What is New Wave Jazz and why is it so bloody popular?

Written by Lily Carr-Gomm

So for a large percentage of millennials, when they hear the term ‘jazz’ they think of grandma and gramps dusting off their old record player, probably around the Christmas period, sitting in their questionably patterned beige armchairs with their eyes shut and blissfully humming along to the old crackling tunes of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong or Acker Bilk. Now whether this be a pleasant image for you or not, the thought of anyone under the age of 60 carrying out this task seems rather baffling, so how is New Wave Jazz creeping its way up the charts and into mainstream music now?

Firstly, it’s undeniably good. The scene I described above may be what some immediately envisage when faced with jazz music but by stripping all of that away and taking the music as it is, we start to see the beautiful quality of jazz music. One of the most important things about Jazz music is its roots in improvisation. In most genres, music is learnt by heart or learnt from score, but here the musicians are completely in charge, making it up as they go along. That’s one of the greatest things about jazz, the uncertainty and spontaneity of the melodies. As for vocals, jazz singers are expected to improvise too, to do variations on the melody and have the same command over their voice as any other jazz musician does over their instrument. The heartfelt, soulful tones of jazz singers is instantly recognisable and another merit of this genre. Therefore the foundations of New Wave Jazz are already glorious.

Seeing as ‘New Wave Jazz’ isn’t actually a defined genre yet, here is what I’ve cobbled together to try and explain the trend. It seems to be heavily rooted in (you guessed it) jazz music, with the tones of the instruments used and inspiration drawn coming from this genre, yet with a much more modern twist. Most of this modernity stems from the fact that many ‘New Wave Jazz musicians’ use electronic hip-hop beats and computer-generated sounds layered with classic jazz instrumental recordings, allowing the sound to differ from that of classical old-school jazz. It’s  mixture of chilled-out yet danceable underlying beats paired with clever fresh post-production and some sick and soulful vocals featured over the top causes the youth/mainstream media to hop on the jazz train and add it to their playlists.

Here are the top 10 NWJ artists absolutely killing it!

Ezra Collective

London five-piece Ezra Collective are incredible. Their sound nods respectfully to a classic jazz footprint but also has a visible African rhythmical stamp, celebrating the originators whilst simultaneously carving a path solely their own.

As the genre enjoys a new lease of life that is gaining momentum across the country, Ezra Collective are adding their own fresh and imaginative face to a style that continues to be 'as entertaining as it is educational' (Trench).

Moses Boyd
Mobo-winner for ‘Best Jazz Act’, Boyd describes himself as a drummer, composer, producer and electronic musician whose tracks infuse Jazz, grime and electronica influences. Perfect music for dinner parties and relaxing whilst also acting as a very good collection of dance beats.

Nubya Garcia
London-based saxophonist and composer, Nubya Garcia, is one of the leading forces behind the resurgence of jazz-influenced sounds in the UK whose enthusiasm radiates through her and her music. She is also a part of six-piece Nerija, mentioned below.

Blue Lab Beats
The fantastic North London duo have mixed tracks for the likes of Jodie Abacus, Dua Lipa and Rag’n’Bone Man, but now they’re focusing on their own work, so make sure to keep an eye out for that…

Not yet 20 and singing songs she wrote before she was in her teens, Leicester-born Mahalia is one of those performers who is too talented for her own good.

Alfa Mist
UK producer/composer, who puts together beautiful melancholic jazz harmonies and blends then with hip-hop and soul beats to produce a stream of luxurious, melodic tunes.

Ravyn Lenae
Travelling across the globe, Chicago-born and raised Ravyn’s beautifully soul-enchanting voice has landed her touring opportunities with the likes Noname and is currently touring with SZA until the end of this year.

Cosmo Pyke
Having been tipped in 2017s Dazed 100 List, Cosmo’s refreshingly unique style and sound cements his place on our ‘ones to watch’ list.

A beautifully empowering all-female collective of London-based musicians playing original music inspired by Jazz, Hip Hop, Afrobeat and South African Township. Whilst straying away from the computer/electronic side of New Wave Jazz, their fresh new take on classical jazz is a pleasure to listen to and deems them as a great live band.

Jaz Karis
19 year Old South Londoner and Brit School alumna, Jaz Karis, is a force to be reckoned with a huge amount of talent at such a young age. Here’s her debut track taken from EP 'Into The Wilderness’.

And here are a few more obvious musicians to look out for… Watch this space. These guys are going to be huge!

And now I will hand you over to Jay Jay who will elaborate.

Written by Jay Jay

Shabaka and the Ancestors
Shabaka is gaining legendary status already within the scene - he is clearly ahead of the curve and appears in many bands. His playing style is devastating and each group he is in has its own unique style and phrasing. His shows are a must! Look him up.

Yussef Kamaal
Yussef Kamaal are a duo that many believed would take the scene into a whole new stratosphere - their music is simply brilliantly constructed - effortless fusion. But then rumours started circulating that they had broken up - many couldn’t believe it. They epitomised everything brilliant about the new music scene - uncompromising raw - gifted musicians whose beats would send you into delirium . It’s true they have broken up - we are sad at NWJ HQ.

The Comet Is Coming
Once again Shabaka strikes - this outfit have been nominated for The Mercury music prize and narrowly missed out on winning to James Blake. Again the uncompromising style has wowed audiences across Europe. The Comet Is Coming use synthesisers within their sound as well as Afro rhythms - their live sets are more like mini festivals.

(review upcoming)