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 Niles Petter Molvaer and Bugge Wesseltoft. Over time, other influences were introduced to the Nu Jazz sound.

For a time, the jangly ambient guitar sound of post-rock was a big influence on Nu Jazz, but that may be fading 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 Zuehl artists and a long history of European art rock.

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. If all of this sounds complicated, a simple way to see much of Nu Jazz is as a merger between modern jazz and ambient music. One more element of the Nu Jazz style that is a little harder to explain is its insider ‘hipster’ stance. Jazz has often been a music that is appealing for those who ‘get it‘, and a mystery to those who don’t. Be-bop and Cool Jazz are good examples of styles that spoke a certain hipster language that was lost on outsiders. Nu Jazz continues that tradition in that people who dig Nu Jazz will recognize it when they hear it, but those outside of the culture will not.

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

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 5 min. caching

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4.94 | 7 ratings
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nu jazz Music Reviews

HAPPY 55 A Magic Word / Волшебное слово

Album · 2014 · Nu Jazz
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siLLy puPPy
HAPPY 55 is an interesting musical act from the southern industrial city of Voronezh, Russia which personally i have never heard of before but appears to be in close proximity to the Eastern Ukraine. While sometimes cited as a duo consisting of pianist, composer and main band member Iaroslav Brisov and percussionist Aleksandr Bitiutskikh, they added a third member Gennadiy Chuhlov to handle clarinet and additional synths. It sounds to me that there is some bass guitar at times but no credits are given so i assume perhaps it was synthesized instead of incorporating a real musician. HAPPY 55 has been garnering attention in their native land as being highly original and sounding like no other musical entity. And indeed i have to say that i can attest to that sentiment.

This music is almost impossible to classify as it covers a lot of territory but for progressive rock lovers it falls into the Rock In Opposition camp as it has that familiar avant-garde feel of the more energetic bands in that world but is firmly rooted in the classical and jazz worlds as well. This is an all instrumental album with lots of emphasis on piano, synthesizers and clarinet interactions with different passages through different moods and sonic textures. Sometimes you get the feel of Philip Glass, sometimes it treads into post-bop territory all with a Rachmaninoff concerto romanticism wending its way throughout the beautiful melodic progressions that twist and turn into new ones that keep a steady stream flowing while still being firmly rooted in the avant-garde. Generally speaking the piano maintains the melodic classical meets jazz feel while the clarinet covers the Rock In Opposition. There are just too many classical and jazz influences to even begin to mention as this stuff changes it up frequently.

While this could be considered rock in some circles there are no guitars to be heard, scarce bass and the drumming style is clearly straddling both jazz and RIO fields. This is pretty complex music as far as both melody and rhythms go and it is ever changing, ranging from the mellowest pastoral passages to extremely energetic outbursts that do bring a rock feel to the table. This is truly music that is outside of the box of orthodoxies in any rock, classical or jazz contexts. The fact that they have somehow qualified to be within the parameters of all these genres is a testament to the high quality and devotion put into every detail. Not only is the music amazingly complex but the production is first rate as well. This sounds like a spiffy modern day recording in the most professional manner.

This was actually quite surprising to hear as i wasn’t seeking anything of this sort to fulfill any musical yearnings. I love music that takes you somewhere somewhat familiar on different levels but throws all the rules out the window and totally surprises you. Well, HAPPY 55 has done just that. While true i would love to hear this music more developed with more instruments and encompassing larger thematic possibilities there is no doubt that this particular album as it is has a lot to digest without being totally alienating upon first listen. While the virtuosic musicianship is top notch, it really boils down to the outstanding song constructions and mood building dynamics that make this such a primo listen. I truly look forward to hearing more from HAPPY 55 in the future. And yes i agree with others that the album cover is quite lame but don’t let that interfere with letting yourself hear some amazingly performed music.

ALEX HUTTON Magna Carta Suite

Album · 2015 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
More than ten years ago a friend of mine said "Best English jazz comes from what is known as Canterbury scene". At that time we got stuck already for two or three days in foggy Gt.Yarmouth waiting for gleams of brighter sky letting chopper pilots to take the plunge of making the flight over grey fall's North Sea. All hopeless. Empty pebbled streets and ancient fame inheriting buildings in combination with quay's countless glass halls overfilled with neon-glossy plastic of game machines,all washed by English endless petite rain looked as excellent scenery for hours of meaningless conversations. So I didn't pay much attention to his phrase, but much later I remembered it again and again.

For fans of Japanese jazz it is a well known subject how many hot discussions was held around authenticity of that music. Because of historical/political reasons it started forming very late, in fact in early 70s only, and even having some successful examples still remains half-opened question. English jazz has much longer and much more successful history, but still speaking about its originality there are three main streams in modern jazz and fusion that could be counted as uniquely English (at least for us, non-British jazz fans): firstly, quirky (often close to self-parody) free-form improvisational music,led by Derek Bailey, second, tuneful and often just beautiful rock-jazz from late 60s-early 70s known as Canterbury scene, and finally, the recent London acid jazz. Of all three, it's the Canterbury scene which really deeply rooted in English tradition (even if since as rule this music was played by rock musicians,using some jazz techniques and arrangements, for some listeners it probably couldn't be classified as jazz at all).

Pianist Alex Hutton,leading the trio with Russian born bassist Yuri Golubev and the Israeli born drummer Asaf Sirkis,is one among most interesting English jazz musicians playing what could be tagged as nu jazz - organic mix of rock songs structures and simplicity, jazz techniques and improvisation plus touch of European chamber tradition.His previous album “Legentis” was good example of music that fits perfect to hipster bars. When three years after he returned with “Magna Carta Suite”, an album tagged as and looking like one of these neo-progressive rock releases,I was surprised a lot. Press release contains an informative and quite detailed information about inspirations,coming from past,history and time.

Still after first minutes of listening my concerns about possible music changes have gone. Despite the fact that Alex trio is improved with Liz Palmer(Baroque flute)and Liesbeth Allart(Cor anglias) on some songs, it is still very same his tasteful and stylish nu jazz, with some baroque taste this time. Excellent rhythm section supply lot of groove and as a result the listener has no doubt if the music he listens is jazz. Alex compositions are well packed,mostly English folk rooted and from outside they often sound as you're listening to saloon jazz band, trying to play their own rock songs. Combination of jazzy techniques,rockish rhythms and structures and English folk melodies (with some baroque elements constantly presented) makes this music something that could be without big risk called "true English jazz", or modern days Canterbury scene(even if it is actually the opposite formula to genuine Canterbury progressive rock).

Two last album's (who lasts only 39 minutes,the length more usual for vinyl age) compositions are obviously most controversial ones - added Neil Sparks mostly recitative voice,reading his own "Magna Carta Suite - Xerox Sonnets & X-Ray Blues" sounds as two real progressive rock pieces, having nothing to do with jazz. It looks such ending disturbed many reviewers coming from a jazz point of view, for me it sounds as very natural part of cross-genre musical work.

Stylish, accessible and original album, one you will listen more than once for sure.

IZABELLA EFFENBERG Cuéntame

Album · 2015 · Nu Jazz
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lucas
Izabella Effenberg comes from Poland. She lives in Germany. The title of her very first album is in Spanish. A few lyrics are in English and Hebrew. Which leads to the conclusion that a strong multi-cultural scent perfumes her life and her musical world. The lady plays vibraphone, an instrument that was brought to the fore in jazz by Lionel Hampton, and in rock by Ruth Underwood. The plain fact that Izabella is the first Polish woman to make a professional use of the instrument reminds us how rare it is in music in general. On 'Cuéntame', the Polish vibraphonist is backed by a team of skilled German musicians, and this first effort is the opportunity for her to highlight her talent not only as an interpreter, but also as a composer.

The musical world unfolds in a quite versatile way actually In fact, joyfulness (embodied by sunny and rhythmic numbers) alternates with melancholy (when the brooding incantations of Israeli vocalist Efrat Alony are set to a reflective accompaniment). Where the "Fuga" and "Nocturne 2" present the flamboyance of pieces of Baroque era, especially in the solemn notes escaping from vibraphone and saxophone, it's rather a wind of humour that blows on the other "happy" tunes. First, with "El Vaive Del Verdes" and "Raton Chacha", drums gallop down a sloppy road, while the two saxophones play amused notes without paying much attention to each other (they tried to discipline themselves on the groovy opening track, but it didn't last long!). Then, when the closing piece "III. Teil Three Pictures" comes, drums are all excited, like a dog seeing his master back home after a long day spent alone. On the other hand, and quite conversely, a haunting atmosphere envelops "Crescent Moon" and "Cuéntame", when the slow and mournful wind instruments (clarinet and saxophone respectively) move like in a funeral march, while the plaintive voices share their fears and pains. On "Like A Child", it's the drumming that evokes the funeral march, Izabella contributing this time also to the sad ambiance by rubbing a bow on the pads of her vibraphone. All along the album, the Polish musician stays moderate in her use of vibraphone, far from the exoticism of Dave Samuels, yet close to the syncopation of Bobby Hutcherson. Another rarely heard instrument, the chromatic harp, lends its delicate and pondering touches to the elegant musical canvas. It sounds in turn like an introspective spanish guitar ("Like A Child") and a shining kora ("El Vaive Del Verdes").

All in all, 'Cuéntame' is a pleasant collection of jazz-oriented pieces, where colours are in turn vivid and faded, yet always brilliantly laid out on the pictures. Let's hope that it's the beginning of a great career for the very first female vibraphonist coming out of Poland.

This review is also available on Prog Sphere webpage: http://www.prog-sphere.com/reviews/izabella-effenberg-cuentame/

MYSTERIES OF THE REVOLUTION Mysteries Of The Revolution

Album · 2008 · Nu Jazz
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progshine
Mysteries Of The Revolution is a trio from England that plays a mix of Instrumental Jazz Rock with touchs of Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion here and there. The trio is formed by BB Davis (drums, flutes, percussion and vocals), Dan Biro (keyboards and percussion) and Mark Smith (bass). Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008 by Blue Serene Focus and according to the band they're now in studio recording their second album.

To be honest with you I was expecting some Jazz Fusion nonsense with loads of free improvised music and not much direction to it. What a mistake!

Mysteries Of The Revolution (2008) is an album that pretty much follows the Symphonic Prog patch in many moments (like in the fantastic 'The Crunch') but with a Jazz Rock feeling to it like in bands as Weather Report or Passport. More Jazz Rock/Prog moments can also be heard in 'Romantica'. We have some more pure Jazz moments in 'Storius Sensorius' and in the bass moment of 'Nico' where Mark Smith shines with amazing lines.

There's some small moments on the record and I do think that 64 minutes is way too much for an album like this but the overall feeling that stays after listening to Mysteries Of The Revolution (2008) is that we have a great album with a fantastic production and musicianship and loads of great vintage sounding instruments.

This is an album that you can easily listen with a smile on your face. A must have for Jazz Rock lovers!

PORTICO QUARTET Knee-Deep in the North Sea

Album · 2007 · Nu Jazz
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dreadpirateroberts
'Knee-Deep in the North Sea' is a great nu-jazz debut and might well introduce the 'hang' to some listeners, a percussive instrument that sounds like a highly dynamic steel drum.

Portico Quartet play a relaxed and at times brooding 'nu-jazz' led by Jack Wyllie's sax, which has a mostly melodic function rather than dissonant one.

At times the songs grow quite sombre, especially on a piece like the title track, which sounds a little like a precursor to ideas which will be revisited on 'Clipper' from the band's second album.

There are more frantic moments throughout, where the rhythm section really get to thump along for a bit, but these moments are used sparingly, such as during the latter parts of 'Zavodovski Island.'

I really enjoy this album, though their follow-up 'Isla' is my pick from the Portico discography.

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