with electronic, avant-garde, and world music.
- DownBeat: As a leading international jazz magazine, DownBeat has covered the new UK jazz scene, featuring interviews and profiles of artists like Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, and Moses Boyd, among others.
- The Guardian: The Guardian, a British newspaper with an online presence, has published numerous articles and reviews about the UK jazz renaissance, highlighting its artists and the venues that support them.
- MOJO: MOJO is a popular British music magazine that covers a wide range of genres, including jazz. They have featured articles on the new UK jazz scene, helping to introduce the movement to a broader audience.
- Songlines: Songlines is a British magazine that focuses on world music, and they have covered the UK jazz scene, particularly in relation to its fusion with African and Caribbean influences.
- Mixmag: Mixmag, a British electronic dance and clubbing magazine, has also shown interest in the new UK jazz scene, featuring articles on artists like Yussef Dayes and Alfa Mist, who incorporate electronic elements into their music.
- Wax Poetics is a music magazine based in the United States that focuses on a wide range of genres, including jazz, funk, soul, and hip-hop. The magazine often features in-depth articles, interviews, and retrospectives about influential artists, albums, and movements in music history. In the past, Wax Poetics has published articles on artists like Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, and other musicians who are part of the UK jazz renaissance. By featuring these artists and their work, Wax Poetics has contributed to the growing awareness of the new UK jazz scene among their readership and the international music community.
These magazines and publications have been vital in promoting the new UK jazz scene, providing coverage and exposure for the artists, albums, and events that are defining the movement. By featuring this scene in their pages, they have contributed to its growth and recognition both within the UK and internationally.
Numerous music festivals in the UK and Europe have played a significant role in promoting the new UK jazz scene, featuring performances by the scene’s leading artists and offering opportunities for collaboration and exposure. Some notable festivals that have supported the UK jazz renaissance include:
- We Out Here Festival (UK): Curated by Gilles Peterson, the We Out Here Festival showcases the UK’s vibrant jazz, electronic, and world music scenes. This festival has become an important event for artists and fans of the new UK jazz movement.
- Love Supreme Jazz Festival (UK): Held annually in East Sussex, the Love Supreme Jazz Festival is a celebration of jazz and related genres, featuring a diverse lineup of international and UK-based artists, including those from the new UK jazz scene.
- EFG London Jazz Festival (UK): The EFG London Jazz Festival is a long-running event that brings together a wide array of jazz artists from around the world. The festival has consistently supported the new UK jazz movement by including its artists in the lineup.
- Jazz Re:Fest (UK): Organized by Jazz re:freshed, Jazz Re:Fest is an annual one-day festival that celebrates jazz and its connected genres, placing a strong emphasis on showcasing the talent within the UK jazz scene.
- Cheltenham Jazz Festival (UK): The Cheltenham Jazz Festival is a renowned event featuring a wide range of jazz and contemporary music, including performances by new UK jazz artists.
- Worldwide Festival (France): Curated by Gilles Peterson, the Worldwide Festival in Sète, France, offers a diverse lineup of jazz, electronic, and world music acts, often featuring artists from the UK jazz scene.
- North Sea Jazz Festival (Netherlands): One of Europe’s largest and most prestigious jazz festivals, the North Sea Jazz Festival often features artists from the new UK jazz scene alongside international jazz legends.
- jazzahead! (Germany): jazzahead! is an international jazz trade fair and showcase festival held in Bremen, Germany. It features a wide range of jazz artists and has included UK jazz musicians in its showcases and networking events.
- Jazz:Re:Found is a music festival in Italy that focuses on jazz and its connection to other genres such as electronic, soul, and hip-hop. The festival aims to explore the contemporary jazz landscape and its evolution, showcasing a diverse range of artists from around the world, including those from the new UK jazz scene.
- Jazz:Re:Found has been instrumental in promoting the UK jazz renaissance in Italy by featuring performances from some of the scene’s leading artists, such as Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd, and Nubya Garcia. By providing a platform for these artists to perform in front of Italian audiences, the festival helps to raise awareness of the new UK jazz movement and fosters connections between musicians and fans across Europe.
These festivals have been crucial in promoting the new UK jazz scene, offering artists opportunities to perform in front of diverse audiences and fostering a sense of community among musicians and fans. As the scene continues to grow, it is likely that more festivals will include UK jazz artists in their lineups, further enhancing the genre’s visibility and reach.
Several YouTube channels have played a role in promoting the new UK jazz scene, offering videos featuring live performances, interviews, and curated playlists that help introduce the movement and its artists to a broader audience. Some notable YouTube channels that support the UK jazz renaissance include:
- Boiler Room: While Boiler Room is known for its coverage of electronic music and DJ sets, it has also featured live performances and interviews with artists from the new UK jazz scene, including Yussef Dayes, Alfa Mist, and Nubya Garcia.
- Jazz re:freshed: The YouTube channel of the London-based music and arts organization, Jazz re:freshed, features performances, interviews, and other content related to the new UK jazz scene. They have showcased numerous emerging jazz artists and provided a platform for their work.
- COLORS: COLORS is a music platform that showcases live performances from a wide range of artists, including those from the new UK jazz scene. They have featured musicians like Yussef Dayes, Poppy Ajudha, and Ezra Collective, helping to bring their music to a wider audience.
- Worldwide FM: Gilles Peterson’s online radio station, Worldwide FM, has a YouTube channel that features interviews, performances, and curated content related to the UK jazz scene and other music genres.
- Sofar Sounds: Sofar Sounds hosts intimate, live music events around the world, and their YouTube channel features performances from a diverse range of artists, including those from the UK jazz renaissance.
- Tiny Desk Concerts: NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts series has featured performances from several new UK jazz artists, such as Sons of Kemet, showcasing their work to a global audience.
These YouTube channels have been instrumental in promoting the new UK jazz scene, providing visibility and exposure for the artists, albums, and events that define the movement. By featuring performances, interviews, and other content related to the UK jazz renaissance, these channels help introduce the genre to new fans and foster a greater appreciation for the music.
Several radio stations and shows have played a significant role in promoting the new UK jazz scene, featuring the music of emerging artists and providing a platform for discussion and exposure. Some notable radio stations and shows that have supported the UK jazz renaissance include:
- BBC Radio 6 Music: The station often features contemporary jazz artists in its programming and has shows hosted by influential DJs like Gilles Peterson, who is known for championing the new UK jazz scene.
- Worldwide FM: Founded by Gilles Peterson, Worldwide FM is an online radio station that broadcasts a diverse range of music from around the world, including the new UK jazz scene. Several shows focus on jazz and related genres, with DJs and hosts who actively promote up-and-coming artists.
- Jazz FM: A UK-based radio station dedicated solely to jazz, Jazz FM showcases both classic and contemporary jazz, including artists from the new UK jazz scene. The station features interviews, live performances, and curated playlists that help introduce the movement and its musicians to listeners.
- NTS Radio: An online radio station based in London, NTS Radio broadcasts a wide range of music genres, including jazz. Several shows focus on the new UK jazz scene, featuring performances, interviews, and playlists that promote the artists and their work.
- Soho Radio: Based in London, Soho Radio features a diverse array of music and talk shows, with several programs dedicated to jazz and related genres. The station often showcases artists from the new UK jazz movement, providing a platform for their music to reach a broader audience.
- Rinse FM: While Rinse FM is primarily known for its focus on grime, dubstep, and UK garage, the station also features shows that explore jazz and its connection to other genres, often including artists from the new UK jazz scene.
These radio stations and shows have been instrumental in promoting the new UK jazz scene, giving airtime to the artists, albums, and events that define the movement. By featuring the music and stories of the UK jazz renaissance, they help introduce the genre to new fans and foster a greater appreciation for the music.
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