As I hinted in last week’s post, jazz is probably one of those genres where musicians may benefit from the extended opportunity to practise and compose that lockdown has afforded. In other genres you might get away with a few rough edges, and in others it’s even desirable, but lack of technique and emotional power is too easily exposed in the ensemble playing of jazz and that can only come through hard practice. Even so, the lack of opportunities to come together to develop tunes and to play for an audience hurts jazz musicians as much as any other.
One of the graduates of UK jazz’s Tomorrow’s Warriors is saxophonist Nubya Garcia (a jazz name if ever heard one!) and here she is on her lockdown piece, the evocatively and appropriately named ‘Together Is A Beautiful Place To Be’:
Released back in August, this is a soft and gentle tune, with cymbals of percussion wafting over you like the sound of the sea. Heard in November, it’s also the remembrance of summer spent somewhere warm, sun on your back, sand on your feet, ice creams and cold drinks in a shady spot providing an evening’s promise in the golden glow of the early evening. Over a couple of choruses, Nubya’s soulful but commanding tenor delivers the main melody wrapped up in a sound that is both contemporary and entirely classical and which makes it feel like she’s been around for decades.
Some 18,267 plays on YouTube delivers Nubya and her band the grand sum of a maximum of $12.60 – little more than one cocktail plus a few straws in this sort of setting. I’m sure she’d appreciate a few more coppers in the bucket and, if you like the tune well enough to provide a bit more in the way of support, it’s from Nubya’s debut album called Source, released also in August, which can be picked up from her bandcamp – though you’d better be quick as the vinyl’s all gone and there’s literally only a handful of CDs left.
Stepping up the pace a little for my second pick this week is The Tibbs, whose second studio album Another Shot Fired came out on Record Kicks on 20 November. The band, play it raw and gritty in a ‘garage soul’ style, featuring strong rhythm, a tight sound and a brass section so fat and fresh it glistens, and is straight out of not Memphis but Amsterdam. Yep – another retro style updated and made contemporary with a stunning production from Paul Willemson (who’s also worked with Michelle David and the Soul Sessions) and mastered in Nashville by Bob Olhsson, a former Motown engineer. I’ve gone here not for the lead single ‘Damaged Heart’ (on the video for which you can see the band in action and having fun and working hard in the studio), but for the title track, with a hard drivin’ reggae sound, skankin’ guitar, Roxanne’s luxurious delivery of her own words and ohhh that brass section:
It ends far too soon but, before that, it’s 3 minutes (and 12 seconds) of sweat-soaked, body-shakin’, foot-stompin’ glory. There’s no video for this – at least not yet – and it’s clear that the number of plays on this platform aren’t yet going to trouble the YouTube finance department or the Dutch tax people. The Tibbs would, otherwise, no doubt be delighted to accommodate you on their bandcamp where, once again, you’d better be sharp off the mark.
A bonus third track this week fails to make one of the regular choices as it wasn’t recorded or released during lockdown but Blas Festival has been running the past ten days offering a programme of events including workshops, ceilidhs and other events. Tonight’s festival closer was actually recorded a few weeks ago, but Uist’s own Beinn Lee will deliver a ceilidh of traditional numbers and self-penned tunes combining verve and vigour with Gàidhlig spirit and emotion. 2020 was promising great things for Beinn Lee, including new music, but that’s all had to be put aside, at least for now. However, here’s the band on 2019’s ‘Anam Saor’ (‘Free Spirit’):
If you’re tempted by tonight’s St. Andrew’s ceilidh – and remembering that buying tickets for events is also a great way to support musicians during lockdown – you can pick up tickets for the full event for the princely sum of £8 (other pricing points available). Starts at 8; don’t miss it!