Music

This is everything to look out for in the world of jazz in 2024

How to make sure your 2024 is filled with the best jazz

From left: Anna Calvi, Andre 3000, Bill Frisell, Samara Joy

As the word ‘unprecedented’ approaches redundancy with regards to world events, one thing remains constant: the availability of moving, surprising, thought-provoking, life-enhancing music. Depending on where you rest your gaze, there is plenty to look forward to in jazz for 2024.

I heard a preview recently of a new compilation honouring the Haitian revolution called Spiritual Healing: Bwa Kayiman Freedom Suite by Haitian-Canadian jazz musician Jowee Omicil, who has worked previously with Roy Hargrove, Pharoah Sanders and Tony Allen. Hypnotic chanting, creaky live production and swirling instrumentation seem an apt accompaniment to the start of a new year. The full release will be available by the time you read this. 

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Last November Andre 3000 released New Blue Sun, his first new album in 17 years, in the US. Despite the fact that he’d been spotted regularly practising his flute in airports, on ferries and in various other public spaces, the OutKast rapper’s audacious collection of experimental flute instrumentals with titles like I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make A “Rap” Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time took us all by surprise. Nevertheless, many have hailed it as a modern masterpiece, and it will be available on vinyl and CD in the UK at the end of this month. 

Anna Calvi’s sparse, striking soundtracks to Peaky Blinders series’ five and six is also released this month. Having never watched the series I can confirm that the music has a graphic presence all its own.

Most excitingly, I’ve written previously in this column about the Ethiopian musician and composer Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru and her exquisitely moving solo piano pieces. A new posthumous collection called Souvenirs, some of which include her vocals for the first time, will arrive in February to give that dreary month some cinematic sparkle.

On that subject, a French documentary called 6 Doin’ Jazz, which follows six young virtuoso musicians on tour, capturing some extraordinary moments both on and off the stage, is streaming now on YouTube. It poses the question ‘What is jazz?’ to each player and, predictably, never gets the same answer twice.

Also, if you missed it during its limited screenings in 2022, you’ll have another chance to see the award-winning Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande, when it’s released in cinemas and on BFI Player next month. Described by Craig Charles as “the British black supergroup that never ever happened”, Cymande’s long journey to musical vindication is as engaging as the music itself. The band have also confirmed one live date in the UK so far this year, at London Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 20 April.

Other notable one-off London shows include guitarist Bill Frisell at Islington Assembly Hall (15 May) and Matthew Halsall at the Union Chapel (13 June), both perfectly timed to herald the start of summer.

The golden-voiced Grammy winner Samara Joy, who could sing the phone book and make it sound like a Cole Porter standard, tours the UK in April, as does electro-funk alchemist Thundercat, finishing up with a four-date residency at Koko in Camden, North London. Gladys Knight is taking her ‘farewell tour’ around the UK this year too – anyone who caught her performance at Love Supreme Festival in 2019 will jump at the chance to catch this soul legend live one more time.  

Love Supreme has announced a stellar line-up for 2024 too. Headliners so far include Sérgio Mendes, Chaka Khan and Black Pumas, with more acts to be confirmed. Cheltenham Jazz Festival features Snarky Puppy and Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Cross the Tracks looks set to have its biggest year yet with Erkyah Badu, Madlib and Romare all on the bill at London’s Brockwell Park. No acts have been confirmed yet for We Out Here festival, but previous years have proven the atmosphere alone justifies the ticket price.

Festival season seems a long way off though, and in the meantime, there are books. In with the In Crowd: Popular Jazz in 1960s Black America by Mike Smith eschews avant-garde idols such as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and puts the poppier sound of Ramsey Lewis and Jimmy Smith in its political and cultural context. Queens of Afrobeat: Women, Play, and Fela Kuti’s Music Rebellion by Dotun Ayobade also gives credit to an often-overlooked group – the women who surrounded Kuti on stage and in everyday life, helping to shape the afrobeat sound. Unspooled: How the Cassette Made Music Shareable by Rob Drew explores the cassette’s nostalgic draw and its enduring appeal, and Weird Music That Goes On Forever: A Punk’s Guide to Loving Jazz by Bob Suren with illustrations by Brian Walsby draws a line between the two genres’ anarchic, occasionally caco-phonous commonalities. All are released this year and are worth diverting your attention to. 

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