Tag Archives: Theon Cross

The Best Jazz on Bandcamp: February 2019

Jazz

It’s not unusual for February to signal the true start of the new year of releases. In terms of quality, it’s typically a deep month. But this year, it’s out of control. I could pretty much copy-paste this column into my Best of 2019 submission, word for word, and have a list that is as strong as anybody’s out there. Every single one of these recordings is special. 2019 is off to a great start.

View the Best Jazz on Bandcamp archives.

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Album of the Day: Theon Cross, “Fyah”

When Westerners think of modern U.K. jazz, the names Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia might come to mind first. Yet over the past four years, tubist Theon Cross has become a quiet force in the scene, playing alongside the saxophonists while forging his own path. As a member of Sons of Kemet, the Hutchings-led troupe of Caribbean folk and West African dance music, Cross underlines their festive compositions with deep, resounding bluster. If Sons of Kemet honor the roots of traditional black music, Cross celebrates its evolution to more contemporary forms—namely hip-hop, ambient, and R&B. On Fyah, Cross blends genres with exquisite results, landing on a sound with which Sons of Kemet fans can identify. Yet this is Cross’s own vision, and with the help of Garcia and drummer Moses Boyd (who’s also a titan in the U.K. jazz scene), Fyah draws a direct line to the famed second line parades in New Orleans. Opening song “Activate” is the best example of this connection: Cross and Garcia match each other note for note, sailing Boyd’s percussive bounce through its different tempo shifts. The track quickens as it moves, concluding with an energetic flurry of drum fills, saxophone wails, and low-end bass. “Radiation” salutes Detroit hip-hop: Here, Boyd drags his percussion just a bit, giving it the same off-center feel as a J Dilla or Karriem Riggins beat. On this song, “The Offerings,” “CIYA,” and “Letting Go,” Cross settles into understated grooves, similar to what Makaya McCraven employed on 2018’s Universal Beings. Much like McCraven, Cross applies a communal approach to his music, sometimes taking a step back to allow other voices to flourish. In a jazz scene like the U.K.’s, where its top players are willing to share space and creative energy, Fyah is another great triumph for Cross and the region as a whole.

—Marcus J. Moore

On “When We Are,” Bandleader Nubya Garcia Explores New Sonic Terrain

Nubya Garcia

Photo by Adama Jalloh

Nubya Garcia is a leader in London’s young, club-conscious jazz renaissance. An accomplished tenor saxophonist, composer, and bandleader, she appeared on five tracks on Brownswood’s We Out Herethe recent, era-defining compilation featuring fellow stars of the London jazz scene: drummer Moses Boyd, tuba player Theon Cross, and saxophonist/clarinet player Shabaka Hutchings (who curated the project). Garcia personifies the collaborative spirit at the heart of the scene as part of a number of collectives and a regular player at some of the capital’s most creative nights. And, alongside the likes of saxophonist Tamar Osborn and trumpeters Yazz Ahmed and Laura Jurd, she’s challenging the jazz scene’s long-running gender imbalance.

[Listen to an interview with Nubya Garcia on Bandcamp Weekly.]

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A Guide to U.K. Jazz in 2017

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Illustration by Annu Kilpeläinen

During the dark years of Thatcherism in the early- to mid-‘80s, the U.K.’s jazz musicians responded with an outpouring of creativity. From the post-punk uproar of Rip Rig & Panic, to the black arts of The Jazz Warriors and the big band experimentation of Loose Tubes, the scene was defined by its sprawling diversity. Thirty years on, and with the U.K. facing similarly divisive times, jazz—in all its forms—is again providing an antidote to the divisions.

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