Trans-Atlantic Team-Up: Chicago X London Champs In Holy Alliance At Capital's Jazz Fest

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Much has been written about the jazz scene that has emerged in London of late – its host of young talents who are collectively pushing the music in fresh directions, drawing from the old masters while breaking new ground. While London in 2018 is certainly a true hub for jazz innovation, this Chicago X London show in Hackney’s EartH arts centre provided a neat reminder that musical innovation still exists, and indeed thrives, elsewhere. 

Hopping across the Atlantic for a run of shows in Europe: Makaya McCraven and his band. McCraven refers to himself as a “beat scientist”. It’s a moniker that does justice to the clinical accuracy of his playing and the forensic fashion in which his Universal Beings album was produced. However, it fails to do justice to the artistic fluidity with which McCraven produces beats in a live setting. He shifts from intricate hi-hat play to powerful cymbal crashes with ease, pulling off complex grooves with a seemingly neverending wellspring of creativity.

The rest of his band isn’t half bad either, each member an evidently accomplished and inventive player. Together, they excel at pieces which build up intense moods, often then breaking down into a more straightahead, funky feel. Junius Paul on bass also proves more than capable as an occasional vocalist.

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But as a joint-headliner show, this was all about celebrating musical creativity on both sides of the pond, and some of the brightest lights of the London scene were also present and on form. There was Nubya Garcia, playing with her usual intensity and feeling, backed by Daniel Casimir on bass, Benji Appiah on drums and Charlie Stacey on a keys set-up that sounded positively haunted in all the best ways.

An extended jam session brought all the artists back out, playing together into the early hours. As if to spoil the already sated crowd, some special guests emerged, including Jaimie Branch (Chicago) on trumpet and Shirley Tetteh (London) on guitar. The only small blight on the night was an issue with sound levels early on which rendered the notes of one bass solo effectively indistinguishable. Otherwise, this was a triumphant night that bore testimony to the strength and depth of jazz-based music being produced in varied music scenes in 2018. The future looks bright.

James Rybacki
Photos by Jim Aindow

 

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