In Review: Nubya Garcia - SOURCE
In a scene that is, in part, characterised by its levels of collaboration and cross-pollination, Nubya Garcia still manages to stand out as a seemingly ever-present figure in the very best that the exciting new generation of UK jazz musicians has to offer. Prior to this, Garcia’s stunning debut album, her credits read like a Who’s Who of the scene’s heaviest hitters, appearing on projects with Ezra Collective, Moses Boyd, Joe-Armon Jones, Sons of Kemet, Theon Cross, Shabaka Hutchings, Blue Lab Beats, and her own bands Maisha and Néjira.
As such, this ‘solo’ debut doesn’t feel like an introduction to her talents, but rather an opportunity for Garcia to step into a limelight that is (ostensibly) all her own. That said, the album remains one steeped in the collaborative spirit of not just the London scene, but of the musical traditions of which she is a part.
Put simply the music is, at its heart, jazz. Garcia is a phenomenally accomplished saxophonist and the free-form structure of many of the tracks allows her to explore the full range of her ability with the regard to her playing, composition, and improvisation. But like so many of contemporaries, she draws from an array of global musical influences, with the record taking in rhythms and traditional styles that variously traverse Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
The title track, for example, is an engrossing 12-minute epic, underpinned by an unmistakable dub influence: the deep bass-line, staccato keys, and percussion echoes laying the bed upon which Garcia (and keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones) can embark on exploratory solos, elevated by the vocal harmonies of KOKOROKO members Ms MAURICE, Cassie Kinoshi, and Richie Seivwright. On ‘La Cumbia Me Está Llamando’, Garcia enlists the help of Colombian multi-instrumentalists and vocalists La Perla to capture the distinctive rhythm and percussive instrumentation that characterise the traditional Colombian musical style of its title. Even when less overt than on these tracks, Afrobeat, neo-soul, gospel and various elements of trad, smooth and cosmic jazz intertwine seamlessly across the record, as dynamics shift and tender, soulful sounds make way for dramatic crescendos and flashes of frantic musicality.
To say that this album is uniquely ‘London’ would probably be overstating it, but the fact remains that its a project born from a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural environment that allows for cross- pollination and a shared, yet still uniquely personal, experience of being part of the global African- Caribbean diaspora.
As well as being a deliberate and masterfully executed exploration of her ancestral heritage – through her Guyanese and Trinidadian mother and father respectively, and beyond – the album also serves as a captivating snapshot of who Nubya Garcia is both as an individual and a musician, and where she sits among the hugely exciting scene that she continues to play such a significant role in shaping and defining.
SOURCE is out now via Concord Jazz.