5 young British jazz artists to watch : NPR
Jazz at 3 is BBC Radio’s flagship platform for contemporary jazz. Our aim is to bring the experience of being at a live concert to your living room, so we are on the road, across the UK, with our recording truck on a weekly basis. Jazz is big church and we try to reflect that in the series – free, fusion, postbop, electronic – as long as it’s good, we don’t care what subgenre it fits.
Highlighting the richness of the British scene, with particular emphasis on finding and supporting young talent, is at the heart of our action. Here are some of the UK albums we’ve enjoyed recently, chosen by host Jez Nelson and the rest of the team.
- Song: popcorn brain
- of music of the mind
Imagine you only need to think of a melody to hear it out loud. That was the idea behind award-winning reed player Finn Peters’ new project. It’s music inspired and not controlled by technology. Using the latest advances in brain-computer interface, Peters and software developer and improviser Matthew Yee King mapped Peters’ moods to form the basis of compositions and created software that learns and recreates his playing style. music of the mind taps into a sort of genetic pattern that is both supernatural and oddly familiar. “Popcorn Brain” features Finn fearlessly improvising with his own brainwaves transcribed for the vibraphone. The results might be academic if it weren’t for the star young British players featured here, such as tuba virtuoso Oren Marshall and highly versatile drummer Tom Skinner. Deeply original and strangely moving – you may not recognize it, but your mind will. — Joby Waldman, Producer
- Song: Baobabs
- of No now it’s like this
Free improvisation is at the heart of Oxford pianist Alex Hawkins’ music, and what that means to him is the freedom to explore in all directions. In an interview for Jazz On 3 earlier this year, Hawkins opened up about his passions: from Duke Ellington and Henry Threadgill to Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It is the way he enjoys making an adventurous, fresh and cohesive statement, informed by these diverse influences, as well as his multiple approaches to composition and improvisation, that make No now it’s like this come out. Alex took an equally imaginative approach to bringing together this dynamic group of musicians: steel pan Orphy Robinson, guitarist Otto Fischer, cellist Hannah Marshall, bassist Dominic Lash and drummer Javier Carmona are all household names on the British free improvisation scene, but have many other musical interests as well. The hornless line-up creates unusual, almost folkloric timbres and textures, in which Alex creates space for each individual voice. — Peggy Sutton, Producer
For more information, visit FMR Records.
Troyka may be too young to have lived through the highs and lows of prog-rock, but when keyboardist Supreme Kit Downes fires up the organ, Josh Blackmore lays down the groove and Chris Montague straps in his axe, they somehow manage to distill the best parts of it into their sound. But Trokya is decidedly modern, with a sound that draws inspiration from the music he grew up with – grunge, rock and electronica – as well as jazz and blues. Montague, the group’s chief composer, has even confessed a predilection for country music, which manifests itself in delicate Frisell-like melodies and voicings. Jazz meets rock meets free improvisation may be enjoying a revival, but Troyka stands out from the crowd. — Jez Nelson, host
For more information, visit Edition Records.
- Song: Return
- of Fill it with ghosts
The northern English county of Yorkshire isn’t what you’d call a hotbed of jazz, but its isolation engenders a unique approach and time to thrive outside the spotlight. In the early 1960s, Sheffield spawned the pioneering free improvisation of Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars. These days, nearby Leeds is home to a distinct scene, with TrioVD and others like anarchic pianist Matthew Bourne at its heart. Hearing TrioVD for the first time you might think of noise rock or loads of gratuitous freak outs, but you soon realize when they stop and start on a sixpence these guys are telepathically tight. Strangely all called Chris, guitarist Chris Sharkey, drummer Chris Bussey and saxophonist Christophe de Bezenac are all trained in jazz, yet they are by no means forced to; this music could just as well coexist on the art rock scene. But to jazz ears, they’re far more interesting than most in this installment. Fill it with ghosts does a good job of capturing the excitement of the band’s live act, making it a promising start to a post-jazz power trio that deserves more attention. — Russel Finch, Producer
For more information, visit TrioVD’s Myspace page.
- Song: Abraham’s New Gift
- of Living
When you see bassist Jasper Hoiby’s huge Scandinavian cheekbones looming before you on the front of Phronesis’ new album, Livingyou can understand why the UK Jazzwise The magazine jumped at the chance to highlight the release in its August 2010 edition. The CD was recorded live in London with Avishai Cohen regular Mark Guiliana sitting in place of the trio’s regular drummer, Anton Eger. Guiliana takes every opportunity to make a good impression; the album has the freshness and immediacy of the best live gigs, and inevitably it’s the rhythm section that stands out. On Living, Hoiby’s compositions are more about catchy (but not cliched) bass hooks, foot tapping rhythms and building textures, rather than a more cerebral composed melodic approach. I’m sure that’s why many UK critics have compared them to the still much missed and hugely popular EST. But there’s probably more to the hardcore jazzer’s appreciation than a crossover audience on Living. –Robert Abel, Producer
For more information, visit Edition Records.