REVIEW: Nérija EP launch at Foyles (2016 EFG LJF)

Guitarist Shirley Tetteh at Nérija’s concert at Foyles
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved

(Foyles, 17th November 2016. EFG London Jazz Festival; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

I’ll put my cards on the table – I was absolutely blown away by Nérija’s gig to launch their 5-track EP at Foyles top floor auditorium.

This young, all women, seven-piece have so much going for them. Tremendous compositions, superb arrangements and top class musicianship and, maybe above all, a harmonious ethos.

Nérija (pronounced ‘Ne-ree-ya’) is very much about harmony, and with the band arranged in a circle surrounded by the audience in-the-round at Foyles their lush sound, laced with sprinklings of never-stand-still, breezy funk, and their sheer enjoyment at playing together gelled to create what can only be termed a great vibe – and a sense of astonishment at their quality, cohesion and originality.

Born out of Tomorrow’s Warriors they were, says Warrior’s Artistic Director Gary Crosby, ‘the original Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Collective.’ The experience they’ve already amassed in these early days of their careers has also led to fruitful collaborations in other like-minded groupings.

Kicking off with guitarist Shirley Tetteh’s Pinkham V, they set out their stall, mixing intelligence and flair with changes of pace and intensity. Their individual talents were introduced in generous, sympathetically integrated solos – with Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet) and Cassie Kinoshi (alto sax) getting off their marks first, demonstrating a maturity, range and sensitivity which carried through to each member of the ensemble.

The rich brass section of Maurice-Grey, Kinoshi, trombonist Rosie Turton and Nubya Garcia on tenor sax was balanced in disarmingly fresh juxtaposition alongside Tetteh’s guitar and the rhythm section of Inga Eicha’s stand-up bass, roundly amplified to give it that extra bit of punch, and Lizy Exel’s crisp, pin-sharp, percussive drive.

Tetteh’s guitar was something of an invisible fulcrum for the whole band – understatedly running the rhythms in the background, delivering the lightest of rippling runs in the foreground, and staking out the song structures with the rare gift of working with silences to build up the tension – and letting loose the meanest of slinky funk lines just when it mattered!

Nérija’s modulated, soulful sound was given full rein on Garcia’s For You, Kinoshi’s Redamancy and Turton’s The Fisherman and they delivered the township groove of Eichler’s Valleys with such authority they’d give Loose Tubes a run for their money any day!

It was a joyous, moving performance and their spirit is no better described than in their own words: “It is the search for individual strength in the face of external expectations, a strength that shows itself not in competitiveness, desire for approval, or to prove that women can play well, but in the ability to discover and remain who we are, being honest with ourselves and others when to do so is incredibly hard.”


Trumpet – Sheila Maurice-Grey
Alto Saxophone – Cassie Kinoshi
Tenor Saxophone -Nubya Garcia
Trombone -| Rosie Turton
Guitar – Shirley Tetteh
Bass – Inga Eichler
Drums – Lizy Exell

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