In K15’s social banner there’s a quote from legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk: ‘I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public want – you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing – even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.’ This is the kind of attitude we want to hear, and so it’s a beautiful thing that K15’s new EP, Be Glad You Create Anything, is the sort of trailblazing expedition into the crossroads between jazz and house that helps forge new pathways and set new precedents for artists to explore in moments to come.
‘Be Glad You Create Anything’ is the obvious highlight, a piano-led tapestry that morphs and merges before your ears, casting fuzzy shapes from keys-driven progressions that celebrate the moment of genesis. Second track ’Communion’ rolls on with buzzy, playful jazz-inflected textures, dropping chip-cut house beats over a grateful piano chord motif, and ‘You’re Alive (There’s Still Time)’ is a more galactic hip-hop affair, sounding like launching into the stratosphere at a cruising speed of 30km/h.
Nostalgic, blue, fuzzy, warm and hopeful meanings lurk in the layers of this EP – find out for yourself on Bandcamp, where you can get the 12” vinyl with full colour sleeve, as well as a digital download.
Gritty, jazz-inflected deep house from French producer Marc Bianco.
Moonrise Hill Material have cultivated a reputation for earthy lo-fi/deep house releases from the likes of Ethyene and co-owner Folamour (including his first physical release full-length, Umami, late last year). February saw the label release the Serious Mass EP by Marc Blanco, another French producer crafting intelligent and highly soulful house music.
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After a cosmic intro, the woozy house chugger ‘Joy Steel’ and the high-octane jazz/breaks workout of ‘Interlude’, Bianco finishes out the EP with a hypnotic dirty piano house groove (Fête National) and finally Harland Jam, a titan of a track where sleazy jazz piano flirts with sample-box style percussion and a monstrous, meandering bass sound. It’s immersive stuff, and Bianco crafts sounds that pull you inside the production. It’s like taking a shower in dripping hot double bass vibrations and analogue bubbles of sound. Warmth. Marc Bianco’s Serious Mass EP is out now on 12″ – you can buy it at Phonica
Guest contributor Hugh Helmore writes about the highly acclaimed jazz comp on Giles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings.
Jazz, of course, is lauded as a practically limitless form. This is hardly demonstrated better than in ‘We Out Here’, Brownswood Recording’s nine track jazz comp released in the late winter months of 2018. The record pulls on a variety of up and coming London talent, offering up a brew of contemporary jazz, afrobeat and dark, haunting jazz.
In the dusty basement bars of London there’s been a modern jazz revival as of late, fuelled by the underground youth culture that the city is so famed for. The malleable and improvisational construction of the genre makes it a perfect target for repeated modern reimagining. This can be seen in the rising online popularity of artists such as the duo Yussef Kamaal, who have gained considerable prestige with their broken beat magnum opus Black Focus, also released by Brownswood. Many of the artists featured on the record would be just as comfortable on BBC Radio 6 as they would the boiler room.
Similarly, just as popular electronic music of recent memory has been influenced by the pervasive sounds of afrobeats, so have the artists of ‘We Out Here’. Yet the complex intertwining melodies and soulful brass rings closer to the original afrobeat genre rather than it’s modern counterpart. Tracks suck as ‘Once’ (Nubya Garcia) and ‘Black Skin, Black Masks’ (Shabaka Hutchings) are strongly reminiscent of afrobeat progenitor Fela Kuti. Perhaps we can put this down to the raw, raucous energy purveyed through the record in it’s entirety, making full use of moving time signatures and the heavily emotive improvisation of its precursors.
Put bluntly, ‘We out Here’ is phenomenal, a deliciously energetic yet somehow fantastically gothic take on jazz – not to be missed. ‘We out Here’ was released on 9/2/2018. You can get the vinyl, as well as CD and digital copies, at the Brownswood bandcamp.
For more great stuff coming out of the British Isles, check out Spotify’s Jazz UK playlist:
Cheekily named Jazzy Couscous have brought out an ambient experiment by Japanese jazz maestro Kazumi Watanabe that got lost somewhere in the 80s. It’s intricate and ethereal, conjuring up rainbow tones in high-fidelity.. Accompanying it is a sort of balearic remix from Kuniyuki, who adds tribal and natural elements to mesmerising effect.
Mood-making solitary listening. Garuda was released on 26/3/18, and you can find it over at Juno.
Having already broken into the local jazz consciousness with last year’s Chapter 7 EP and the Sun-Ra informed Space Is the Place single, London five-piece Ezra Collective have dropped their anticipated Juan Pablo: The Philosopher EP, a heady collection of new wave jazz tunes.
Ezra Collective are a good emblem for the revitalised London jazz scene that has become highly conscious of the interplay between the roots that soul and hip-hop have in jazz, including the late 2000s broken beat scene and the rediscovered (for the second time since the early 2000s) West African funky heritage.
The EP opens with a sunny, psychedelic keyboard trill that composes itself and morphs into the afrobeat-style brass refrain that forms the centrepiece of opening track ‘Juan Pablo’. It continues throughout its blissful 23 minutes with a full-throttled dissemination of funk, atmospheric disco-esque rhythm and late night post-bop.
The dynamism and craftsmanship on display here speak for an inner love of rhythm and jazz that’s been lacking in a scene saturated by real book purists and faux-pas cocktail bars. Juan Pablo: The Philosopher is bold, colourful and, dare I say, breakthrough: it’s something to get excited about. Ezra Collective are sure to be a solid reference point in UK jazz for the years to come.
You can get Juan Pablo: The Philosopher on Bandcamp. 45turns tip: keep an eye out for a repress before the end of the year.