Album review

Jas Kayser – ‘5ive’

Jas Kayser – 5ive
(Jazz re:freshed. Album review by Mark McKergow)

Drummer and composer Jas Kayser’s debut album roars onto the scene with a mix of jazz, afrobeat and latin influences, contemporary connections to themes of migration and identity, all underpinned by dazzling drum-work.

Following on from her debut EP Unforced Rhythm of Grace in 2020, this album is part of the Jazz re:freshed 5ive series, offering emerging artists the chance to express themselves and their music over just five tracks. It’s a super format, allowing for extension and variety without having to find an hour or more of original material. The label has given a 5ive to some great artists since 2016 including Nubya Garcia, Ashley Henry and Richard Spaven, and now Jas Kayser is the latest to feature.  

Jas Kayser is not short of an interesting gig or two. Dorset-raised, London-based, Berklee-trained and Panama-teaching, Kayser won the Parliamentary Jazz Newcomer of the Year award in 2021, played a pivotal role in Kansas Smitty’s Plunderphonia album just a few months ago (REVIEWED HERE) and is just back from appearances at the SXSW Festival 2022 in Austin, Texas. At 26 years of age she has inhaled a huge range of influences from Nigerian Tony Allen (“my OG”, she says in his honour) to hip-hop-head Chris Dave, and has the ability to bring it all together in service to her music.

The album opens with Darkness In The Light, afro and salsa beats to the fore and attractive smooth vocals from Ava Joseph. The tone is immediately set with Kayser’s drumming alongside Incognito percussionist Joao Caetano pulsing along with a wondrous mix of power and proportion, marvellous and yet not overwhelming or dominating. It’s a superb balance which sustains in different forms through the album. Co-producer Giacomo Smith steps forward for an alto sax solo, catching the mood with his usual lively tone and gyratory runs before Kayser and Caetano take a joint solo over the long-note horn patterns. The production is top-class, rich and detailed.

Dream takes it down a notch with Jamie Leeming’s guitar propelling the rhythm forward with hints of Brazilian charanga-style polyrhythms, breaks for percussion and a tenor sax outing for Mark Hurrell. Daisy George holds it all down on the upright bass – no bass guitar in sight here. Jamie’s Blues is a shorter track with some neat Afro-style guitar, before Half-Race Face brings voice artist (and Kayser’s twin brother) Aalvk to the mic with words about experiencing and combatting microaggressions. Christos Stylianides picks up the pace with a trumpet solo which rides the waves over building percussion. The closing Stupid On The Beat is a joyous dancefloor stomp with electric guitar and percussion romping along.

This album is a real treat, an attractive yet coherent blend of styles with some very fine drumming at its heart. The more we get to hear from Jas Kayser, the better the world will be.

5ive is released on 15 April 2022

LINK: 5ive on Jas Kayser’s Bandcamp page

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