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 | 7 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY We Like It Here Album Cover We Like It Here
SNARKY PUPPY
5.00 | 3 ratings
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: Moving Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: Moving
BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.92 | 3 ratings
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: FiLM iNG Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: FiLM iNG
BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.92 | 3 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Holon Album Cover Holon
NIK BÄRTSCH
4.72 | 9 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY Tell Your Friends Album Cover Tell Your Friends
SNARKY PUPPY
5.00 | 2 ratings
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BEN MONDER Amorphae Album Cover Amorphae
BEN MONDER
5.00 | 2 ratings
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JAGA JAZZIST Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia Album Cover Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia
JAGA JAZZIST
4.86 | 2 ratings
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NIECHĘĆ Śmierć w miękkim futerku (Death In A Soft Fur Coat) Album Cover Śmierć w miękkim futerku (Death In A Soft Fur Coat)
NIECHĘĆ
4.62 | 4 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Llyria Album Cover Llyria
NIK BÄRTSCH
4.50 | 9 ratings
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BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE Sunset Mission Album Cover Sunset Mission
BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE
4.75 | 2 ratings
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ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.) Tuesday Wonderland Album Cover Tuesday Wonderland
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.)
4.32 | 13 ratings
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nu jazz Music Reviews

PORTICO QUARTET Memory Streams

Album · 2019 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
Brits Portico Quartet always had very special place on British nu jazz scene since they arrived more than a decade ago. Among very firsts in a genre their sound was closer to Brian Eno ambient than melodic chamber jazz/songs-oriented soft fusion of their scene's colleagues. But even more important - their ambient-jazz was very organic thanks to the use of exotic "hang"(form of steel-pan) instead of modern electronics of more club-oriented bands.

They received an early fame and some decline, changes in line-up and hardly successful flirting with vocal-based pop. With "Memory Streams" they return back to basis and it's their true return to form of sort.

Oppositely to their very early releases, band's fans wouldn't find an unexpected sound and very new music in general; on Portico's new album they play mostly everything they already played before. But they do it well.

Very melodic well executed "organic" ambient jazz,very accessible and often balancing on the dangerous edge with "elevators music" but fortunately never crossing the border. Not really a listening for one's brain but simply beautiful music for many's heart.

Band's traveling Europe with new program these days so don't miss your chance to see them playing live.

THE COMET IS COMING The Afterlife

EP · 2019 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
Just half a year after the release of their second full-size album "Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery", Londoners The Comet Is Coming come with new half an hour EP "The Afterlife". As other Shabaka Hutchings' musical projects, "The Comet..." is in a forefront of burgeoning English jazz scene, so there is not all that strange the trio releases their next work same year. "The Afterlife" contains outtakes from same sessions which made "Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery" and surprisingly enough, this newest release sounds even partially stronger for my ears.

The opener,"All That Matters Is the Moments", is a true bomb and contains Joshua Idehen narration (he is already known to Shabaka's fans from previous "Comet's..." releases and from the other Hutchings' project - Sons Of Kemet as well). Comparing with the album, released earlier this year, music on this EP is not so heavy,less aggressive, a bit more spacey with lot of analog electronic effects, relaxed in moments and is closer to spiritual jazz than fusion of previous work.

Shabaka's sax plays impressively remember-able tunes, framed with loops and twists from synths and repetitive minimalist drumming,recalling Sun Ra and Germans Can at the same time.

There is more soul in "The Afterlife", less brutal power and quite often whole music sounds closer to "Comet's..." another album, "Death To The Planet", than to closer related "Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery". The trio is touring Europe now, I expect they should sound impressive when playing live. Not all songs are equally strong though, in moments it feels that it's an outcuts album, but it is a strong outcuts album anyway.

One of the best what modern London's jazz scene offers.

ALFA MIST Structuralism

Album · 2019 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
For some last years London's burgeoning jazz scene often associates with rebellious street-wise Afrobeat, Caribbean rhythms, electronics and hip-hop influenced fusion. Still not every artist there sounds such way.

Self-taught pianist,composer and producer Alfa Mist just released his second album which obviously being a part of about mentioned movement covers quite different areas. Proclaimed by artist as "battles with self and the societal pressures" product in real life "Structuralism" contains comfortable lite fusion recalling American smooth jazz.

There are lot of strings on some songs, two female guest vocalists, beautifully-melancholic sax soloing and modern slick production, plus hip-hop elements, but resulting music is all but rebellion. In fact, almost any composition fits quite well for use as soundtrack to Sunday morning Travel TV broadcast.

Still, few dramatic moments save the album of being openly boring so it could be recommended for those trying to escape from disturbing reality to comfortable (and sterile) pinkish-greenish lounge.

STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar

Album · 2018 · Nu Jazz
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js
The MoonJune label has earned a reputation as a leader in international jazz fusion, but they also maintain several artists who work in experimental and psychedelic rock, albeit often with a modern fusion influence as well. Stephan Thelan is such an artist, and has been working somewhat under the radar for several decades releasing solo ambient albums, modern compositions and groove oriented psychedelic group efforts. His latest album, “Fractal Guitar”, is one such group oriented album that features a rotating cast of guitarists and drummers who composed and jammed with Stephan over the last three years. Stephan then picked out the best tracks from several recording sessions. On the surface, “Fractal Guitars” has that space rock meets trip hop groove we might associate with artists such as Ozric Tentacles or Bill Laswell, but this album is more than just jam sessions. Moments of composition help offset tedium and Stephan and his crew often build complex interlocking rhythms that would normally be beyond the grasp of your average ‘jam band’.

Stephan wanted to invite some of his favorite guitarists to participate on this CD, and there are too many to list, but some of the better known include David Torn, Henry Kaiser and Markus Reuter. All of the cosmic guitar solos on here are excellent, and no one gets too carried away. Fortunately this is not a guitar solo slugfest, instead, much of “Fractal” consists of those aforementioned interlocking rhythms riding on top of polyrhythmic odd-metered dub and drumnbass influenced drum patterns. When it comes to this kind of sound oriented music, production is so important and the production on here is outstanding and very much in line with some of Bill Laswell’s best work.

If you enjoy artists such as Pete Cosey, Terje Rypdal, early 70s Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage and Nicky Skopelitis, then you know what to expect here, plenty of electronically enhanced fret fireworks reaching for the infinite beyond mixed with hypnotic ritual rhythm riffs.

WAYNE HORVITZ The Snowghost Sessions

Album · 2018 · Nu Jazz
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Matt
In 2015 Wayne Horvitz headed out to Montana to record this album at Snowghost studios, hence the title “The Snowghost Sessions”. Comprising a trio with Wayne on piano as well providing keyboards and electronics, Geoff Harper who had previously appeared with Wayne on his 2014 release “At The Reception” on Contrabass and Eric Eagle who also had appeared with Wayne on “At The Reception” as well the 2015 release which was a tribute to the writer Richard Hugo “Some Places Are Forever Afternoon” is playing drums. Wayne Horvitz states that he had not recorded a Trio album since the eighties and took quite a few tunes and sketches to this session with the majority of the album recorded Live and Wayne providing some overdubs with keyboards. He actually says that he did not set out to make an album but just wanted to try some ideas that he had with amplified and processed piano as the studios at Snowghost are in a class of their own for acoustics with the addition of an already installed Steinway Grand Piano. For these sessions the studio owner Brett Allen is the album’s engineer and co-producer with Wayne.

Fifteen tracks on the album if one counts the bonus with none running over five minutes which keeps things quite fluent with the beautiful “The Pauls” opening being a lovely spaced composition and as with the majority of the album it is down tempo with the following composition “No Blood Relation #1” bringing the electronics into the mix but in a subtle manner with wonderful recurring chords from Wayne on piano with superb support from the bass and drums by just being there in a minimal fashion which is how their support is performed right throughout the majority of the album. There is “No Blood relation #2” being the eighth track and that composition is its own without borrowing from the prior #1. More of that gorgeous piano space and time for “Trish” with many people describing this as contemplative but it sure has that Wayne Horvitz piano tone. “IMB” does bring out the Electronics and would be the album’s most up tempo composition with Eric Eagle having quite a shot on the drum kit within the number.There a quite a few more interesting and beautiful compositions included with the following “Apart From You #1” , “Northampton”, “For James Tenney”, “The Trees”, Yukio and Noa’s Duet” with these four tracks divided by the short piece “Flies On Friday”. All of those compositions having something different to say and some are straight while others have that subtle electronic keyboard effect added. “55 6 (21) Variations” has that organ addition and “55 6 (7) Variations” has a much deeper bass and piano sound bring us to the album’s end with “Apart from You #2” comprising the trio with more of those subtle electronics appearing more to the fore as the composition progresses.

Wonderful and quite different piano based Trio album from Wayne Horvitz and band which requires a few listens to fully appreciate and gets better with every play. Well worth the purchase as Wayne Horvitz albums are.

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