For a long time little was known about the British public press
British jazz scene. Who wanted to inform themselves or listen to the latest releases,
had to resort to journals or specialized radio broadcasts. In the past
One and a half years ago some musicians managed to break out of this media ghetto
and to penetrate the Sunday newspapers and prime time seasons. The British jazz is
suddenly a topic.
European and American organizers also see it that way. From Sardinia to Scandinavia, festivals are booked by British improvisers. Last January, the Winter Jazz Festival in New York hosted a number of highly acclaimed young artists from the UK: saxophonist Nubya Garcia, trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, and saxophonist Shabaka Hutching's The Comet Is Coming.
Hutchings is at the center of the current excitement because he is so active. There's Shabaka & The Ancestors with South African musicians and Sons of Kemet, a high-energy, all-British quartet that has been playing together for almost a decade; it is his most successful project.
The title of the band's latest album,
Your Queen Is a Reptile,
may reflect Hutching's desire for political provocation, but it is first and foremost the music that inspires the imagination with its astute rewriting of key elements of jazz history and Caribbean folk. With a tuba and two drums in addition to Hutching's tenor saxophone, the Sons of Kemet have a rough, nervous, polyrhythmically charged sound that explodes on stage. Their bass-heavy rumble hits the nerve of a younger audience that has grown up with hip-hop, dub and dance music, but also the older listener, who appreciate the abstract avant-garde character. What the 35-year-old Londoner also conveys is a full pride in his Barbadian roots – a pride he observes among many of his Afro-Caribbean colleagues. "We say: this is our vision of music."
Black and white musicians experiment with a wide range of material. Drummer Moses Boyd explores the Cuban tradition of the Batá drum in his Exodus project.
while pianist Sarah Tandy combines swinging and reggae. Looking back on Nigerian and Grenadian roots, saxophonist Camilla George blends calypso, highlife and soul into her music. In addition, she is inspired by the Yoruba parables she heard in her childhood.
"The attention paid to my music over the past year is tremendous," says 29-year-old George. Like Hutchings and countless others, she has benefited from the "Tomorrow's Warriors" workshops hosted by bass veteran Gary Crosby since the mid-1990s.
London is not the only place where interesting things happen in British jazz. Hutchings spent the first years of his career in Birmingham, where he worked with saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch. It is significant that Xhosa Cole, another Birmingham saxophonist, is the youngest winner of the prestigious BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Award.
Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester have produced many great talents over the years; Newcastle is also a vibrant location for creative musicians. The saxophonist Faye MacCalman is one of them. She has her own bands as well as the common trio Archipelago with bassist John Pope and drummer Christian Alderson. Its metamorphic sound moves harmoniously between crisp, powerful riffs and introspective ambient passages that are enhanced by ghostly electronics and abrupt, rugged distortions.
MacCalman attributes this eclecticism to their environment. "The bond between the music and art scenes in Newcastle leads to a lot of cross-over between genres like folk, rock, jazz and free improvisation, which also adds to the jazz scene and makes it very progressive." A few years ago the Newcastle Festival was born of Jazz and Improvised Music, which brings incredible music to the city every October, ranging from half-improvised silent film music that tells stories to a free-jazz legend like Joe McPhee. "