One to watch: Nubya Garcia

This rising young star of the London jazz scene is blazing a trail for the sax sisterhood

If scenes are supposed to thrive only on SoundCloud nowadays, then no one’s been checking the pulse of London’s free-spirited young jazz stable lately. Over the past few years, a network of forward-thinking musicians has assembled to foster a varied sound that belongs on sweaty dancefloors instead of expensive dinner clubs. Like jazzers Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra before them, they start supergroups, collaborate and cross-pollinate influences from the African and Caribbean diaspora, such as Afrobeat and neo-soul, with an energy that is refreshing to taste but impossible to bottle.

Many of its players appear on the new compilation We Out Here, masterminded by scene linchpin Shabaka Hutchings for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. And a standout is Camden-born tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia, whose compositions glow with Afro-futurist touches, chill Baduizm and self-assurance. Garcia is also one of the few twentysomething women breaking through as a sax-wielder. “I still get asked all the time if I’m the singer, as if I’m not valued as an instrumentalist,” she has said.

She plays in a few collectives, but her solo work is already collectible (the first pressing of last year’s Nubya’s 5ive EP reportedly sold out on vinyl in one day). Garcia’s track for We Out Here, Once, is further proof of her effortlessness: she has Solange-like poise, before letting rip. Forget beardy noodling: Garcia sees improvisation as “a beautiful form of expression – especially if words aren’t your thing”, and is drawn to the spiritual side of jazz, where playing feels like “sheer transformation”. Watch out for her in 2018: she doesn’t sing but she soars.

We Out Here is out on Brownswood


Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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