REVIEW: We Out Here Album Launch at the Total Refreshment Centre

Kokoroko at the TRC

We Out Here Album Launch
(Total Refreshment Centre, 25-26 January 2018. Review by Leah Williams)

Independent, London-based record label Brownswood Recordings, belonging to new-music champion Gilles Peterson, was founded in 2006 and has prided itself on releasing great new music with no restraints ever since. Its latest endeavour, We Out Here, is “a primer on London’s bright-burning young jazz scene” that acts as “a window into the wide-eyed future of London’s musical underground”.

Featuring nine groups, including instantly-recognisable names like Ezra Collective and Moses Boyd, the line-up is a great representation of some of the biggest names from the capital’s burgeoning underground jazz scene. And if these sold-out shows are anything to go by, then this really is just the beginning of a scene set to explode.

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The We Out Here project as a whole is a showcase of the capital’s creative youth, championing inclusivity, collectiveness and collaboration, which is fully embraced during the two-night launch at east London’s Total Refreshment Centre. Alongside the music, there is film, photography, live painting, DJ sets, food and more. This is a collective of people sharing a love and passion for what they do and who want to celebrate and lift one another.

“The overall show belonged to Nubya Garcia”
Photo : Brownswood Recordings

Both nights opened with a screening of the documentary made specifically for this project, We Out Here: A London Story by filmmaker Fabrice Bourgelle. It is an illuminating and inspiring watch, especially hearing the passion, drive and gratitude from the artists themselves. It also highlights what a close-knit group this is. As Nubya Garcia says at one point, “everyone’s making different music but it’s uplifting to all be in it together”.

Although there is much discussion about what “jazz” is, its different meanings to different people, and a suggestion that “improvisation” is a more suited term to take away any associated labels or preconceptions, it is also rightly pointed out that jazz, throughout the ages, has morphed and developed with the times precisely because it is a genre of the present and of the people. And that for every sound or scene created, there has been a community of musicians working together, learning from one another and celebrating each other behind it. The young musicians involved in We Out Here are no different. They are the new generation of jazz and, like others that have come before them, they’re building a community around a sound that is shared yet unique, born from tradition yet totally fresh.

Coming up through Tomorrow’s Warriors and Jazz Re:freshed gigs together, they are a family of musicians and the crossover of line-ups within the different groups only makes this more evident. It is natural to jam with each other, share musical ideas and create together, and different groups and sounds have emerged from this.

Six of the nine groups from the album performed over the two nights. On the first night, it was keys player extraordinaire Joe Armon-Jones, the man placing the tuba centre stage Theon Cross and Afrobeat collective Kokoroko. The crossover of players was particularly fluid on this night, with guitarist Oscar Jerome, drummer Moses Boyd and saxophonist Nubya Garcia all featuring across different groups.

On the second night, we were treated to Maisha, quartet TriForce (who have a particularly standout, guitar-focused sound) and Nubya Garcia, in the headline seat this time. Again, many familiar faces were around, with Joe Armon-Jones back and some other big names, such as bassist Daniel Casimir and Ezra Collective leader and drummer Femi Koleoso.

Each group brought fresh beats, creative improvisation, on-point playing and some serious sweat to their set. These were long evenings with each set almost an hour but the audience remained captivated throughout; yet another testament to how receptive a new, younger and more diverse crowd is becoming to this music, whether you want to label it “jazz” or not.

Although the amount of talent is almost overwhelming and there are sure to be big things in the futures of all artists involved, it’s hard not to feel like the overall show belonged somewhat to composer and saxophonist Nubya Garcia, one of only four women featured alongside the three Kokoroko front women. Introduced effusively as a queen, an empress, a beast… whatever, she is simply an outstanding player whose pure sound, energy and creativity is hypnotic. She features in almost every group’s line-up, often leading the way with her rich melodic sound and creative improvisations, but it is in her final headline spot of the showcase that her full, raw talent is unleashed.

There is no doubt that everyone featured here is “one” to watch and all of us who got the chance to attend this album launch may well have just participated in quite a historic moment in the development of the jazz scene.

We Out Here is officially released on 9 February on Brownswood


Maisha – Inside The Acorn
Ezra Collective – Pure Shade
Moses Boyd – The Balance
Theon Cross – Brockley
Nubya Garcia – Once
Shabaka Hutchings – Black Skin, Black Masks
Triforce – Walls
Joe Armon-Jones – Go See
Kokoroko – Abusey Junction

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1 reply »

  1. Lets name the other Queens, equally talented instrumentalists
    Cassie Kinoshie – Alto Sax
    Sheila Maurice-Grey -Trumpet
    Richie Seivwright – T'bone

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