It’s undeniable that British jazz is having a moment. The energy of this new movement has pushed the genre forward, with a new generation of artists drawing inspiration from hip-hip, grime, house, Afrobeat and jungle to create a sound reaching beyond jazz’s traditional parameters.
The scene largely has its nucleus in South East London, where jazz musicians have coalesced in collectives and venues like Steam Down recording and performing together, weaving through one another’s projects.
In a new film, ‘A London Dance – New Movements In Jazz’, some of these artists outline their fresh approach. Ezra Collective, Kamaal Williams, Maxwell Owin, Wu-Lu, Theon Cross, Poppy Ajudha and Joe Armon-Jones all contribute to this snapshot of a movement on the cusp of mainstream recognition.
Femi Koleoso, drummer in Ezra Collective, talks about the moshpits at Boy Better Know live shows as being an inspiration behind him wanting to make a new kind of jazz, while TJ Koleoso, bass player in Ezra Collective, describes the scene’s fresh approach: “What you’re hearing now is the core, traditional values of jazz being mixed with what people recognise as today’s music.”
For these innovative artists, jazz is inseparable from clubs and the live experience - it’s something for people to dance and vibe to.
Kamaal Williams describes this separation from formalities of some forms of jazz: “For me the traditional jazz language is not really something that I speak, I’m coming at it from more of a vibe.”
He speaks about the improvisational nature of jazz as being something he particularly relates to, especially playing live, forgetting tracklists and structured sets. “That’s what jazz is to me, that’s what jazz means. When you’re not thinking anymore, you’re just expressing, it’s a beautiful feeling. It’s raw expression.”
Poppy Ajudha - who uses her nimble fusion of jazz and neo-soul to express deeply personal subjects - talks about playing her own songs onstage, despite not being a “perfect” pianist or guitarist, and how those imperfections are a part of jazz.
“I think that’s a big part of jazz,” she says. “Portraying something that’s real and expressing yourself”
Experimentation and cross-pollination of sounds and style is at the heart of this new type of jazz, and there’ is a unifying sense that the scene is the star and the artists are part of something far bigger than its component parts.
Fashion and music are intrinsically entwined. Farah has long been associated with underground culture and this year the brand has been shining a spotlight on jazz’s renaissance in a follow-up to last year’s ‘Nice Up The Dance’ film, which celebrated the influence of UK Sound System Culture.
‘A London Dance – New Movements In Jazz’ was produced by Hector Aponysus , an editor and producer who’s created films for the likes of Adidas and Gucci, and as an artist has performed live at the ICA, Boiler Room and Just Jam. Farah, as they always have done, continues to recognise and influence this crucial link between fashion and music.
For more go to www.farah.co.uk.
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