Jazz hasn’t been this danceable since the Jazz age in the 1920s-30s. With the resurgence of popularity among the young due to streaming (Sarah Marsh, Guardian, 2019), it looks as though we are heading for a new one. Jazzre:freshed is an organisation which, through festivals, workshops, weekly residencies, record label and more, imparts the music and the culture to the younger generation. The tiny boy seen on his own, boldly facing the stage and strutting his stuff on the Dome dancefloor was certainly testament to that.
Tommorrows Warriors champions the development of young musicians, including a programme designed for female musicians and those on low income who have barriers to the music world. They share the same ethos as Jazzre:freshed and many of the musicians on the new scene are Tommorrows Warriors alumni. Traditionally a male dominated genre, it was great to see that four out of the seven performances at this day festival were led by females.
Saxophonist, who studied with sax great Jean Toussaint (think Art Blakey) and works with Tommorrows Warriors, Camilla George, was one of them. Award winning bassist, Daniel Casimir was part of the ensemble. Her new album, ‘The People Could Fly’, is based on a book of African folk tales of the same name which are steeped in slavery. She played ‘How Nehemiah Got Free’ from the album which exemplified this theme. Other songs included African wildlife and I found I was, indeed, a fan of animal-based jazz.
As there were seven acts, each set was between 30-40 minutes long. It was nice to get a taste of each of these underexposed but highly deserving musicians and should you be wanting more, cds were sold in the lobby.
Jazzre:freshed have their own record label and Seed Ensemble, who played last year, have recently been nominated for the Hyundai Mercury Prize for their album ‘Driftglass’. Jazzre:freshed aim to get a nomination for their musicians each year. This new generation of musicians grew up with musical influences such as hip hop, grime, broken beat and more and their creativity incorporates these as well as bringing unusual instruments to the fore by bandleaders.
One such bandleader was trombonist Rosie Turton whose quintet includes violinist Johanna Burnheart. They played a hip hop interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Butterfly’. She also joined Sarah Tandy, a pianist, once a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year who swapped her classical roots for jazz. They played ‘Nursery Rhymes’ from her new album ‘Infection in the Sentence’ as she said trumpeter, Mark Kavuma, would go home and cry if they didn’t. It was certainly a melancholy bit of trumpet but the smile and little dance afterwards showed that he was much happier for playing it.
Werkha, who insisted we put the ‘h’ in the right place, utilised electronic devices for some live knob twiddling and heavy sub bass before strapping on a bass guitar for some live looping. He was joined by impressive keyboardist Fergus McCreadie and drummer Graham Costello all the way from Glasgow to play a new release out in September 2019. He is signed to Brighton-based label Tru Thoughts.
Jazzre:freshed also showcase more veteran artists like Kevin Haynes Grupo Elegua formed in 1994. Afro-Cuban and native Nigerian Yoruba rhythms on bata drums pulsed throughout. Sometimes these were combined with bass, keys and Kevin, a figure swathed in white, whose frenetic sax scaled the heights of ‘Passengers of the Fifth Dimension’ and ‘Permaculture Reality’. His obvious connection to nature inspired him to dedicate a song to Brighton sea-front. Four voices in call and response sang to the spirit of the sea.
It took 7 years for Jazz re:freshed to get MOBO and Jazz fm award winning Zara Mcfarlane on stage. But how lucky we were to have one of Britain’s leading jazz vocalists to teach us the ‘dip and wind’ dance move. She deployed it with finesse while others didn’t fare so well. The last time I saw so many people squatting and wriggling was at a campsite. The versatile singer’s Jamaican heritage shone through in reggae songs ‘Feed the Spirit’ and ‘Freedom Chain’ (off her fantastic new album ‘Arise’). ‘Allies and Enemies’ off the same album had a more jazzy feel and some hi-tech backing vocals arranged by herself and recorded onto a pad which was hit in various places by the drummer.
Perhaps the most unusual instrument to come to the fore was the tuba used in the most distinctive and creative ways by bandleader Theon Cross. It takes determination to dance around carrying something half as big as yourself. If that made a statement, the musical statements were bigger. I bought the album, ‘FYAH’, to see if I could believe my ears. I could. He gave us an energised performance of ‘Activate’ from the album, blasting deep bassy phrases. I was hoping it wouldn’t make me deploy the ‘dip and wind’ for reasons I saw at the campsite..