Five Essential UK Jazz Releases To Grab On Bandcamp

From dancefloor fare to spiritual jazz and beyond...

Today – May 1st – Bandcamp have stepped in to waive their fees, allowing musicians to claim 100% of the profit from sales.

It's a bold gesture, one we certainly appreciate – after all, like many music fans, we've spent hours wandering through Bandcamp's global archive.

A system that seems to reward collective communities, Bandcamp has become a hub for many different genres, with the UK jazz underground using it as a means of fostering awareness, and distribution.

With memories of International Jazz Day still strong, we picked out five essential releases from current UK jazz projects that simply have to own.

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London-based Afrobeat jazz group Kokoroko’s self-titled EP is full of funky, West African-inspired beats that are a fresh take on UK jazz. The eight-piece is young and new to the jazz scene, combining soul with night-time energy for eclectic jazz-infused tunes.

Kokoroko’s name translates to “be strong,” which makes sense given the powerful collaboration of sounds in their music. The EP consists of four songs, inspired by afrobeat and legends such as Fela Kuti, Ebo Taylor, and the late Tony Allen. The band experiments with a vivacious horn section, bringing different levels and layers to their organic sound and brassy melodies. The sounds on the EP are crisp with elements of grit. The sound is experimental, combining elements of African folk, London sounds, and Western classical music with flavourful riffs, resulting in deep-cut grooves and synth-funk tunes.

A standout from the record is ‘Uman,’ which begins with strong horns, before being bet with a soft bassline and the track transforms into melting melodies of sound. (Caroline Edwards)

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Nubya Garcia – ‘When We Are’

Nubya Garcia’s 2018 project ‘When We Are’ puts tenor saxophone at the forefront to create bright and vivacious jazz music. The London-based artist’s music is groove-led, bringing in elements of hip-hop, funk, pop, and R&B to create unique, euphoric tunes.

Dubbed one of UK jazz’ rising stars, Garcia experiments with electronics and different instrumental rhythms and beats to create climatic and exciting sounds. ‘When We Are,’ released in 2018 consists of four tracks and is a follow up her 2017 EP ‘Nubya’s 5ive.’ Garcia explores her capabilities as a composer and musician, infusing energetic keys with brass saxophone.

The songs are mesmerising, taking listeners on a journey. Risk-taking is Garcia’s strong suit, most evident in ‘When We Are (K15 Remix)’ off the record. As an electronic jazz track, the cross-over creates a strong dichotomy of old and new jazz, adding playfulness to the project. (Caroline Edwards)

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V/A – We Out Here

Recorded at East London hub Total Refreshment Centre, ‘We Out Here’ brought together some of the most inspirational musicians from the current wave of energy rippling through UK jazz.

Shabaka Hutchings acted as nominal producer / overseer, and it’s a compilation defined by its potent atmosphere, and heady camaraderie. Maisha take the gorgeous opener to heavenly climes, before Ezra Collective blast ‘Pure Shade’ out on to the dancefloor. Moses Boyd shows off his compositional chops on ‘The Balance’, while tuba player Theon Cross delivers his South London ode, ‘Brockley’.

The final track became perhaps the breakout moment of ‘We Out Here’, with the hazy, languid, sunset afrobeat rhythms that underpin ‘Abusey Junction’ sending KOKOROKO viral. Take a moment to absorb Oscar Jerome’s succulent guitar on that track, too – just superbly relaxing. (Robin Murray)

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Sarathy Korwar – My East Is Your West

Indian born and London based, Sarathy Korwar has a rich awareness of jazz heritage, pulling and pushing it into fresh areas as he sees fit. ‘My East Is Your West’ is the recording of one night at London’s Church Of Sound, a real-life church in Hackney that doubles as one of the capital’s most astonishing jazz venues. Piecing together a phenomenal band, Sarathy Korwar overhauled a number of spiritual jazz standards, allowing musicians of colour to write themselves back into their own story. A radical take on Joe Henderson’s ‘Earth’ is a standout, but truly it’s something to experience from beginning to end. Oh, and the 3LP vinyl edition from the always-phenomenal Gearbox Records is a thing of beauty, too.

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Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

Not necessarily jazz by any standard definition, Moses Boyd’s ‘Dark Matter’ cannot escape the shadow that the genre throws over his work. Certainly, jazz is just one starting point on this phenomenal LP, one that allowed the acclaimed percussionist to show off his chops as a producer, but it’s aligned to grime, left field electronics, dancehall, and much, much more.

Saxophonist Nubya Garcia and keys player Joe Armon-Jones both guest, and this collaborative air helps Moses build something much bigger than one singular vision, reaching out and absorbing fresh ideas from those around him in the process. A true feast of music, it’s heady, improvisational approach yearns towards true freedom, and feels utterly in tune with the sounds of London in 2020.

Absorbing the past to build the future – if we ever need a definition of where jazz could go next, ‘Dark Matter’ is a succinct manifesto.

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