What do you listen to, if you want an entrypoint into jazz? Most people would point you towards the greats such as John Coltrance and Sun Ra, but what if you want more recent names to look towards? This, a compilation full of engaging jazz bops made by the most contemporary composers, is the compilation for you.
A primer on London’s bright-burning young jazz scene, this new compilation brings together a collection of some of its sharpest talents. A set of nine newly-recorded tracks, We Out Here captures a moment where genre markers matter less than raw, focused energy. Surveying the album’s running order, it could easily serve as a name-checking exercise for some of London’s most-tipped and hardworking bands of the past couple of years. Recorded across three long, fruitful days in a North West London studio, the results speak for themselves: they’re a window into the wide-eyed future of London’s musical underground.
The album bottles up some of the vital ideas emanating from that burgeoning movement. A reflection of how London’s jazz-influenced music has reached outward into new spaces, the sound of the record draws from a wide pool. There’s plenty of crossover between each of the groups, too, speaking to the close-knit circles which make up the scene; shared line-ups reflect the mutual cooperation and DIY spirit which are second-nature.
Ubiquitous, much-lauded saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings is the project’s musical director. His own recent projects span from South Africa-connected, spiritually-minded jazz players Shabaka and the Ancestors to Sons of Kemet, who match diasporically-connected compositions with viscerally-direct live shows. His input ties together a deft, genre-agnostic sensibility that’s shared through all the players on the record.
Nodding to spiritual jazz influences, Maisha’s ‘Inside The Acorn’ is a wandering, explorative rumination, balancing delicate washes of piano and percussion with sharp interplay between flute and bass clarinet. Ezra Collective – whose drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso has toured with Pharaohe Monch – run a tight, Afrobeat-tipped rhythm on ‘Pure Shade’, with the final third changing gear into a melodic, momentous closing stretch.
On Moses Boyd’s ‘The Balance’, the drummer – who co-produced Zara McFarlane’s recent, critically-lauded album, as well as touring with the likes of Sampha – builds a steadily-paced, atmospheric creation, loosening up the rhythm and intensity as it progresses. Theon Cross – who’s part of Hutchings’ Sons of Kemet – starts his track, ‘Brockley’, with the solo, distinctive low rumble of his tuba. Winding and mesmeric, it sees tuba and sax lines winding together in rhythmic and melodic parallels.
Showing a similarly controlled approach, Nubya Garcia’s ‘Once’ is taut and carefully-poised, her tenor sax guiding a carefully-built energy to an explosive conclusion. Shabaka Hutchings’ ‘Black Skin, Black Masks’ is typically difficult-to-define: with an off-kilter, shifting rhythmic backbone, repeated phrases – mirrored between clarinet and bass clarinet – shape the track with an alluring hue.
Triforce’s ‘Walls’ is a performance in two parts: starting with Mansur Brown’s languorous, lyrical guitar, the second half switches up to a low-slung, g-funk-tipped groove. Joe Armon-Jones, whose ludicrous chops on the piano have seen him touring with the likes of Ata Kak, showcases earworm-like, insistent motifs on ‘Go See’, balanced with a playful, improvisatory approach with room for ad-libbing and solos a-plenty. Finally, taking a softer tact than many of the other entries, Kokoroko – whose guitarist Oscar Jerome has been making waves with his solo material – spin a lyrical, steady-paced meditation on ‘Abusey Junction’, matching chanted vocals with gently-played guitar.