Jas Kayser is a 24-year-old drummer and composer at the heart of the London jazz scene, playing alongside contemporaries such as Nubya Garcia and Ashley Henry. Her debut EP, ‘Unforced Rhythm of Grace’, was released earlier this summer.
Inspired by the commonality between jazz and Afrobeat, ‘Unforced Rhythm of Grace’ is underpinned by the spirit of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian pioneer of Afrobeat; the first track, ‘Fela’s Words’, opens with a recording of Kuti saying, “as an artist, politically, artistically, the whole idea about your environment must be represented in the music, in the arts.” It’s a phrase that, without sounding trite or superficial, carries an even more potent charge in light of the Black Lives Matter protests.
Kuti’s words reflect the wider motivations of Jas for her sound and compositions. As Jas explains, “I want to understand the details of a person’s musical experience in detail.” This focus on creative practice and its relationship to lived experience gives the EP a deftness of touch that is reflected in its fresh sound.
‘Fela’s Words’ is a charged start to the EP, paving the way for Milena Fauquet’s gorgeous trumpet-playing, especially brilliant on ‘Ku Variation’, its sound pulsating as it battles with the syncopated piano beat. The reverb chant on ‘Feel It’, the closing track, is a neat note to end on, interjected briefly by the Kuti-inspired line, “the music represents our life”. Throughout, Jas’s drumming, with all its rhythmic control, is the driving force, a constant yet dynamic presence that sets the tone for the EP.
‘Unforced Rhythm of Grace’ is a respectful ode to a legend as well as an impressively sharp first step in introducing a creative voice that I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more of in the future.
Words: Tess Davidson
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