Jazz is both a formidable foe and a faithful friend. Like a well with no end, many a determined musician have dived down in search of water and never stopped falling. Luminaries like Wes Montgomery and Thelonious Monk have pushed what we thought possible in musical theory and chordal complexity, puzzling and confounding listeners for generations to come.
Jazz can also transport in it’s underlying simplicity. Musician and listener alike have spent many a rainy afternoon floating through the droplets outside, or being spirited to heaven on the wings of records like Kind of Blue and Time Out.
Here are our top 5 Jazz freaks defying labels and bending the minds of listeners and musicians alike. Delve a little deeper into the world of modern jazz.
No matter which side of jazz you stand on, or whether you hop fervently between the two, the sheer scope and majesty of these musicians will instil awe and leave you wanting more.
Thus we have compiled a short list of our favourite, mind-bending, genre defining jazz cats in the scene right now.
No matter which way you look at it Jacob Collier is a genius. I mean, if you’re mentored by Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones some of that genius will surely rub off. With a commanding, yet eerily unique, baritone voice Collier will have you at first glance, and that’s before his fingers touch the keys.
The jazz protégé has stormed the world of late with a musical knowledge beyond professionalism and the flare of a mind immersed wholly in experimentation. Without rattling off a list of accolades you need only watch him talk harmony with Herbie Hancock to understand how deep these waters run. Moreover, critics are finding it tough to pin him down with genre labelling.
Despite the edgy, tense jazz experimentation his albums are coated heavily in honey. With a sense of blissful innocence pervading his music and personality, Jacob Collier is the perfect example of musical accomplishment and general temperament.
Drink in the sweetness below:
Recently exploding onto the London jazz scene, Yussef Dayes, has payed his dues as a world-class percussionist. Last year he teamed up with Alfa Mist, another prodigy and recorded a live take of Love Is The Message at the legendary Abbey Road studio, and it’s quite confidently made waves.
Dayes is widely acclaimed for his lightning fast precision and jazz chops, however, most of all his insane feeling. The vibe Yussef can conjure with a few rolling ghost notes creates an instantly recognisable sound and it’s this flavour and personality which is quickly making him a widely sought after signature in the jazz community.
Producer, pianist and collaborator with Yussef Dayes, is Alfa Mist. His latest album Structuralism is like soft jazz rain falling on the night streets of London, however, each droplet is a soft note from a Rhodes piano. The ensuing hour is a dreamlike escapade through modern jazz psychedelia.
The predominant factor of Alfa Mist’s expertise, however, is space. The sound world is never remotely cramped, leaving a wide velvet bed of silence for his flourishing colours to float gently down. At the forefront of experimental, new wave jazz is this prolific producer and composer.
Listen to Structuralism below:
Emerging from the similar genre-defying, London ‘jazz’ scene as the above two entrants, Mansur Brown can be seen entering flow state in the Abbey Road video (above). His chops and tone are whole unique, setting him apart as a distinctive identity in today’s jazz world.
The virtuosic guitarist released his debut album, Shiroi, last year via Kammal William‘s, aka Henry Wu, label Black Focus Records. Having collaborated closely with Wu and Dayes on their 2016 album of the same name, Brown shares the same supernatural mental teleportation and self-immersion as Yussef Kamaal.
The keystone of Shiroi is it’s percussive electronics, trap and jazz fusion knitted together by Browns expansive playing and lightning fast Hendrix-esque flairs.
Check out Shiroi below:
Another pioneer on the forefront of the UK jazz wave is the Ezra Collective. Led by powerhouse band leader Femi Koleoso (also drummer for Jorja Smith) the burgeoning quintet are making a name for themselves in London, defined by their energetic live sets and spiritual jazz fusion narratives like Juan Pablo: Philosopher and Philosopher II Ep’s.
Lately they have been attracting a more diverse audience with their conflagration of afro beats, hip hop and soul improvisations, making their 2019 album, You Can’t Steal My Joy, a patchwork testament to jazz’s enduring diversity. With a rise in mainstream world music like Khruangbin and Mdou Moctar, the Ezra Collective are steadily pushing boundaries, ensnaring fans and making a confident assertion of breaking out of the once restrictive jazz enclave.