Album Review: Various Artists – We Out Here [Brownswood Recordings; February 2018]

Colours rise from dark contours as a London jazz renaissance takes form. Feeling both early and late, We Out Here captures the tones of this evolving shape. 

Tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings directs the way, bringing together a collection of his most in-demand friends on the new-jazz scene. Familiar names such as Hutchings, Ezra Collective and Moses Boyd blend their nu-soul, Afrobeat and hip-hop influenced jazz with the music of bandleaders such as Joe Armon-Jones (keys), Nubya Garcia (tenor saxophone/flute) and Theon Cross (tuba). The album is comprised of genre-unbound compositions and exhibits the free-thinking improvisational style shared by the ensemble.

Collaboration is ultimately the foundation of this album and makes up the group ethos.  Independently the musicians are each finding success, but unified are bringing traction and speed to an unstoppable force of change. 

One of the stand-out tracks is Hutchings’ ‘Black Skin, Black Masks’, which wears his trademark sound. Mesmerising and affecting repeated melodies dance against foreboding bass and shifting rhythm. His song shares tales of warning learned from history. The two clarinets paint a vista of a known past whilst locked together in forward motion.

Nubya Garcia’s ‘Once’ offers a previously tightly wound release of energy. Synoptic saxophone lines give way to explosive instrumentals and take you on a high. The track draws on both depth and consciousness, enticing you into their world and staying up close throughout. 

TriForce are the newest fresh-faced band on the album. Their track ‘Walls’ starts with a resonating epic journey hyped by guitar before switching into a slow G-funk groove. Full of energy and ideas, the band are unwilling to conform to a single style even within the space of one tune.

Every composition on this album is startling and impactful. Brownswood Recordings have successfully snapshotted a provocative moment in time. It would be hard to be critical of an album where each song has so rightly earned its place.

We Out Here is adding new shades to a long-lived art form and collecting more followers along the way. The album represents more than just new jazz; it represents a bubbling movement. It asks you become part of an adapting scene. After listening, it would be hard to refuse the invitation.

Actively engaging, live jazz painter Dora Lam captures the visual spirit of the performers during the album launch (happened at Total Refreshment Centre on the 25th and 26th of January).  Green hues arise, inspired by Triforce as they expel their frenetic palpable energy from a darkened stage.