Nu Jazz

Jazz music community with reviews, MP3 (free download/stream) and forums

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 were 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

ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO Live in Hamburg Album Cover Live in Hamburg
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO
4.94 | 7 ratings
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ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO Seven Days of Falling Album Cover Seven Days of Falling
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO
4.61 | 14 ratings
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JAGA JAZZIST One-Armed Bandit Album Cover One-Armed Bandit
JAGA JAZZIST
4.44 | 20 ratings
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JAGA JAZZIST A Livingroom Hush Album Cover A Livingroom Hush
JAGA JAZZIST
4.38 | 18 ratings
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: Moving Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: Moving
BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.67 | 3 ratings
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: FiLM iNG Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: FiLM iNG
BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.67 | 3 ratings
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NIK BARTSCH Llyria Album Cover Llyria
NIK BARTSCH
4.43 | 7 ratings
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DAVID TORN Clouds About Mercury Album Cover Clouds About Mercury
DAVID TORN
4.38 | 6 ratings
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NIK BARTSCH Holon Album Cover Holon
NIK BARTSCH
4.40 | 5 ratings
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DAVID TORN Polytown Album Cover Polytown
DAVID TORN
4.40 | 5 ratings
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THE BAD PLUS Suspicious Activity? Album Cover Suspicious Activity?
THE BAD PLUS
4.50 | 3 ratings
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MAGIC MALIK ORCHESTRA 69-96 Album Cover 69-96
MAGIC MALIK ORCHESTRA
5.00 | 1 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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nu jazz Music Reviews

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.

BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE Black Earth

Album · 2002 · Nu Jazz
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siLLy puPPy
The sounds of this dark and ambient album make me think of a soundtrack for the very, very deep ocean where no light shines and if you happened to go there in one of those specialized submarines all you would see is extremely specialized creatures like humpback anglerfish, lantern sharks, giant tube worms, fangtooth fishes or deep sea squids which lurk around in the abyss and where the water pressure is so high our puny little human forms would be crushed.

This soundtrack contains strange, eerie and spooky minimalist ambience with saxophone solos that creep up out of the shadows to shed a little light on the darkened sonicscape. The spirits aren't restless but they are on vicodins and slowly ooze out of the ethers to take your mind to a new realm where everything is slowed down and marches on in a rythmic echoed path. Once you feel like you want to doze off choirs of haunting synths develop or a sax solo erupts from the nether world. If you're looking for something dynamic this is not the deep sea dive for you. This music is slow and pulsates like those glow-in-the-dark jellyfish that lurk in the darkness and sting you with their venomous sonic tentacles.

BRAD MEHLDAU Largo

Album · 2002 · Nu Jazz
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js
Possibly one of the most original voices in jazz since the 90s, Brad Mehldau made a big impact with his series of post bop/contemporary piano trio recordings that revealed his unique conversation-like soloing style that can grab your attention and string your mind along following some odd twists and turns like an off-the-wall comedian who keeps firing off flow-of-conscious mutterings under his breath long after the punch line has passed. After spending the 90s releasing enough acoustic trio albums to establish a strong reputation, Mehldau decided to throw everyone a curve in 2002 with the release of “Largo”, on which Brad’s piano is given electronic and mechanical treatments and joined by a variety of electric and acoustic instruments to create some off the wall nu jazz style jam sessions interlaced with a few spacey trip-hop numbers. Brad also plays the vibes on a couple cuts too.

Album opener, “When it Rains”, is one of the best on the album as it starts with a laid back trip-hop groove supporting a very 60s Beatles type psychedelic chord progression on which Brad plays a lazy melody that beautifully stretches the concept of ‘playing behind the beat’ to its almost breaking point. This original song is a sort of preview for the two Beatles’ covers that exist elsewhere on the album. “Dear Prudence” is excellent and follows a formula similar to the album opener, and “Mother Nature’s Son” is great as a neo-exotica number played on the vibes and backed by a driving drumnbass beat.

Elsewhere on “Largo” you get a lot of tracks that sound like experimental jams very much in the style of Medeski, Martin and Wood. Some of these tracks are better than others, but after a while too many jam tracks stuck together can get a little tedious. This probably isn’t the best CD for someone looking for an introduction to Brad’s music, certainly his trio recordings provide much stronger piano playing, but for the fan looking for a totally different side to his music, there are some nice cuts on here. Fans of modern instrumental bands that combine jam band electronica with neo-exotica sounds will find some nice things on here too.

SNARKY PUPPY GroundUP

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
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js
Like a lot of modern jazz bands, it isn’t easy to stick a genre tag on Snarky Puppy. At first listen to their latest album, “groundUP”, its easy to notice their blend of trip-hop cool with an orchestrated 60s retro-lounge sound that places them with today’s European nu jazz scene, but then other times they can get fairly heated along the lines of contemporary stateside jazz funksters like Lettuce and Soulive. Although regional musical stereotypes don’t always hold true, possibly the Pups can be seen as the “American” version of the nu jazz sound with a stateside tendency towards the bright and bold. On the plus side, this energetic approach can recall classic horn driven funky fusion groups like the Brecker Brothers, Billy Cobham and Tower of Power, but the more glib side can sound like a late night talk show house band keeping the audience awake during a commercial break.

Most of the music on here is more or less of a groove type nature with the Pups skillfully blending hip-hop, African pop, contemporary RnB, funk-jazz and other related rhythms. They top this with a sophisticated jazzy orchestra sound spiced with cool retro analog synthesizers and lots of quality solos from the horns, keys etc. No doubt Puppy is one of those rare jazz ensembles that has learned how to entertain folks outside the realm of jazz fandom and have no problem packing the dance floor at clubs and festivals all around the world. “GroundUP” may not be the most serious jazz recording, but it’s the quality of the arrangements and the solos that raise Snarky Puppy above the pack of groove-jazz wannabes.

DAWN OF MIDI Dysnomia

Album · 2013 · Nu Jazz
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js
After years and years of listening to a wide variety of music, sometimes you feel like you’ve heard it all, until something like Dawn of Midi’s “Dysnomia” comes along. This is probably the most unique record to come out so far this year, and also one of the most enjoyable. Usually Dawn of Midi is a modern jazz piano trio with avant-garde and nu jazz leanings, but on “Dysomia”, they put their jazz improvisations aside and perfectly create the sound of a long ambient techno track while using only their chosen acoustic instruments; piano, double bass and drums.

To a lot of jazz fans, the word “techno” probably conjures up images of pulsing dance music that is short on subtleties and big on bludgeoning volume, but like any other musical genre, there is a wide variety in the world of techno music. Some of the most interesting and artistic techno comes from the sub-genres of Detroit techno and ambient techno. In these styles, the available electronics are used to create complex layered poly-rhythms that have more in common with African music or minimalist composers than an all-keyboard 80s new wave band with bad haircuts. Its within this fascinating world of Detroit influenced ambient techno that Dawn of Midi have chosen to make this new CD.

Its truly impressive how these guys use their acoustic instruments to create a minimalist techno effect, and they do it without any cheezy gimmicks. The other impressive fact about “Dysnomia” is that it is entirely through composed and then played live. Although the CD cover lists eight different tracks, they all play straight through without any break and are all connected. The amount of concentration and discipline at work here is incredible. Most of this CD is about rhythm, minimalist figures are introduced which then slowly morph and change while new motifs are introduced, the overall effect is somewhat similar to Steve Reich’s classic “Music for 18 Musicians”.

Overall “Dysnomia” may be a better fit for modern techno fans than jazz fans, I played this for a friend who is into ambient electronica and he not only thought it was an excellent track, but was also surprised it was played live with acoustic instruments. Aside from techno and minimalist fans, anyone interested in something truly new and modern may want to check this out too. One big plus about this album is the musician's skills with precise complicated poly-rhythms, Aakaash Israni, Amino Belyamani and Qasim Naqvi can easily play patterns that are both tricky to pull off and fascinating to listen to. The other big plus on “Dysnomia” is that this is an excellent composition played with clock like precision and framed with perfect icy cool production. I really can’t say enough good things about this CD, its a very impressive and original work.

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