This coming Sunday 31st January, 1BTN celebrate the sound of jazz with a selection of shows from some of the movers and shakers, who have helped to develop the movement in the last decade or so.
The new breed of jazz artists are unfazed by genre and as such have attracted a youthful and multi cultural, worldwide audience. The perception of jazz has been altered and it’s one that has paved the way for an exciting, forward thinking and prosperous new dawn.
Ashley Henry is one of a new generation of musicians that have been raised with a wide range of influences. Born November 1991 when the last Kuwait oil fires extinguished, Miles Davis passed away, Gang Star released ‘Step in the Arena’, South Africa held its first cricket international in 20 years, PC World opened in the UK, Wynton Marsalis releases ‘Blue Interlude’, Freddie Mercury departed, Branford Marsalis finishes ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ and the first performance of Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III took place.
Born and raised in South London, Ashley listening and visual styles, range from Sinead Harnett, Digital Underground, ZuZu, Margot Fonteyn, Era Istrefi, Freddie Mercury, and Dreezy – through to having fans that include the abstract artist Gareth Nyandoro, being an advocate for the legend pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.
In 2016 Ashley graduated from Royal Academy of Music, performed with Jason Marsalis and collaborated with legends Terence Blanchard and Jean Toussaint. He is the youngest ever to hit the bill for the International Piano Trio Festival performing with Robert Glasper, and top that year by achieving a childhood dream of performing in the final of the Unisia International Piano Competition in South Africa. At only 25 years, Ashley was commissioned as guest resident Musical Director for both Jazz Café, London and Ronnie Scotts, London and is a FADER MAGAZINE 2017 Emerging Artist. 2017 also saw Ashley nominated for the Jazz FM Award as Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Live Experience of the Year, the latter for his performance at the London Southbank.
2019 saw the relase of Ashley’s debut, critically acclaimed album, Beautiful Vinyl Hunters. An amazing amalgam of jazz drawing from many influences, beats, hip hop, punk, grime and more. Ashley is also a dope selector and we look forward to hearing his selections.
Ayo Salawu (Kokoroko)
Drummer Ayo Salawu first tapped out a drum beat at the age of two. Since then, he has graduated from the Academy of Contemporary Music and become a sought-after freelance musician, playing with established and up-and-coming artists from across the world.
Ayo was brought up in the church so each Sunday from when he was born he was exposed to gospel music. By the age of 2 years he was playing along to the gospel music his parents would listen to at home using pots with wooden spoons! His parents saw he had a passion for drumming and on his 4th birthday got him his first drum set. The journey started at church and he still play’s there whenever he can.
Ayo’sinfluences come from bands and artists include Snarky Puppy, James Brown, Lettuce, George Benson, Ron Kenoly, Kirk Franklin, Robert Glasper, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson and many more. Influential drummers are Dennis Chambers, Robert ‘Sput’ Searight, Ronald Bruner Jr, Will Kennedy, Chris Coleman, Calvin Rodgers, Chris Dave, Chad Smith, Eric Harland, Tony Allen, and Adam Deitch.
Ayo has played drums for pop-jazz artist, Julia Biel, soul-jazz-hip hop artist, Oscar Jerome, and is currently resident drummer for afrobeat band, Kokoroko
Hailed by Gilles Peterson as “one of the best musicians in the UK”, saxophonist Nat Birchall remains one of the UK’s hidden jazz treasures. Playing tenor and soprano saxophones, he is a band leader, composer and arranger ( and occasional DJ ) who has grabbed listeners attention with his soulful sound and inspirational spiritual music.
Nat has always been something of an enigma, a sublimely soulful saxophonist hidden from view in the Northern hills of England. His debut album Sixth Sense (1999) first announced him to the jazz world as an urgent tenor saxophonist with a feel for pulsing modal hard-bop. But it was his cult hit and now highly sought after soulful slice of spiritual jazz Akhenaten (released on trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s label, Gondwana Records, in 2009) that suggested that the spirit of Coltrane was alive and well in Northern England. Acclaimed by the critics (MOJO for one hailing its ‘spacial sunship beauty’ and ‘lyrical heat haze hypnotism’) Akhenaten together with Halsall’s own releases ‘Sending My Love’ and ‘Colour Yes’ helped create the unique sound that the Independent On Sunday described as ‘rain soaked spiritual jazz from Manchester”.
Growing up in a Northern Village, Nat was hardly exposed to jazz but through some friends fell in love with roots reggae and dub in the early ‘70s and it was the legendary Jamaican jazz-influenced saxophonists, Cedric Brooks, Tommy McCook, that inspired him take up the saxophone and through them that he discovered the music of John Coltrane
With 12 studio albums under his belt, Nat is a prolific producer, with releases on a number of labels including, Gondawna, Jazzman & Tradition Disc, amongst others.
Robert Luis is the founder, co-owner and A&R for Tru Thoughts, the record label based in Brighton.
He has worked with and introduced a whole host of acts into the musical world, signing Quantic, Bonobo, Belleruche and Alice Russell and releasing their debut albums, as well as signing the likes of Nostalgia 77, Werkha, Hidden Orchestra, Zed Bias, Moonchild, Anchorsong, Rhi, Rodney P, Wrongtom, Harleighblu, Flowdan, Lakuta and Hot 8 Brass Band.
Robert’s background has always been in DJing. Promoting and spinning at some legendary club nights in Brighton and booking and DJing with the likes of Mr Scruff, Basement Jaxx, Ashley Beedle, Groove Armada, James Lavelle, Fabio, Gilles Peterson, Roni Size and 4 Hero. Many of which made their debut appearance in Brighton thanks to Robert’s forward thinking musical mind. Robert currently has a DJ residency “Sonic Switch” in Brighton where he plays a Five Hour set every month; when there’s not a global pandemic!
Robert has a weekly radio show called Unfold which goes out in Brighton on Sundays (6pm-8pm) on 1BTN and is podcasted / streamed on the Tru Thoughts website each week, Mixcloud and iTunes. Robert has been a consistent advovate for the contemporary jazz scene and his show heavily features music from artists spanning the length and breadth of the scene.
Rosie Turton’s musical path is defined by her unwavering desire to explore new territories: sounds, cultures, textures and collaborations, she’s always open to discoveries. A mainstay of the new London Jazz scene, Rosie started the trombone at age 11. She grew up listening to a lot of jazz and was encouraged to explore very early on. By her South African parents first, who exposed her to a variety of music genres (her dad got Rosie a Bob Marley album which was a turning point in her musical upbringing), and later on by her first trombone teacher and mentor, John Crouch, who ran the local big band (Jazz Vehicle, Lincoln) and pushed her to get involved and open her horizons.
At 16, she met Composer Issie Barrat at the Sound and Music Summer School, who was a very influential figure to explore composition. At the same time, she started playing with Tomorrow Warriors which was instrumental in Rosie’s development as a musician. There, she met some key pillars of London’s burgeoning new jazz scene: Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones and Sheila Maurice-Grey amongst others.
Like them, she went to Trinity College of Music and started jamming at the Steez night led by Luke Newman, who is now one of her regular collaborators. From that period was also born Nerija, 7-piece band newly signed to Domino that she’s part of.
In 2015, following her explorative nature, she got really interested in Indian Classical Music for its soundscape and meditative feeling. Influenced by spiritual jazz forebears such as Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, she went on a trip to North India and began an exploration of the parallel musical paths of jazz and Indian ragas. Making connections with local musicians and producers, she channelled wide-ranging ideas into music that’s simple to understand but focusing on the overall feel and tone, to create an emotional connection with music.
On her return, she decided to put a band together around this idea and they produced the EP ‘Rosie’s 5ive’ for the excellent, Jazz Re:freshed. The Quintet, lead by strong melodies blending the sound of trombone, violin and electronics over a bed of interlocking grooves and soundscapes, explores the connections of the sounds of jazz, hip hop and Indian Classical music. It consists of Johanna Burnheart on violin , Maria Chiara Argirò on piano, Twm Dylan on bass and Jake Long on drums. Luke Newman on vocals and Ben Hayes on synthesizers both feature on some of the tracks. Finally, Maxwell Owin mixed and co-produced the album with Rosie.
An incredibly exciting and accomplished trumpet player, composer and producer, British-Bahraini artist, Yazz Ahmed, has long garnered global acclaim. Her sophomore album, La Saboteuse (Naim Records, 2017), scooped Jazz Album of the Year in The Wire magazine and ranked #18 in Bandcamp’s top 100 albums.
Polyhymnia (2019) saw Yazz truly ascend, winning multiple nominations for Jazz FM, Parliamentary Jazz Awards and Downbeat Magazine, and making many ‘best of’ lists. Most recently she scooped up two glittering prizes at the Jazz FM Awards 2020 – UK Artist of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year for Polyhymnia – and won the highly prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Innovation.
Yazz Ahmed’s career has also been studded with high profile collaborations, including recording and performing with the likes of Radiohead, Lee Scratch Perry, These New Puritans, and composing music for Jazz FM, Adult Swim and New York’s Festival of New Trumpet Music and more. Blending the spiritual sounds of the Middle East with the futuristic sounds of the UK’s contemporary jazz scene, Yazz Ahmed’s journey to the top continues.
Multi-award winning singer-songwriter Zara McFarlane, is the UK’s Black British foremost Jazz Vocalist. Eloquent and provocative her sound is distinguished by her melding of multiple influences from jazz, reggae, folk and nu-soul. Zara first caught the attention of DJ Gilles Peterson on the release of her self- produced EP in 2010 so much so he released her debut album “Until Tomorrow” (and subsequent albums) on his label Brownswood Recordings in 2011. Her second album “If You Knew Her” (2014) saw her blossom as a lyrically conscious songwriter and set her apart as one to watch on the UK Jazz scene.
Zara’s impact is reflected in being awarded Jazz FM Vocalist of the Year Award (2018 & 2015), Session of the Year at Worldwide Awards (2018), Best Jazz Act at Urban Music Awards (2015) and Best Jazz at MOBO Awards (2014).
Zara has achieved great success with performances with a variety of highly acclaimed musicians such as Hugh Masekela, Gregory Porter, Ernest Ranglin, Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd and Ezra Collective. With a voice that has been described as ‘a caressing voice of sparkling clarity,’ she is in demand as a featured vocalist internationally, collaborating with esteemed producers Louie Vega, Swindle, Floating Points, Osunlade and most recently Dennis Bovell. Zara’s experience in songwriting, and Jazz and Popular Music vocal styles, has seen her invited to deliver masterclasses at prestigious music establishments such as RWCMD, GSMD and BIMM and within local communities. This also led her to being invited as a judge on the nationally televised 2018 BBC Young Jazz Musician Awards.
Eager to explore all avenues as a performer and vocalist, Zara has also worked in theatre completing her debut season with the Royal Shakespeare Company as the featured singer in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra,’ directed by Iqbal Khan with music written by Laura Mvula in 2017. In 2019, Zara featured in the community opera ‘Agreed’which premiered on Glyndebourne’s main stage and will return to the RSC in 2020 to perform in The Comedy Of Errors for their Winter season.
In 2020 Zara released the single ‘Black Treasure’, which was a fresh departure in her creative direction, uniting her with experimental producers Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu. Zara’s 4th studio album ‘Songs Of An Unknown Tongue’ followed shortly after. This new direction was an exploration into Zara’s Jamaican heritage, which included an extended trip to Jamaica in 2018 meeting academics, and researching the early folk rhythms unique to the island. Her new sound is the culmination of this research and weaves a subversion of the colonial legacy of slavery. The track is a “declaration, proclamation and celebration of black Britishness and womanhood”.
Zara McFarlane has previously been supported by PRSF Women Make Music, Momentum Fund and International Fund and The Jerwood Charitable Foundation.
Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange
ZFEE is the meeting point of improvisation and dance music. Headed up by drummer Ziggy Zeitgeist, a staple of the Australian music scene, most prominently touring and recording with Melbourne Nu-Soul/ future-jazz collective ‘30/70’. Ziggy’s music has already been championed across the breadth of the jazz and dance world, with support from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Kamaal Williams, Byron the Aquarius and Alexander Nut just to name a few.
Growing up in Australia, with no real club culture in sight, Ziggy’s formative years were at the ‘bush doof’ – an outback rave where speakers were driven to remote lands and dance music would blast from the wee hours in the morning to the wee hours at night. This is what Ziggy describes as the playground of Australian Electronic Music. “This is our culture of electronic music. It’s about exploring the spectrum of consciousness and a connection with ourselves, one another and the land.”
The vision of this project was to create a live band experience that is closely aligned with an extended DJ set, heavily influenced by club culture and transformative festivals where people seek a more transcendent experience- a continuous odyssey, sound and groove with the spirit of live improvisa- tion. The main influences for this project include house, broken beat, and a good dose of 70’s jazz-funk in order to create a unique and cosmic pocket.
The debut self titled album dropped in 2018, with part II released in 2020. The process for the records entailed writing sparse rhythmic and harmonic figures that imply a kind of groove and tonality without restricting the expression and trajectory of the group improvisation. These parameters were used to inspire the musicians in a way that allows personal expression whilst still maintaining strong group cohesion. Freedom Energy Exchange is about creating new directions in dance music culture where people come to hear new music and find new ways to express themselves, new ways to move, new ways to make love.