Album Review: Nubiyan Twist – Jungle Run [Strut Records; February 2019]

Jazz has many different guises and, within those guises, a further plethora of textures. It’s one of the traits that sets it apart from other genres, classical music excepted. In the ongoing revival and reinvention of jazz within these shores, there is clearly a surfeit of talent. Nestled in amongst all of this – actually, ensconced – is the audio force that is Nubiyan Twist.

Having met at Leeds College of Music back in 2009, this ensemble is a multi-directional detect, whose sounds defy conventional labelling. Afro-funk is merged into hip-hop, Latin into electro, and jazz into reggae to create an intoxicating cocktail of music that will both make you want to dance, as well as just listen and absorb. Jungle Run, their latest work released by Strut Records, showcases their virtuosity and displays a maturity and breadth of understanding across the genres. Not only is this a wonderful collection of compositions, but it has also totally grasped the necessity for all the aforementioned ingredients, to have balance. It’s like a musical house of cards; from turntablism to spoken word to horn lines, the ratio has to be right.

The album opens with a blast. ‘Tell It To Me Slowly’ leads us in with a healthy dollop of funk, underpinning the consistent jazz sensibilities. Reminiscent of a tune that one may well have expected to appear on an old Acid Jazz-label record, blasting out of the Dingwalls’ sound system some 30 years ago, this is a fine way to kick off the party. And it is a party; a celebration in the truest sense. A celebration of life, of diversity, and what it is to belong. The title track is advocating an internationalist approach to life. With an air of romance about it, ‘Jungle Run’ is very thought-provoking. Give yourself over and live in the moment, and celebrate that moment. “Where you from? I’m from wherever I be.” Chords that strike chords.

From the be-bop-inspired jazz story of ‘Brother’ to the beautiful bossa sound on ‘Borders’, this entire record is just so multi-layered; there’s so much to digest, and something new seems to emerge with each listen. Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke and afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen both lend their considerable talents to further embellish the heavyweight African tones. And yet more texture with ‘Permission’! Along with Nubiya Brandon’s spoken words, “giving all the girls permission to be better than the images you’re given”, the swirling, electro arpeggios give this track a flavour of classic Roots Manuva. Urban jazz poetry.

“Conceptually, Jungle Run is all about connecting different people and cultures, whilst exploring the journey of individuals,” says producer and co-founder, Tom Excell.

Spend time listening to this, and learn more about your own journey.