Jazz is no longer a singular genre, instead it has seeped into cracks of nearly every possible genre creating what is now recognised as modern jazz music. It doesn’t matter if you are listening to a rap song, a dance track or even a pop song, the influences of traditional jazz music always seem to crop up. As the genre grows so does the variety of performers. Edinburgh’s Jazz and Blues Festival is the perfect place to showcase the diversity of modern jazz featuring artists such as Sons of Kemet, AKU!, Corto Alto, Nubiyan Twist, Graham Costello’s STRATA and many more.
The Soweto Kinch Quartet is a perfect illustration of the diversity of genres within the jazz scene. A mix of a very traditional jazz sound and modern rap music, Kinch has created a universal sound that has brought rap and jazz fans together. Originally starting out as a saxophonist, Kinch began to play piano after first discovering a love of jazz, but then decided to go back to his roots to become an alto-saxophonist as well as a rapper. His most prominent work was the 2016 album Nonogram where the upbeat jazz backings juxtapose the complex and often heavy lyrics. Kinch’s talents have not gone unnoticed, winning two MOBO awards, two Urban Music Awards and a Mercury Prize nomination.
Kinch’s rap style shares similarities to that of the up and coming grime scene, a lyrical flow that seems more like spoken-word poetry than rhythmic rapping, makes his message on society more pronounced. Within the community of jazz music, Soweto Kinch appears to be making an important statement by fusing rap and jazz and brings two contrasting audiences together.
MOSES BOYD EXODUS
As jazz progresses more and more younger performers are rising through the ranks and are warping the sound of traditional jazz. Moses Boyd is a key player in the new London Jazz scene. A drummer, producer and composer, Moses Boyd is a two-time MOBO award winning artist who navigates his way through jazz, club and hip-hop. He’s worked with a number of artists ranging from Little Simz to Sampha the Great, has created his own record label and has even become a resident DJ on BBC Radio 1 Extra.
At this year’s festival Boyd will be performing as Moses Boyd Exodus, which is made up of not only Moses Boyd himself, but also other key up and coming jazz players from the London scene. Boyd’s presence within the modern jazz scene is not only crucial to help young performers like him get more recognition, but to also attract a younger listenership to the predominantly older audience of jazz fans.
It’s not only hip-hop and rap artists that have taken inspiration from the traditional roots of jazz, electronic and dance music take just as many elements from the genre. A performer who shows this influence is the multi-instrumentalist ESINAM. Esinam Batse can play an impressive number of instruments, but decided to mainly play the flute because of practical reasons. Her 2018 self-titled EP shows a mixture of traditional African music, dance and electronic tones to create a futuristic jazz sound with the stand out track Gavoé including a synth dominated African beat. Her innovative sound and mix of a myriad of genres creates an enticing performance that shows another side of modern jazz music.
IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE
Although blending genres is an obvious way to advance jazz, Ibibio Sound Machine do more than that and incorporate different cultures and languages into their music. The 8-piece band fronted by singer Eno Williams incorporate synths and traditional jazz guitar to create their lively sound, however the most intriguing thing about this group is their inclusion of English and Nigerian language to create an alluring mix of African funk and modern disco. Their 2019 album Doko Mien, perfectly demonstrates their range and hints at the energetic performance that is yet to be seen at the festival.
Young and old practitioners of jazz are advancing the genre to make it even more diverse than it already is. Although only four performers have been spoken about in depth within this article, they are representative of a greater whole of musicians at the festival who are challenging traditional preconceptions of jazz.
By Abbie Aitken