(Live from the Barbican. 29 October 2020. Reviewed from the livestream by Adam Sieff)
Nubya Garcia: Photo credit: Tom Howard/Barbican
There’s something immensely satisfying about watching young British jazz musicians develop over time through music colleges and organisations like Tomorrow’s Warriors and jazz re:freshed, performing and supporting each other and building a community, and then, eventually, taking the stage at major concert venues and knowing that they truly belong there. On Thursday evening at the Barbican, tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia led her quartet through 80 minutes of music from her excellent debut album Source (Concord Jazz), released in August this year. (REVIEW).
The album explores a number of themes including the importance of being grounded and discovering one’s ancestry, purpose and passion. Garcia, together with the same musicians as on the album, drummer Sam Jones, double bassist Daniel Casimir and keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, expanded on these positive ideas in a wonderful evening of joyful jazz music.
The set opened with Garcia and Jones calling everyone together with the simple and powerful riff of ‘Stand With Each Other’, before the rest of the band took the stage for the deeply grooving, dub-inflected ‘Source’. Armon-Jones teased out the squelchy synth hits, the rhythms were deep and Garcia was leading from the front, her playing strong and confident. By the time the band reached ‘Inner Game’ everyone was relaxed and completely in the moment, fully enjoying communing with a live audience for the first time since January. Garcia was dancing across the stage during Armon-Jones’ explosive piano solo while Casimir and Jones lit a fire under them with a fierce driving groove.
Since her first two EP releases Garcia’s writing has taken a major leap forward, and the beautiful theme of ‘The Message Continues’ featured a double bass solo delicately supported by keys and drums and a saxophone solo where every note felt as if it was there for a good reason.
L-R: Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Sam Jones. Photo credit: Tom Howard/Barbican
Following Casimir’s double bass solo introduction, the Kokoroko leader and Nérija trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey (aka Ms Maurice) came to the stage and added another dimension to the frontline theme of ‘Pace’, one the strongest compositions from the new album, with Garcia’s richly melodic solo building the tension and Maurice-Grey’s confident and soaring trumpet illustrating what a major talent she is.
The final song ‘Before Us: In Demerara and Caura’, another wonderful new composition referring to Garcia’s parents’ birthplaces, was performed at a ferocious tempo and featured a blistering solo from Maurice-Grey and an entertaining drum solo from Jones. The deserved encore ‘Boundless Beings’, was performed by Garcia alone on stage playing with deep feeling before the rest of the musicians joined her for a satisfying ending to a special night.
I watched the performance via Live Stream which worked perfectly with an excellent sound mix and high quality camera work. Nothing can take the place of actually being at the venue but this came as close as I can imagine. The Barbican made the setup extremely simple with plenty of email guidance and advice. Good reasons, then, to recommend another concert in this series, Cassie Kinoshi’s SEED Ensemble & guests celebrating the music of Pharoah Sanders on Saturday 14 November.