EP Review \\ Nubya Garcia – Nubya’s 5ive
In the UK we have a saying, one that’s particularly favoured by busy Londoners; “three buses come at once”. For those of you less adept with British proverbs, it explains the idea of waiting for something, to then have several of them arrive at the same time. Rather than buses, something far more specific arrived in London; young talented instrumentalists, who are holding the rule book on jazz by choice, not obligation. The remarkable thing however, is that they can grasp the book in one hand, instrument in the other, as they dance to the beat of a genre that has most likely existed for a fraction of the time that jazz has. Marching down that same procession – humbly and unabashedly – comes Nubya Garcia.
The 25 year old saxophonist has just revealed her debut release, Nubya’s 5ive, on the Jazz re:freshed label. You may have heard of her already; she’s one seventh of Nérija, a multi-influenced instrumental group, and a member of rising Afro-Spiritual outfit Maisha. Garcia’s a serial collaborator too, playing regularly in the projects of tuba player Theon Cross, drummer Moses Boyd and vocalist Poppy Ajudha; she’s stitched into the fabric of London’s cross-pollinated jazz scene. What Garcia’s debut solo release establishes isn’t her talent as a composer – it’s her style; in a scene that’s drawing heavy influences from grime, jungle and broken beat (nods to Yussef Kamaal and Moses Boyd Exodus), Garcia’s pretty much taken things back to basics. A lot of contemporary jazz releases take tradition so far that they’re glorified cover albums that lack a sense of date or relevance. With Nubya’s 5ive, however, Garcia embraces older trad influences and presents them with relevance.
Nubya’s 5ive’s strongest elements are in common with many great jazz records; accessible melodies, varying textures and a few surprises; three of the tracks feature two drummers (Femi Koleoso and aforementioned Boyd), and pianist Joe Armon-Jones tinkles the ivories way higher than what they’re used to on Fly Free. A head’s up from us: we predict that Armon-Jones will be making international impressions when he drops his debut release later this year. On Hold (Alternative Take), there’s a tropical, gyrating lilt. Cross, on tuba, also takes us higher up the register than what we’re used to hearing. Every song is rising. In some moments you’ll only want to dance.
Nubya Garcia clearly isn’t concerned with trying to rewrite any jazz rule book. Nubya’s 5ive is a bona fide release, unconcerned with following the trends that her London circle have set. This EP marks her arrival alongside a parade of equally talented musicians, who together are gaining recognition at live shows everywhere from New York to Singapore. What it proves, is that a trendy, talented 25 year old woman can unapologetically release a jazz EP without any kind of angle. Garcia has connections with London’s genre-bending jazz scene, and Garcia’s own tastes in music have clearly been nourished by it (catch her DJ sets for a better idea). But Nubya’s 5ive is a jazz record. And it’s a really, really good one.
JS | Tina Edwards