What to Look Out for in UK Jazz in 2018

If 2017 was the year that the world woke up to UK jazz, what does 2018 have in store for the genre’s young artists?

Over the course of 2017, a UK jazz scene that had been simmering away quietly for some time suddenly reached boiling point. Articles appeared in The Guardian and The Times gushing over the creativity of the UK’s young artists, there was a huge feature on Bandcamp and Spotify even created a new UK jazz playlist (treading on the toes of EL SONIDO: in the process). Gilles Peterson continued to offer a platform to the UK’s ‘bubblers’ through his Brownswood imprint, weekly BBC Radio 6 show and live performances on Worldwide FM, while BBC Radio 1xtra’s Jamz Supernova hosted a UK jazz special featuring a host of exclusive interviews and live performances.

So, if 2017 was a year of steady growth, cultivating an audience and establishing a foothold in a crowded musical marketplace, what might 2018 have in store for the UK jazz scene?

In no particular order, this is what you need to look out for…

Brownswood’s UK Jazz Special

In December 2017, Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood record label announced that it was releasing ‘We Out Here’ – a one-off project celebrating the UK’s young jazz scene.

Due for release on 9th February 2018, the album will feature exclusive new music from established UK artists such as Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd, alongside hot prospects like Ezra Collective, Joe Armon-Jones and Kokoroko.

Two consecutive shows will take place in London on 25th and 26th January to celebrate the album’s release, alongside screenings of a documentary film about the making of the album.

Though this is all happening relatively early in the year, everything about the ‘We Out Here’ project indicates that it will be one of the landmark UK jazz moments of 2018. Not one to miss.

You can pre-order the album here, buy tickets for the shows here, and stream Ezra Collective’s ‘Pure Shade’ below:

The Rise of Rhythm Section

Peckham’s Rhythm Section is a south London institution – an all round music community that has been quietly growing in prominence since it was founded in 2009.

Rhythm Section International, the record label spin-off headed up by Bradley Zero, features a back catalogue of acclaimed underground releases by the likes of Henry Wu, Al Dobson Jr. and Chaos in the CBD.

Already a hugely respected record label and a renowned club night, Rhythm Section is uniquely poised to capitalise on the growth of the UK jazz scene. Bradley Zero’s team are committed to providing a platform for young, creative talent and offering them the opportunity to showcase sounds that draw on influences as diverse as house, hip-hop, garage, grime and 90’s R&B.

30/70, for example, are a musical collective from Melbourne, Australia, who produce a relentlessly catchy take on jazz that veers into what the band itself call ‘fusion hip-hop’. In August 2017 they released the infectious LP ‘Elevate’ on Rhythm Section International. Listen to lead single ‘Misrepresented’ below, and support 30/70 by buying ‘Elevate’ here.

Black Focus Records Arrives

Prolific south London artist Kamaal Williams releases soulful, jazz-flecked electronica as Henry Wu and helped to push musical boundaries with funky, bass-driven jazz as one half of Yussef Kamaal.

In December 2017, he announced that he’d teamed up with drummer Mcknasty and bassist Pete Martin to explore ‘rhythmical communication’ under his own name. Not only did Williams announce that, but he also revealed that the new project would be released on his new record label – Black Focus Records.

Taken from the name of the hugely successful 2016 Yussef Kamaal album ‘Black Focus’, details on what lies ahead for the label are still thin on the ground. There’ll certainly be more from the new Kamaal Williams trio, and you can expect that any future releases will dip seamlessly between jazz and electronica in the way that only Williams knows how. One to keep an eye on, that’s for sure.

Take a look at the teaser for Kamaal Williams’ ‘Catch the Loop’ below, and buy the track here.

Jazz Plus Productions

Established in 2015, Jazz Plus Productions is on a self-confessed mission to present a fresh approach to the genre. Through their record label and live events, they aim to provide a platform for “cutting edge contemporary crossover jazz from young artists.”

In September 2017, the label celebrated its first release. ‘Glowrogues – Live at Jazz Plus Presents’ features seven tracks which were all recorded during a live performance at Notting Hill Arts Club in London. Hip-hop, funk and jazz are all weaved together with infectious energy, and the Manchester-based collective has received plaudits from the likes of BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM, and Somewhere Soul.

Further ‘Jazz Plus Presents’ events have seen young jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop artists such as Feelgood Experiment take to the stage at venues around London. As the label continues to expand its reach in 2018, Jazz Plus’ ear for the extraordinary could see them grow to become one of the essential names in the UK jazz movement.

Check out the aftervideo from the ‘Jazz Plus Presents’ show at Notting Hill Arts Club, and support Glowrogues by buying the album here.

Some Big Names Return

While 2017 saw a raft of newcomers burst onto the scene to much fanfare, there were also a number of quietly successful releases from some of the more established names in UK jazz. Portico Quartet, for example, returned from a six-year hiatus with the hugely impressive ‘Art in the Age of Automation’, while Zara McFarlane followed up 2014’s ‘If You Knew Her’ with the Moses Boyd-produced album ‘Arise’.

In 2018, more of the genre’s heavy hitters are poised to drop new music. GoGo Penguin will release their highly anticipated new album ‘A Humdrum Star’ on Blue Note in February (pre-order here), and Sons of Kemet – featuring saxophone-genius Shabaka Hutchings – will release their new album ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ in March.

Stockholm-born London resident Fatima is also set to follow up her crtically acclaimed 2014 album ‘Yellow Memories’ on Eglo Records. Though the exact date has yet to be announced, the single ‘Somebody Else’, which was released in October 2017, offered a tantalising glimpse of what we can expect from a soulful, versatile vocalist at the very top of her game.

Next Steps for the Stars of 2017

And what next for the breakout stars of 2017? It was a bumper year for the likes of Ezra Collective, Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, Jordan Rakei, Children of Zeus, Mammal Hands and Alfa Mist, who all made huge contributions towards the rise of the UK jazz movement.

Tours, festival dates and further collaborations are all bound to follow – and we’ll be watching with excitement every step of the way.

These are heady days for UK jazz indeed.

Like what you hear? Follow the EL SONIDO: Spotify playlist to keep up to date with all the music that keeps us ticking over.

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