Nu Jazz

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Nu jazz grew out of the combined influences of Jon Hassel’s Kiranic trumpet playing and ‘fourth world’ rhythms, Miles Davis’ soft tone and use of ambience on “In a Silent Way”, and the early 90s intersection of jazz and electronica, particularly trip-hop, dub and down-tempo. Some early Nu Jazz artists include Nils Petter Molvaer and Bugge Wesseltoft. Over time, other influences were introduced to the Nu Jazz sound.

For a time, the jangling ambient guitar sound of post-rock was a big influence on Nu Jazz, but that has mostly faded now. Meanwhile, bands like Jagga Jazzist and Snarky Puppy have re-discovered the lush orchestrations of sophisticated easy listening and exotica arrangers such as Henry Mancini and Les Baxter. Yet another influence, one that has emerged from the sound of the popular Portico Quartet and others, is the use of repeating minimalist phrases. This use of short repeating melodic phrases not only comes from minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, but also from Zeuhl artists and a long history of European art rock. An influence from ambient music is also part of the Nu Jazz genre, this can be found in the early music of Nils Petter Molvaer, as well as others. Nick Bartsch is a popular Nu Jazz artist who often combines the repeating figures of minimalism with a dub reggae style ambiance.

All of the above mentioned influences may appear on a Nu Jazz album, but not necessarily all. As Nu Jazz continues to develop, the most constant factors tend be a relaxed 'cool' approach, an influence from modern electronica and an appreciation for ironic kitsch and retro sounds. Some early precedents for Nu Jazz can found in the Terry Riley influenced ambient sections on Soft Machine's IIIrd album, Brian Eno's use of Brand X's funk/fusion backing tracks in building his late 70s ambient art rock albums, and Miles Davis' lengthy "He Loved Him Madly" from his "Get Up With It" album.

Although there are musical differences between Nu Jazz and Contemporary Jazz, from a pop-culture standpoint, the more obvious difference between the two is Nu Jazz’s self-aware ’hipster’ stance, compared to Contemporary Jazz’s more emotionally earnest approach.

nu jazz top albums

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ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.) Live in Hamburg Album Cover Live in Hamburg
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.)
4.94 | 8 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY
5.00 | 3 ratings
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.82 | 5 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY
5.00 | 2 ratings
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ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.) Live in London Album Cover Live in London
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.)
5.00 | 2 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Holon Album Cover Holon
NIK BÄRTSCH
4.62 | 11 ratings
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JAGA JAZZIST Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia Album Cover Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia
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4.86 | 2 ratings
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4.57 | 6 ratings
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4.57 | 5 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Llyria Album Cover Llyria
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4.40 | 10 ratings
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4.43 | 4 ratings
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JAGA JAZZIST A Livingroom Hush Album Cover A Livingroom Hush
JAGA JAZZIST
4.32 | 23 ratings
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nu jazz Music Reviews

BINKER & MOSES Feeding The Machine

Album · 2022 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
"Feeding The Machine" is the fifth album from London's sax/drums duo, Binker & Moses. They started in singer Zara McFerlane's support band, both duo members built an extremely successful career on the burgeoning London new jazz scene of the time, as a duo and collaborators as well. They are probably the best representatives of the movement's leftfield, combining minimalist orchestration with complex techniques and spiritual jazz of the late 60s tradition.

"Feeding The Machine" in realty is recorded by a trio, not duo. The addition of bassist Max Luthert (who played with Sara McFarlane as well) is really significant for the album's sound and common atmosphere. Luthert plays here actually not bass, but modular synth and operates live electronic loops as well. His sound, being always a bit on the back, builds very unique tasteful aerial atmosphere behind the mid-tempo knotty Boyd's drumming and flying free over the birdcalls-like Golding soloing saxes.

This album recalls for me very much the cult work of another times - "Beyond Recall", a masterpiece of sorts, released in 1991 by one of Berlin's electronica school geniuses, Klaus Schulze (who died just a few weeks ago). Huge orange sun of the last sunshine moments over the sea waters and two ducks small silhouettes, very graphical, with the sun behind them. Probably, one of the very last really impressive Berlin electronica school releases, it was mature, almost sounded tired, with a touch of melancholia, but in general very calm. True, it was a pure electronic one.

"Feeding The Machine" sounds very much as a "Beyond Recall" of Generation Z, or music for fans who were born when "Beyond Recall" had been released, or after. So, "Feeding The Machine" sounds more "organic" (or acoustic + analog), slightly less emotional and a bit more energetic, but still that feel of maturity and light melancholy combination is quite similar. Each generation has their own music, which usually changes from explosive creative bravura at the early stage to more well balanced, calculated and matured (at least according to optimistic scenario) moving towards the end of the cycle. London's "new" jazz isn't all that young anymore. It gave to the musical world a lot, partially returning streetwise youth culture in Europe to jazz as a fresh and creative music. This music is still really popular, but another new thing is already probably not too far. "Feeding The Machine" is still no way a swan song of the musical sub-culture, but very possible it's one of its mature monuments.

SUSANA SANTOS SILVA Devil´s Dress

Album · 2011 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
Portuguese trumpeter, Susana Santos Silva, is one of today's leading European jazz female trumpeters (ok, there aren't many around). She is based in Stockholm and collaborates with many creative artists from Northern Europe, regularly releasing quite experimental albums as leader as well.

"Devil's Dress" is her debut, released eleven years ago. From a decade's distance, it's interesting to hear where it all started. Containing solely her original compositions, "Devil's Dress" sometimes sounds a bit raw and directionless, but on the strong side, one can find there are a lot of unusual combinations of acoustic strings and popular at the time simplified rock song aesthetics against complex "compositions", and all the time Silva's trumpet, breaking the rules and trying to fly free. Predominantly mid-tempo, often meditative, the music here isn't easy listening as it probably looks from the first impression. Silva's trumpet sounds warm, but easily producing dissonant sounds as well, there is not even a single composition where she avoids playing free at least for a few moments. This music is hardly a classifiable genre which hardly helps it to find a wider attention. For listeners who know Silva from her later works, and who like them, "Devil's Dress" is probably interesting as historical evidence about "where all that started".

STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar 2 Remixes

Album · 2021 · Nu Jazz
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js
“Fractal Guitar 2 Remixes” is the third installment in Stephan Thelan’s ongoing fractal guitar series, and as you can tell from the title, these are re-mixes of some of the tracks from the second album. The re-mixes have altered the originals so much, its hardly worth comparing them to the previous album, instead, its best to look at this re-mix album as an album that stands on its own with only a passing relationship to “Fractal Guitar 2”. Once again, Thelan presents groove oriented music in a electronica flavored nu jazz format, with plenty of all-star guitar heroes on hand to add soaring psychedelic solos and funky rhythm riffs. Some well known re-mixers are on hand too, including Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble. Overall though, this time around the emphasis is a little less on the guitar solos, and a little more on the creative arrangements of the re-mixers.

“Point of Inflection” is given three different remixes, with David Torrn’s version featuring hyper drumnbass rhythms and snarling processed guitar solos. The Stephan Thelan version is heavy in an almost industrial rock vibe, while the Laswell version is the most ambitious on the album with its multi-sectioned suite like arrangement and big cinematic sound. Bill has mastered the art of making his bass sound bigger than an orchestra. Elsewhere on this album, Jah Wobble’s mix on “Ladder to the Stars” features African styled interlocking guitar figures and Stephan Thelan’s Celestial Navigation has a hypnotic three beat groove topped with Frippian e-bow guitar solos. Barry Cleveland’s “Mercury Transit” features some very funky Alphonso Johnson styled bass work from Michael Manring, plus more e-bow guitar solos from Thelan.

This album is beautifully recorded and produced and features plenty of kaleidoscope electronic textures and soundscapes. “Fractal Guitar Remixes 2” is highly recommended for fans of artists like Terje Rypdal, Ozric Tentacles and Steve Hillage.

STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar 2

Album · 2021 · Nu Jazz
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js
“Fractal Guitar 2” is the second installment in Stephan Thelan’s ongoing fractal guitar series and it bears a lot of similarity to the first album, although you can also hear some improvement as Stephan and his returning all-star cast of electronic guitar heroes refine and develop their approach to modern day spatial guitar explorations. The emphasis on “2” is a little more focused on rhythm and mood, but you still get a good share of fret board fireworks from Stephan, David Torn, Jon Durant, Markus Reuter, Henry Kaiser and others. I don’t know how directly Stephan may have been influenced by contemporary African music on this one, but the carefully interlocking guitar patterns and poly rhythms bear strong similarities to today’s African fusion. Despite a healthy dose of great solos here and there, the real pleasure in “2” are those chiming guitar riffs that mix together and create kaleidoscope textures floating in a very welcome outer space.

The best tracks are the first four which seamlessly flow together as just one long song. The final two tracks are still good, but “Celestial Navigation” has a stop-start ¾ time feel that doesn’t flow as well as the previous tracks, and closer, “Point of Inflection” has a slightly different production that leans a bit in a rockish direction, although the song’s fade to ambiance does make for a good album closer. These are minor complaints and are only included so that this evaluation does not come across as too glib. Overall, “Fractal Guitar 2” is an excellent choice for fans of cosmic guitar and ambient groove music along the lines of Bill Laswell, Steve Hillage, Ozric Tentacles, Terje Rypdal, and Miles’ mid 70s band with Pete Cosey on guitar.

BLAZIN' QUARTET Sleeping Beauty

Album · 2021 · Nu Jazz
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js
There is certainly a lot of great new jazz coming from NYC, London and LA these days, but you may also want to check out some more unexpected sources such as the Balkans, where drummer/keyboardist Srdjan Ivanovic pulls a lot of his inspiration for his ongoing ensemble, Blazin Quartet. Srdjan describes his Balkan influence as being a place where the East meets the West and then is expressed through the freedom of jazz. His latest CD, “Sleeping Beauty”, bears these Balkan melodic influences as well as a cool European atmosphere brought to the project from the various other band members who hail from Greece, Italy and France. This CD bears some similarities to some of the best work from the ECM catalog. Srdjan’s abstract approach to the drums may remind some of Paul Motian, while Federico Casagrande’s relaxed guitar work sometimes recalls what John Abercrombie often brought to the label. Trumpater Andreas Polyogopoulos, bassist Mihail Ivanov and guest flautist Magic Malik (on some tracks) round out the rest of the band.

The “Intro” takes on a Silent Way vibe and is accompanied by the sound of the morning birds outside the band’s country recording studio. This track sets a perfect vibe for the rest of this album which relies on sensitive group interplay rather than jazz solo grandstanding. The different musicians on here do take solos here and there, but usually against a conversational background that breaks down clichés and expectations. Some of the best tracks, such as “Guchi” and “Rues de Balkans” get somewhat heated as the entire band solos freely while being careful not to step on each other’s toes. Srdjan claims that ‘Melody is king’, and backs that claim by taking on two classic Ennio Morricone melodies, “The Man with the Harmonica” and “A L’Aube Du Cinquieme Jour”. Both of which are given Blazin Quartet’s unique and personal treatment.

The album ends with the sound of the night birds outside their studio and thereby closes the circle of this musical journey. “Sleeping Beauty” lives up to its title, there is much to be found here, but you may need to listen closely to catch it, this is subtle music, sensitive in a way, but hardly devoid of motion and energy.

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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Albums with 30 ratings and more
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