Album of the Day: Various Artists, “We Out Here”

We Out Here is a nine-track primer on the brightly burning London jazz scene, curated by saxophonist and rising superstar Shabaka Hutchings, who operates as bandleader for Sons of Kemet, Shabaka & the Ancestors, and the Comet is Coming. Recorded over a three-day period at the Fish Factory studio in Dollis Hill, London, the compilation is meant to bring new talent—like drummer Moses Boyd, tuba player Theon Cross, and saxophonist Nubya Garcia—to a wider audience.

The artists featured on We Out Here have always combined traditional jazz chops with a willingness to incorporate other genres into the mix: Hutchings’s Wisdom of Elders, which was cut with his band The Ancestors in Johannesburg, is infused with spiritual space jazz overtones; producer and drummer Moses Boyd’s Absolute Zero nods to London’s grime and ambient drum & bass vibes; the Triforce quintet’s sound embraces slick jazz-fusion and moody hip-hop influences (and is ripe for being sampled by a savvy rap producer). But We Out Here has a fiery united energy and heated edge, much like the work of U.S. contemporaries like Christian Scott and Kamasi Washington, who bring a hip-hop attitude to their style and sound.

This extra swag pulses through We Out Here. Theon Cross’s “Brockley” hits home like a jazz update of Pharoahe Monch’s monstrous rap club banger “Simon Says,” with deep tuba stabs taking the place of the original’s Godzilla sample. Boyd’s “The Balance” finesses the fractured rhythms of the broken beat scene with a hazy late night garage club vibe. Emerging as We Out Here’s signature tune, Hutchings’s own “Black Skin, Black Masks” feels a bit like an eerie ’60s spy movie score, topped with slinky sax and clarinet lines. Presented alongside contributions from the soulful sax player Nubya Garcia and the Afrobeat-inspired grooves of Ezra Collective, We Out Here is a vivid snapshot of the future jazz sound bubbling through London’s streets right now.

-Phillip Mlynar

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