A celebration of bands and artists in the South – with Spotify Playlist

Words by Sophie Wales

Playlist by Megija Petinena

Foreword: Tamsin Mendelsohn, Jazz South Manager:

‘We are excited to compile this playlist as part of International Jazz Day 2020. Since Jazz South’s inception in 2018, it’s been fantastic to engage with artists ranging from established names in jazz to newer talent from urban and rural areas across the huge region that we cover. This playlist is a snapshot of artists who are based in, have strong or past connections to the Jazz South region – helped by colleagues in the industry who made a number of nominations. Of course this cannot do justice to everyone, so keep an eye out for our ongoing series of playlists. Meanwhile, for this year’s International Jazz Day, we hope you enjoy the selection, be surprised at some of the connections or discover someone new whose music inspires you.’

The region that Jazz South encompasses boasts a plethora of musical talent, with established artists who have made their name internationally, and newly emerging up-and-coming talent. We’ve reached out to members of the jazz community in the South including musicians, venues and promoters to recommend their favourite tunes as well as new discoveries. The playlist of course features our very own Platform South artists, and can be found on Spotify.

When first compiling this project it only seemed natural to turn to established artists with roots or connections to the South, who have made their names nationally and internationally. Andy Sheppard features here with long-time collaborator Carla Bley; Django Bates with recent trio project ‘The Study of Touch’ (2017); Sarah Jane Morris collaborates with Papik on this classic uplifting track; Liane Carrol with her subliminal, effortless vocals, a master of her craft; Iain Ballamy joining forces with peers Ian Shaw and Jamie Safir; Jason Rebello who’s solo piece ‘Blackbird’ creates a perfect interlude to this playlist; Get the Blessing’s ‘Quiet’ brings the playlist towards a close. Saxophonist Jason Yarde is renowned for his ground-breaking music, melding classical, hip-hop, improvisation, R&B, reggae, and soul to name a few –  recognised by the first ever BASCA award for ‘Contemporary Jazz Composition’ in 2010. Olie Brice is a bass player of choice for a number of contemporary bands and on the free improvisation scene – here featuring the driving music of his own quintet. Founding musician and CEO of Edition Records, Dave Stapleton is also central to this list. We include Edition super-band Phronesis (with particular connection to the South through pianist Ivo Neame) and also Dave Stapleton’s own project Slowly Rolling Camera, amalgamating trip-hop and jazz grooves over cinematic soundscapes, featuring Dionne Bennett’s emotive lyrics and dulcet voice.

Also exceptional within the South is the constantly emerging new talent; musicians who are pushing the boundaries of jazz, incorporating experimentation, eclecticism and new flavours, putting their own stamp on the genre. Brighton based collective Yakul, blend Neo Soul grooves over jazz chord progressions. ‘Streetlight’, recommended by Jack Kendon of New Generation Jazz features heavily syncopated rhythms and a drum break down section, building up again into the main theme. Also from the south, Hastings area, Tom Clarkson traverses musical genres with heavy acoustic bass, electronics and vocals. The Ishmael Ensemble is a project of Bristolian multi-instrumentalist and DJ Pete Cunningham. The track ‘Full Circle’ features the entrancing vocals of Holysseus Fly; it feels almost rebellious in its refusal to stick to the status quo and holds nothing back. Mark Cherrie’s Quartet incorporates the angelic voice of Sumudu, with classic jazz melodies and progressions. The unique sound of Cherrie’s steel pans bring an astonishing sense of warmth and colour to the music, an ode to his Caribbean roots. Hippo opens the playlist – not only pushing the boundaries of jazz, but tearing them down. ‘Binary Diet’ epitomises the sound of the trio: electronic, futuristic jazz, with vivacious rhythms and themes.

Rob Luft (photo credit Dave Stapleton).

Guitarist Rob Luft (and Edition artist) has been making his name as BBC New Generation Jazz Artist 2019-2021. With strong links to the South growing up, his music has gained critical acclaim for its vibrancy and innovation. Singer-songwriter Rue from Cornwall is one to watch, bringing a refreshing sound that mixes Neo-Soul, R&B and Jazz. In ‘Peaches’ Rue conveys important messages over uplifting music, with effortless vocals shifting from mid to low ranges with ease. China Bowls also brings sweet melodies throughout, her resonant tone and vocal runs cutting through a laid-back guitar groove. Another emerging talent is Quartet AuB. Put together by young saxophonists Tom Barford and Alex Hitchcock, this grouping has links to the South through drummer James Maddren from West Sussex.

‘Together with bassist Fergus Ireland and drummer James Maddren, AUB melds contemporary Jazz sounds, an adventurous and risk-taking spirit with a degree of unpredictability, nuance and intense improvisation’.

Mike Gavin, Edition Records.

We could not approach this playlist without taking the opportunity to celebrate and shine a light on extraordinary female musicians within the South. In addition to those already mentioned, these include artists such as Kate Westbrook: renowned, accomplished singer-songwriter, known for her vivid lyrics and various projects with long-term partner and collaborator Mike Westbrook, including the most recent: GRANITE. Band leaders such as Rebecca Nash with her originals project ATLAS (supported by Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings) and trumpeter, composer and improviser Laura Jurd with her band Dinosaur are certainly ones to celebrate.

‘I’d been hearing good things about Bristol-based pianist/composer Rebecca Nash for some time and we featured her in Jazzwise just as she was finishing her album Peaceful King with her fantastic Atlas quintet – when the album arrived a few months later I was really impressed with her compositions and the band’s superb performances. The title track is a great example of her work and a band that shows huge promise’.

Mike Flynn, Jazzwise.

Behind these up-and-coming artists are the labels (including Whirlwind and Edition), promoters, clubs and festivals who offer support throughout the region. From this playlist we note Bristol’s Worm Disco Club, Brighton’s New Generation Jazz and Jazz Stroud who create festivals, events and platforms to nurture new talent, support rising bands and collaborations. Based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, this has enabled musicians such as Imogen Dash, Roella Oloro, Alex Howley and Waldo’s Gift to develop, collaborate and create their own musical journeys.

Due to the expanse of jazz that the South has to offer, this is by no means an extensive list. Yet we hope this music inspires and excites you as much as it does for us. Don’t forget to listen to the playlist here, and do get in touch to let us know what you think.

If you like an artist check out their websites – if you can purchase a full album or other merchandise this would be a great support on International Jazz Day 2020 during these challenging times when live performance is restricted, directly effecting artists’ income.

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