Everyone’s talking about British jazz at the moment. It’s exciting, fresh and genre-bending! The ‘jazz police’ and the purists might not get it, but it sure is telling its own unique story, and the audience are loving it.
British jazz has always had its ambassadors who have flown the flag around the world; Courtney Pine, Jamie Cullum, Soweto Kinch, Jacqui Dankworth and many more. Now there is a new generation of musicians with their own voice, so what’s different this time?
Most of the acts have grown up through fantastic music platforms such as Tomorrow’s Warriors, run by Gary Crosby and Janine Irons, which was the stable for the growth of the recent crop of jazz musicians making headlines. They forged relationships, learnt about music and most importantly about teamwork and unity – an important ingredient for any music movement, Motown being a good example of this.
Another organisation, Jazz Re:freshed, is run by Yvette Griffith and Justin McKenzie. It started as a weekly performance residency and has grown and evolved into so much more, and now features its own record label and promoter. It gives the musicians an important platform to gain performance experience, collaborate and learn to celebrate each other. If you put a mic in front of 95 per cent of the new generation of British jazz musicians, they will speak of at least one of these organisations being a catalyst to their careers.
It can’t be just about the organisations and their work though, the musicians must have something about them too. And that they do. They are influenced by hip-hop, house music, grime and you can hear these elements in their music. Shabaka Hutchings and his different bands such as Sons of Kemet are definitely pushing the envelope. They’re made up of two drummers with kicking rhythms that entrance you with the beats and syncopations, Theon Cross keeps the bass thumping on the tuba and Hutchings’ saxophone jumps around every imaginable time signature and musical iteration. They are amazing to experience live and definitely unique. They are touring around the world, winning awards and you need to see the moshpits at their gigs. Is it jazz? Oh yes it is!