November’s Downbeat magazine (only just arrived!) has a feature on the 25 artists who they consider have the potential to shape the future direction of jazz. Inevitably as an American magazine 18 of the artists profiled are from the US. Of the 7 non-US artists featured four are from the UK, one is from Poland, one is from Norway and one is from South Africa.
The UK artists are Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Yazz Ahmed and Yussef Dayes. Perhaps the only surprise there is Yussef Dayes, but, having heard him play at the Hare & Hounds in a Leftfoot/Jazzlines co-promotion, I know he is a fantastic drummer and one who is a key member of the so-called new London scene, producing absorbing fusions of jazz with contemporary club music. Both Shabaka and Nubya have established a well-deserved niche in the US, and it is not a surprise that they are on the list. The same is true of Yazz Ahmed, and I am delighted that she has been recognised for the originality of an approach to jazz that is different from the other three UK representatives and, more generally, from the UK scene.
I would have liked to see other UK players recognised, players really pushing the boundaries such Tom Challenger, Kit Downes or even improvising players such as Rachel Musson or Mark Sanders who have recorded albums on the Brooklyn based 577 Records. Moreover, however good exciting young players as Hedwig Mollestad and Kuba Więcek are, they are hardly representative of the burgeoning European scene. There are so many players from continental Europe who could have been included.
The South African is Nduduzo Makhathini who appears on the latest album by Shabaka and the Ancestors We Are Sent Here By History, and who, as Head of Music at the University of Fort Hare, plays an important role in bringing together elements of South African culture and jazz.
Amongst the American players there are several who are becoming known over here: Makaya McCraven and Junius Paul played at the premiere of Soweto Kinch’s The Black Peril commission at the 2019 London Jazz Festival. Vocalist Jazzmeia Horn appeared at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2018; cellist Tomeka Reid was at Café Oto with the large version of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and has recorded an excellent album with Alex Hawkins; trumpeter Adam O’Farrill has appeared with Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl. Then saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin and vibraphone player Joel Ross played impressive sets at the recent online Berlin Jazz Festival.
There are several new names for me: vocalist Veronica Swift, bass player Luke Stewart who has played bass in James Brandon Lewis’ trio and led his own projects, vocalist/saxophonist Camille Thurman who has been depping for Walter Blanding in the Lincoln Center Orchestra as well as leading her own quintet; drummer Jimmy Macbride, now leading his own group after appearing as a sidesman on 40 albums; pianist James Francies who graduated from the Houston High School for Performing and Visual Arts where both Jason Moran and Robert Glasper studied, and saxophonist Morgan Guerin who has toured with Terri Lynne Carrington’s Social Science group and with Esperanza Spalding.
The full list is Veronica Swift, Shabaka Hutchings, Jazzmeia Horn, Christian Sands, Camila Meza, Nubya Garcia, Nduduzo Makhathini, Makaya McCraven, Lakecia Benjamin, Junius Paul, Morgan Guerin, Yazz Ahmed, James Francies, Kuba Więcek, Fabian Almazan, Theo Croker, Jimmy Macbride, Camille Thurman, Alfredo Rodriguez, Hedvig Mollestad, Adam O’Farrill, Tomeka Reid, Luke Stewart, Yussef Dayes, Joel Ross.