Although Nu Jazz has existed since the 1990’s, the current wave of Nu Jazz artists is emerging as a firm favourite among teenagers and young adults, particularly across Europe. Starting with musicians such as Finley Quaye -the son of Jazz musician Cab Quaye- the Nu Jazz movement represents a shift in musical taste whilst still honouring and respecting the legacies of the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck. Melodies and rhythms are being adapted and remixed into fresh new music produced by contemporary musicians such as Loyle Carner, Tom Misch and the London-based Nu Jazz band: The Ezra Collective.
Nu Jazz, as it is often named, is a musical genre that incorporates aspects of various genres to create an innovative and refreshing approach to jazz, thus blurring the staunch conceptual lines of musical genre. Reggae beats, rapping and samba-style chord progressions are all present in Nu Jazz and can often be heard and appreciated in new releases.
An abomination? I think not. Jazz puritans may claim that Nu Jazz provides the platform for temporary ‘one-hit wonders’ to corrupt the integrity and beauty of jazz in its original format and splendour. However, the evolutionary nature of the Nu Jazz movement demonstrates that these musicians don’t only recognise their roots in the greats that were contemporary to our grandparents’ teenage years, but also recognise the need for jazz to evolve to maintain its popularity among the youth of today.
What’s more, the opening of new jazz clubs around the country – including Peggy’s Skylight in the Creative Quarter of Nottingham, illustrates the increased presence of jazz in people’s playlists. This means that rather than acting as a detriment to the integrity of jazz, Nu Jazz in fact provides jazz with a new musical platform and audience, expanding the reach and the richness of the genre; a phenomenon that in no way detracts from, and rather reinforces, the musical splendour and the listenability of jazz.
Maintaining the presence of jazz in new music is crucial to keep the genre alive and current, whilst encouraging those who know little, if anything about the genre to delve into its richness. In this way, Nu Jazz acts as a portal for many who simply have no experience with jazz.
While bands such as Koop are more readily associated with jazz in its traditional format, artists such as Le Club des Belugas, Bonobo and the Ezra Collective incorporate the sought-after rhythms of the present day including some Reggae drum beats which are particularly present in the Ezra Collective’s song: ‘Colonial Mentality’. Many Nu Jazz bands utilise this new format to explore political themes, mental health problems and the experience of adolescence; Loyle Carner also runs a charity called ‘Chili Con Carner’ that runs cookery classes for teenagers with ADHD.
The reshaping of conventional jazz into Nu Jazz provides listeners with a fresh perspective on the jazz that many of us admire. In this way, Nu Jazz is a celebration of the jazz that has preceded it and a glimpse of what is yet to come.