If you’ve had little more than a passing interest in London’s much-hyped jazz scene in recent years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Nubya Garcia without realising it. For years, Garcia has offered her talents as a saxophonist to a who’s-who of the movement – on key records for Moses Boyd, Theon Cross and Shabaka Hutchings. It is strange then that Source arrives as her debut solo album (her excellent 2017 record Nubya 5ive is canonically an EP) – but it is a fine example. On this sprawling hour of music, Garcia steps forward as an artist of superb ambition and range.
With the help of Joe Armon-Jones (keys), Daniel Casimir (bass) and Sam Jones (drums), Garcia incorporates elements of spiritual jazz, latin rhythms and dub effects to create a record of sharp contrasts. The opener, ‘Pace’, sets the tone with a frantic rhythm and busy arrangement, designed to invoke the hyper-stimulated bustle of modern life. The maximalist approach returns on the title track and centrepiece, which meanders through passages of exhilarating cacophony and calm, anchored by Casimir’s alluring dub bassline. But there are also spare, still moments, such as the hypnotic vocal-led ‘La cumbia me esta llamando’ – one of two excellent compositions indebted to the music of South America.
The consistent thread that runs through the album is the exceptional quality of Garcia’s playing, which can be equally taut and forceful as it can be soft and luxurious, and the generosity with which she offers space to her collaborators. Source may be a solo debut but it has community and collective expression at its heart. Garcia allows these songs to ebb and flow without a clear end point in mind, allowing the interplay between her band-members to become this album’s primary draw. She has proven herself to be just as formidable a composer as she is a performer.
Words: Conrad Duncan
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