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
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4.82 | 5 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY We Like It Here Album Cover We Like It Here
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4.75 | 4 ratings
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NIK BÄRTSCH Holon Album Cover Holon
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4.62 | 12 ratings
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JAGA JAZZIST Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia Album Cover Jaga Jazzist Live with Britten Sinfonia
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4.86 | 2 ratings
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BUGGE WESSELTOFT New Conception of Jazz: Moving Album Cover New Conception of Jazz: Moving
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4.57 | 6 ratings
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SNARKY PUPPY Tell Your Friends Album Cover Tell Your Friends
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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)
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NIK BÄRTSCH Llyria Album Cover Llyria
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ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.) Live in London Album Cover Live in London
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JAGA JAZZIST A Livingroom Hush Album Cover A Livingroom Hush
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nu jazz Music Reviews

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.

STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar 3

Album · 2022 · Nu Jazz
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js
“Fractal Guitar 3” is of course Stephan Thelan’s third installment in his fractal guitar series. The overall sound of ‘3’ is similar to the first two, but there are changes as well. Whereas early Fractal installments leaned heavily on extended guitar solos, on 3 the emphasis now is more on composition and arrangement. There are still plenty of hot guitarists on hand here, but the solos are shorter and are used to add meaning to the arrangements. Whether these arrangements were pre-composed or created on a computer program after the fact would not make any difference to what our ears are hearing. If this music was playing in the background you might would only notice a cool groove topped with interesting guitars and electronics, but give the music a closer listen and you will hear how each track tends to morph and grow as it goes along. There is a sort of overall similarity to every track, making the whole album flow like one tone poem, but once again, extra attention reveals the individual nature of each song. The main thing each track holds in common is layered poly-rhythms that can recall music from Africa and Indonesia, as well as minimalist composers such as Steve Reich or Terry Riley.

Track 1 has the most guitar solos and also features a bubbling synth sequencer going through the sort of filter modulation that is essential to a good rave jam. 2 is one of the quieter tracks and drops the rhythm towards the end for some floating ambience. 3 uses a lot of drop breaks and has some insistent double time electronic interjections. On 4 we get layered sustained guitars as a sort of choir and some string parts taken from a string quartet that Thelan wrote. 5 ends with a long ambient break as if the album is ready to fade into the ether, but wait, there’s more. The final track is a bonus re-mix of track 1 with more focus on Elvind Aarset’s guitar parts.

The guitar work on here is outstanding, if you like the long sustained tones of Robert Fripp, Steve Vai, Phil Manzenera or Terje Rypdal then you will enjoy all the textures the Fractal crew conjures up, but probably the best feature on this album is the production. The sound of this album is near perfect within the digital electronic niche in which it resides. Every little riff, echo, guitar melody or keyboard interjection is arranged perfectly.

JON HASSELL The Living City (Live at the Winter Garden 17 September 1989)

Boxset / Compilation · 2023 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
Very first weeks of a new year bring us an exceptional release. Two grand artists of electronic music of the 80s - American conceptualist trumpeter/keyboardist, Jon Hassell and Brit early ambient key figure, Brian Eno meet on a perfectly recorded in 1989 live album! Both artists already collaborated on the well-known "Fourth World" album, released in 1980, which gave the name for Hassell's future musical style of eclectic crossover combining electronics, jazz improvisation and non-Western rhythms.

The album's material contains a 68-minute Jon Hassell's group live performance from World Financial Center Winter Garden in New York City, recorded in September 1989 (just few months before exactly same group recorded "City: Works Of Fiction" studio album). Eno had designed an audio-visual installation in the 10-story glass-vaulted pavilion, inspired by the hunting, ceremony, animals, and weather sounds of the Ba-Ya-Ka pygmy tribe from Cameroon gathered by Louis Sarno, and mixed the band playing live with multimedia installation sonics.

This recorded material hadn't been released until 2014, when it got serious studio remixing/reworking. Still it's first release as bonus material with "City: Works Of Fiction (Expanded Edition)" reissue passed almost unnoticed. In February 2023 it comes as separate vinyl album, and it's a great chance to find a new listener.

The music presented on "The Living City" from the very first minutes recalls Miles fusion albums from mid-70s. The main difference is Miles long pieces are mostly based on improvisation, Hassell's music is more structured and organized, and sounds like a composition against Miles jamming. Hassell's prepared trumpet sounds very much as analog keyboards, and heavy studio wizardry gives to the whole music a less organic, but more contemporary sound. On some pieces Daniel Scwartz plays physical groovy funky bass, which adds a lot of life to the mix, and perfectly balances quite emotionless by it's nature electronic sounds.

Recorded during a live gig, this music sounds more alive, and more inspired then Hassell's renown studio works. Well recorded, it represents perfectly the missing link between Miles Davis mid-70s fusion and Nils Petter Molvær nu jazz from mid-90s. Highly recommended.

BINKER & MOSES Feeding The Machine

Album · 2022 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
"Feeding The Machine" is the fifth album from London's sax/drums duo, Binker & Moses. They started in singer Zara McFerlane's support band, both duo members built an extremely successful career on the burgeoning London new jazz scene of the time, as a duo and collaborators as well. They are probably the best representatives of the movement's leftfield, combining minimalist orchestration with complex techniques and spiritual jazz of the late 60s tradition.

"Feeding The Machine" in realty is recorded by a trio, not duo. The addition of bassist Max Luthert (who played with Sara McFarlane as well) is really significant for the album's sound and common atmosphere. Luthert plays here actually not bass, but modular synth and operates live electronic loops as well. His sound, being always a bit on the back, builds very unique tasteful aerial atmosphere behind the mid-tempo knotty Boyd's drumming and flying free over the birdcalls-like Golding soloing saxes.

This album recalls for me very much the cult work of another times - "Beyond Recall", a masterpiece of sorts, released in 1991 by one of Berlin's electronica school geniuses, Klaus Schulze (who died just a few weeks ago). Huge orange sun of the last sunshine moments over the sea waters and two ducks small silhouettes, very graphical, with the sun behind them. Probably, one of the very last really impressive Berlin electronica school releases, it was mature, almost sounded tired, with a touch of melancholia, but in general very calm. True, it was a pure electronic one.

"Feeding The Machine" sounds very much as a "Beyond Recall" of Generation Z, or music for fans who were born when "Beyond Recall" had been released, or after. So, "Feeding The Machine" sounds more "organic" (or acoustic + analog), slightly less emotional and a bit more energetic, but still that feel of maturity and light melancholy combination is quite similar. Each generation has their own music, which usually changes from explosive creative bravura at the early stage to more well balanced, calculated and matured (at least according to optimistic scenario) moving towards the end of the cycle. London's "new" jazz isn't all that young anymore. It gave to the musical world a lot, partially returning streetwise youth culture in Europe to jazz as a fresh and creative music. This music is still really popular, but another new thing is already probably not too far. "Feeding The Machine" is still no way a swan song of the musical sub-culture, but very possible it's one of its mature monuments.

SUSANA SANTOS SILVA Devil´s Dress

Album · 2011 · Nu Jazz
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snobb
Portuguese trumpeter, Susana Santos Silva, is one of today's leading European jazz female trumpeters (ok, there aren't many around). She is based in Stockholm and collaborates with many creative artists from Northern Europe, regularly releasing quite experimental albums as leader as well.

"Devil's Dress" is her debut, released eleven years ago. From a decade's distance, it's interesting to hear where it all started. Containing solely her original compositions, "Devil's Dress" sometimes sounds a bit raw and directionless, but on the strong side, one can find there are a lot of unusual combinations of acoustic strings and popular at the time simplified rock song aesthetics against complex "compositions", and all the time Silva's trumpet, breaking the rules and trying to fly free. Predominantly mid-tempo, often meditative, the music here isn't easy listening as it probably looks from the first impression. Silva's trumpet sounds warm, but easily producing dissonant sounds as well, there is not even a single composition where she avoids playing free at least for a few moments. This music is hardly a classifiable genre which hardly helps it to find a wider attention. For listeners who know Silva from her later works, and who like them, "Devil's Dress" is probably interesting as historical evidence about "where all that started".

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