Forget the “wave” – UK Jazz is here to stay \\ Predictions for 2018

Tina Edwards is done with this phase talk, and makes predictions for the UK Jazz scene in 2018. 

Both done and said with the best of intentions, I have exhausted myself of reading-and writing-about how the the UK Jazz scene is having a “moment”. 

“Jazz wave” and “Jazz resurgence” are phrases that have become commonplace since Kamasi Washington released The Epic in 2015. Festival programming is becoming as genre-less as Spotify playlists and what’s more, there’s now a Jazz based sitcom, Timewasters, on ITV2. Don’t misinterpret my words; I’m stoked that people have started to pay serious attention. But let’s not be too humble; the UK Jazz scene has been holding people’s attention for a while now. It went and happened guys; ‘everyday young people’ like Jazz. So, what now?

“The importance [of Jazz re:freshed and Tomorrow’s Warriors] should continue to be celebrated loudly in 2018, before artist’s biographies and press releases are re-written by the major labels”

If you’re an artist with a fanbase but your music isn’t charting in the top 40, there’s an argument to say that you’re ‘underground’, ‘alternative’ or that you have a cult following; that’s definitely the case for UK Jazz as of late. Whilst slightly older players like Alexander Hawkins and Andrew McCormack maintain status in the industry with nods towards the Jazz tradition, it’s the genre-melters who have successfully segregated themselves from the very act of sonic segregation. Many established Jazz musicians adhere to a checklist of identifiers to promote their music; The likes of Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings would shudder at the provocation to do the same.

Grime, garage and broken beat are a part of these ‘Jazz’ artists’ tapestry. From J Dilla to Caribbean Socca music, the digital age turns the sounds and scenes from anywhere in the world into an influence. What the most recently aforementioned names are doing, alongside the likes of Theon Cross, Joe Armon-Jones and Sheila Maurice-Grey, are making ‘London music’. There is an Internationally renowned scene in London because quite simply, it sounds like nowhere else.

“In 2017, the commercial gatekeepers finally accepted that UK Jazz is more than a phase”

Platforms like Jazz re:freshed and Tomorrow’s Warriors have been integral to the scene’s nurturing for more than a decade. Unless you live in London or are a proactive seeker of new music, chances are you’re less familiar with these names then the musicians themselves. Their importance should continue to be celebrated loudly in 2018, before artist’s biographies and press releases are re-written by the major labels. The artists we’ve been championing over the last 2-3 years are about to blow up.

Eleven acts you need to know in 2017

Two London based artists, groove pianist Ashley Henry and nostalgia-dipped vocalist Hailey Tuck, have been signed to Sony. Both are in the process of finishing their debut albums. Rumours of further major label signings for musicians that we’ve been championing are rumbling. Meanwhile, Binker & Moses and Zara McFarlane are making primetime TV appearances, Blue Lab Beats, along with Oscar Jerome, are getting plays on BBC Radio 1; Jordan Rakei even hosted a takeover for Jamz Supernova on BBC Radio 1Xtra recently. Let’s not forget that the first ever UK Jazz showcase at SXSW, presented by EZH and Jazz re:freshed, was only a few months ago. In 2017, the commercial gatekeepers finally accepted that UK Jazz is more than a phase.

In 2018, eyes and ears should be pinned to Shabaka Hutchings, who has been heavily touring his Shabaka and the Ancestors project this year. It was only at the start of 2017 that he caught the attention of The New York Times and other American press. Kamasi Washington made impactful moves with Kendrick Lamar et al before The Epic truly showed the world his potential. I’m sure that in 2018, with Shabaka’s next release, a similar narrative will be true.

Tuba player Theon Cross played new music from his upcoming album at CHICAGOXLONDON with his trio ft Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd. His popularity on the live scene hasn’t wavered for a minute since the release of his debut EP almost three years ago. A follow-up release is imminent—as is his International media attention. Touring with Kano amongst others has given extended audiences the opportunity to witness how satisfying it is to lose your shit to the muddy bass of Theon’s tuba. Side note; Someone at the CHICAGOXLONDON shows said that his set gave them ‘screwface’. Say no more.

 

Keys player Joe Armon-Jones, recognised for Ezra Collective and his impressive Idiom EP with producer Maxwell Owin, will be the next instrumentalist to ‘break’ from the London crop. His debut album is approaching next year; we predict it will drop with an impact not too far from Yussef Kamaal’s Black Focus. Popular saxophonist Nubya Garcia will continue to rise in 2018 as word spreads of her ridiculous talent as an improviser, performer and composer.

Vocalist Poppy Ajudha will almost certainly draw light to the significance of the South London scene. Like all other contemporaries mentioned thus far, she rejects the limitations of genre. So much so, that many of her yet to be made fans will fall for her music before they hear the undeniable Jazz influences. Her single Spilling Into You ft Kojey Radical, is a small tip of what’s to follow. We expect her to be one of the biggest breaking artists in the wider scene for 2018; although don’t doubt it if her name doesn’t appear in the BBC Sound of 2018 list; they picked Anderson .Paak a full year after the release of Malibu. Instead, turn to online press, radio and social feeds should you want verification that she will indeed be the legit shit.

Moses Boyd, who has toured with Mercury Prize winner Sampha and recently released his impressive EP Absolute Zero, continues to paradiddle his way to the cosmos. In fact, London’s Ezra Collective and The Comet Is Coming are also playing with a fascination for space. Absolute Zero tickled electronica influences with a Jazz sensibility. We have no doubt that in 10 years time he’ll be the next Flying Lotus, with his own label, too.


The connection between Jazz and grime will continue to bind; Sheila Maurice-Grey has been playing with Little Simz, who in turn has been recording with BADBADNOTGOOD. Looking to the longer established players, saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch will add to the narrative; he’s been recording in the studio with Stormzy

The scenes spurred from movements like Jazz re:freshed, Steez, Church of Sound and Total Refreshment Centre are about to go from local to National—potentially International. We can never truly know the deepest ambitions of every artist that has made the scene what it is. But in our own predictions, it could be suspected that International recognition (although let’s not beat around the bush; fame and profile) has been beyond but not rejected from many of these artists’ wildest dreams.

Linear or cyclical? It’s difficult to diagnose. This rise in visibility over the last three years could simply be part of a repeating pattern (following the acid Jazz era in the 90s, and the Jazz fusion explosion before that with Herbie Hancock et al). However, with unlimited access to music as the new standard, genre names are becoming less useful and more restrictive.

This time next year, some are likely to complain that Jazz has turned mainstream. We look forward to celebrating everything at the heart of the new normal.

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EZH | Tina Edwards