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: 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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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: Moving Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: Moving
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4.81 | 4 ratings
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BEN MONDER Amorphae Album Cover Amorphae
BEN MONDER
5.00 | 2 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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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)
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4.62 | 4 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Llyria Album Cover Llyria
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nu jazz Music Reviews

LINDA MAY HAN OH Initial Here

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
There have never been many female bass players in jazz. Malaysia-born (parents were Chinese immigrants) and Australia-raised, Linda Oh is with no doubt among the leading.

After studies in the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (her thesis was on the classical Indian music rhythms in Dave Holland's solos), she moved to New York in 2008 where she completed her master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music and released her first album as leader all that same year.

Linda very soon became a part of New York creative jazz scene, playing and recording with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, sax player Jon Irabagon and pianist Vijay Iyer among many others. In 2011 she became a member of the Dave Douglas Quintet, and a year later, Linda released her second album as leader, "Initial Here", on Douglas' Greenleaf label.

Of the album's ten songs, all but two are Oh originals. Her compositional talent is really impressive - the opener "Ultimate Persona" recalls Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra's Spanish revolutionary hymns-influenced songs and stays in your head for a long. "No. 1 Hit" is a beautiful mix of baroque and very playful Latin, with exceptional elegance, all - very groovy and danceful.

"Thicker Than Water" is a Chinese folk influenced song with another rising star, vocalist Jen Shyu singing in Mandarin and English. Of two non-originals, one is a brave and really successful take on classics, combining Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky on one song ("Something's Coming/Les Cinq Doigts").

The other is Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday", a piece of rare beauty here. The closer "Deeper Than Sad" is a piano-led memorable ballad with impressive sax soloing.

The band is really impressive - from Linda's regular collaborator of the time, Cuban pianist Fabian Almazan, to capable drummer Rudy Royston and tenor Dayna Stephens (who sounds here somehow less traditional than on his solo albums).

Linda's bass is a separate story though - it sounds warm, physical, but not too heavy and dominating, more as dancing over the tunes. Perfectly recorded, the music with no doubt sounds as a bassist album, but there is plenty of space for each band member's soloing. Dense sound is surprisingly aerial, worm and soft and full of playfulness.

This album of perfect tunes, variable, well played music and positive atmosphere, once started you will return back to it most probably more often than once or twice.

BILL LAURANCE Live at Ronnie Scott's

Live album · 2020 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
Better known as member of American jazz super-group Snarky Puppy, English pianist and composer Bill Laurance collaborates with some other renown artists and leads own bands as well. His trio (with British bassist Jonathan Harvey and Lithuanian drummer Marijus Aleksa) just released their live album, recorded a year and half ago in legendary London's Ronnie Scott's club.

Full-bodied, well composed and perfectly played acoustic nu jazz, in a key of early Phronesis, is a perfect example of best British music of the genre. No use of electronics, sound effects or studio technology. Each song has own face and appeal,delicate applause in a club adds warm atmosphere to almost studio-like recording.

Continuing the decades long tradition of acoustic piano-bass-drums jazz trios, Bill Laurance trio on this release builds a solid bridge from twenty's century to the first decade of the New Millennium. Best acoustic nu jazz looking from today becomes part of jazz history as well. Laurance's "Live At Ronnie Scott's" is a valuable illustration to the British page of it.

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.

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