It was extremely pleasing to see three important albums by UK bands reviewed in the October edition of the American music magazine Downbeat. The albums are Shifa Live At Café Oto, Laura Jurd’s Stepping Back, Jumping In and Rebecca Nash’s Atlas’ Peaceful King.
The Shifa album receives a 4 Star review (4 Star means Excellent), and it describes the music as ‘an uncompromising and uncharted plunge’. It singles out particular praise for the playing of saxophonist Rachel Musson describing her playing as ‘commanding a bold, granitic timbre’. It goes on to state that Rachel is ‘better known in Europe than in the States’ and that ‘she’s a force deserving of greater recognition’.
The Laura Jurd and Rebecca Nash albums receive 3 Star reviews (3 Star means Good). Laura Jurd’s playing is described as having ‘a profundity neatly paired with a keen sense of humor’ and the music is seen as having ‘an overall playfulness and a totally relaxing mood’.
The review of the Atlas album praises its musicality and states that ‘the eight tracks form a holistic argument that Nash and her superb band are at the vanguard of innovative and compelling new music’.
One important aspect of this feature on three British bands and their most recent albums is that it shows an appreciation of the range of the contemporary scene here and all the great music emerging from the difficult to define area around free music and post-free music. Downbeat has quite rightly focussed on the young London scene and bands such as Sons Of Kemet, Nerijah and players such as Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross and others. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I am happy to see a recognition that there is much more to the UK scene.
I can’t resist the temptation to point out that two of the bands reviewed have strong Birmingham links. Atlas is in fact a Birmingham band with all the members except Sara Colman based in the city, and even Sara was based here for many years. Shifa has Mark Sanders who is based in Bearwood, in an area a few yards outside the Birmingham boundary, and the band was launched in Birmingham at mac’s Hexagon Theatre in March 2018.
The Shifa album is on the New York 577 Records, the Atlas album is on the British Whirlwind Records and the Laura Jurd Ensemble album is on Edition Records, also British.