Album Review: ‘We Out Here’  \\ A time capsule for London Jazz

We Out Here is an assemblage of the most genre-challenging and in-demand artists in London—united by jazz but unrestrained by glass parameters. It’s also the jewel in the crown of Gilles Peterson label Brownswood. Recorded over a period of three days, the compilation reflects a collaborative ethos, guided by project leader and contributor Shabaka Hutchings.

The featured young musicians, including Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia and Ezra Collective have been dominating our venues and airwaves for the past few years, propelled by youth programmes like Tomorrow’s Warriors, radio stations like Peterson’s Worldwide FM, and open-minded venues like Total Refreshment Centre. They have absorbed London music–be it grime, broken beat or electronic–and have innovated an exciting sonic identity removed from the jazz tradition. We Out Here is a celebration of this momentous scene and provides an untouchable time capsule.

As well as celebrating scene-veterans like Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd, We Out Here also champions up and comers such as Maisha and Kokoroko. The interconnectivity within the scene is made clear just by reading through the track listing of the album: Nubya Garcia appears in five out of the nine tracks.

Whilst the tracks might be tied by the ‘jazz’ tag, the compilation presents a variety of influences. Maisha’s Inside The Acorn contains the unusual pairing of flute and bass clarinet, and a spiritual edge that brings to mind Pharaoh Sanders and Alice Coltrane. Hand in hand, flute and clarinet lead the ensemble through a dancing tumult of sound, ever-increasing in energy and passion right up to the cacophonous climax. Shabaka Hutching’s genre-defying Black Skin, Black Masks also features an unusual frontline of clarinet and bass clarinet, though much more sinister in tone. Theon Cross’ Brockley showcases the London-centric concept of the album. His tuba-playing, doubled by Garcia on saxophone, pushes up against the beat. In contrast, Triforce’s Walls and Joe Armon-JonesGo See are more atmospheric, with Mansur Brown showcasing his chops against a background of fast-paced drums and slap bass.

We Out Here celebrates the revitalisation of jazz in London. The album captures perfectly the raw energy and inventiveness which continues to sustain and drive forward this music. When music journalists in a hundred years time study UK Jazz of the twenty teens, We Out Here will be a primary artefact.

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EZH | Gail Tasker