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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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: FiLM iNG Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: FiLM iNG
BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.82 | 5 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY We Like It Here Album Cover We Like It Here
SNARKY PUPPY
4.75 | 4 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Holon Album Cover Holon
NIK BÄRTSCH
4.62 | 12 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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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: Moving Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: Moving
BUGGE WESSELTOFT
4.57 | 6 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY Tell Your Friends Album Cover Tell Your Friends
SNARKY PUPPY
4.67 | 3 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
4.57 | 5 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Llyria Album Cover Llyria
NIK BÄRTSCH
4.41 | 11 ratings
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PHRONESIS We Are All Album Cover We Are All
PHRONESIS
4.46 | 5 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.)
4.50 | 3 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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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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snobb
One-and-half decades after the album's original release, it is easy to say that "Knee-Deep In The North Sea" is one among genre-defining albums of English nu-jazz in the first decade of the new Millennium. Young quartet's debut album combines airiness and lightness of the genre's classic Nordic nu jazz from late 90s, adding more tunes and some meat to songs, making them sounding more British. More important - even on the English burgeoning nu jazz scene of the time, Portico Quartet were a stand-alone figure, mostly because of their use of "hangs"(or Caribbean-style tin-pans) and their music strongly influenced by renown minimalists.

Fate would have me hear Portico before the release of their debut, just a warm sunny day playing right in the Downtown square. It's catchy melodies and characteristic tin-pan sound was what attracted a lot of people to stay near and listen to their music with smiles on their faces. After repeated listens to their recordings, one can find that there are lot of influences from around the world, including from China to South Europe, and some free improvisation as well. Still, this debut album sounds quite accessible, and in the time of it's release was positively received much wider than only in jazz lover's circles. The 2011 reissue added three live tracks and offered a remixed sound.

A decade later, specific Portico early music's sound influenced all of the new generation of electronic sound adopted by nu jazzers, with their love for repetitive minimalist songs. Portico themselves, after a few releases in a similar style switched towards a more electronic sound with only partial success and nowadays still trying to find a new ground working as "two-members quartet". Their debut album however most probably will stay in history as one of most influential English early nu jazz releases.

KING KRULE The Ooz

Album · 2017 · Nu Jazz
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AshtrayHeart
Man what a moody album, there's this depressive feeling the album gives yet it's so...cool? Feels like I am being swallowed alive by the grimy, sludgy streets of a depressed big city. This album has elements of jazz, trip hop, post rock and psychedelia and man this album is a journey, I love the intense emotions on Slush Puppy and the samba influenced Dum Surfer and the trip hop of Biscuit Town, there's so many genres at play here yet they all fit in here, nothing feels out of place. There's low moody saxophones there's jazzy hip hop beats and punk rock bass lines and coming together to make this unique mood. And while this is a very unique sounding album there's moments here that sound like a jazzy version of SLINT's SPIDERLAND. With 19 tracks you can't go wrong with how big this album is, sure it may be a dit hard to keep up with but this album deserves multiple listens

AETHER Aether

Album · 2023 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
"Aether" is this Italian quartet's self-titled debut album. The band themselves state that their influences are King Crimson, ambient music and Nordic guitar jazz. Heavily based on synth/Rhodes sound, for my ears they sound more closer to mid-late 70s English prog band Camel. After the 70s, Camel lost the brilliant songwriting of their earlier music and switched towards a more synth-based sound.

Aether takes from Nordic guitar jazz its ambient sound, but leaves aside strong folkish component and icy cool aesthetics. The album's sound is warm and soft, almost polished and resonates pretty well with Italian prog bands of the 70s. Some added rockish guitar soloing doesn't generate a lot of fire and obviously is more of a decorative origin. On the more rock-like pieces, like "Pressure", "Moving Away" or "Crimson Fondant", Aether sounds like one of the many bands from the mid-late 70s.

Invoking some strong elements from a few different musical scenes, the band does inherit some known problems coming from the past as well. The lack of memorable compositions combined with a very comfortable sound can be a problem for some listeners coming from a rock background. Ambient elements, extracted from Nordic jazz don't work all that well separated from strong regional aesthetics and jazz improvisation as well as partially different techniques.

Impressive debut, taking more risks and searching for more expression of one's own face possibly will be an improvement.

BRANDEE YOUNGER Brand New Life

Album · 2023 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
There are not many known harpists in jazz - bop-rooted Dorothy Ashby in the 60s, strongly spiritual jazz-influenced Alice Coltrane in the 70s and ECM fans will probably know Finnish Iro Haarla as well. Classically trained New-Yorikan Brandee Younger is the new jazz harp star.

Just released, Brandee's seventh studio album, "Brand New Life" is a true gem. She plays five Dorothy Ashby compositions and two originals, along with other songs. With participation of 9th Wonder and Pete Rock on Drum Programming and r'n'b singer Meshell Ndegeocello, one might expect that this album contains danceable rhythms based in r'n'b, but this expectation would be a wrong one.

Brandee leads a post-bop rooted band playing contemporary melodic music, sort of a hip pop jazz with r'n'b, hip-hop and classic elements. The opener, Ashby's "You're A Girl For One Man Only" represents Brandee's harp contemporary sound at its best. The title track is a velvety dreamy r'n'b with Mumu Fresh vocals. Pete Rock's electronic beats-based "Livin' and Lovin' in My Own Way" is a romantic hip-hop piece, Michel Legrand's evergreen "The Windmills of Your Mind" sounds more modern with 9th Wonder added beats, but it still builds the absolutely realistic atmosphere of the French classic movie. And yes - Dorothy Ashby's "Dust" sounds here as sophisticated reggae! Only the closer - Steve Wonder's "If It’s Magic" sounds probably a bit bland.

Produced by modern jazz wizard drummer Makaya McCraven (who plays on the album as well), "Brand New Life" is an excellent stylish contemporary music release, just shhh! - don't tell them it's jazz.

MAKAYA MCCRAVEN In These Times

Album · 2022 · Nu Jazz
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Mssr_Renard
I already knew that Makaya is a gifted drummer and composer from his previous albums, but this album really blows me away.

Makaya and his band play a perfect mix of light fusion, post-bop, nu jazz with flourishes of instrumental hip-hop and spiritual jazz.

Makaya is a versatile drummer playing beats that sound like hip-hop beats but he knows his way around swinging bop-drumming aswell.

On the musical side every composition is constructed like classical music or popmusic. There are solos but not much improvisation.

Somehow the music reminds me a bit of music from the nineties, when LTJ Bukem and 4Hero explored the realms of acoustic music. The stringsection wich is used often in the songs also have a nostalgic feel.

In all this is a very modern and uptodate sounding album, with influences from seventies fusion upto nineties hiphop, acid jazz and modern-day nujazz. A real treat to people how really enjoy these subgenres.

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