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Discover South London’s Jazz Scene

8 September 2019 | Will Rathbone

South London’s jazz scene is huge, so we’re going to take you through some of the big hitters and show you where to see them live over the next few months. These artists are at the forefront of a new exciting moment in contemporary jazz - and at time of going to press there are still tickets available for ALL these shows.  

Shabaka Hutchings is a figurehead of the scene, and his trademark woodwind sound is raw, rhythmic and instantly recognisable. Current projects include the Mercury-nominated The Comet is Coming, thundering trio Sons of Kemet and Shabaka and the Ancestors - with the former playing the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 5 December. The Comet is Coming’s blend of cosmic synths, punchy beats and mesmerising energy is truly something to behold. They don’t sound like the future, they sound like the Now - and it’s a thrilling Now.
 
 
Another saxophonist playing a central role in the movement, Nubya Garcia is a graduate of the acclaimed Tomorrow’s Warriors programme - a music academy that has produced an incredible wealth of talent over the last 20 years. Nubya’s sound is deep and heartfelt, and her onstage presence is as warm and generous as the tones of her saxophone. You can see her perform with her quintet at the Red Bull Music Festival Round Robin at EartH in Hackney on 11 September, or as part of the predominantly female 7-piece Nérija - whose debut album, Blume, went to number 1 in the UK Jazz charts - on 15 October at Omeara.
 
Sharing the line-up with Nubya at EartH is keys player Joe Armon-Jones. Another graduate of Tomorrow’s Warriors (as well as the Trinity Laban Conservatoire) Armon-Jones fuses jazz with breakbeat, 2-step and House to create a unique sound that taps into the UKs underground dance legacy. Armon-Jones is also a founding member of EZRA Collective, a five-piece whose magnetic live shows are energetic and joyous occasions. You can witness their blend of jazz, afrobeat and hiphop at the Roundhouse in Camden on 30 November - it’s going to be wild.
 
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the scene is the collaboration and sense of community that is apparent at shows and in conversation within the movement. Theon Cross is a prime example of this spirit, the tuba player having performed regularly with Nubya Garcia whilst being a member of the aforementioned Sons of Kemet and writing his own music. His dextrous playing and driving bass-melodies are phenomenal - you’ve never heard tuba like it! - and he sets off on tour around the UK this September, arriving in London on 25 September at Village Underground. 
 
 
Finally, for a weekly dose of positive energy and jazz-fuelled vibrancy, the Steam Down collective are who you need to head to. You can find them in Deptford’s Matchstick Piehouse every Wednesday - get there early - creating a scene and atmosphere that feeds off the energies of the crowds who attend. It’s really special, as anyone who has attended or seen them at one of their numerous festival performances this summer can attest to.
 
This is a snapshot of the fiercely creative scene occurring right here in London, and we haven’t even mentioned philosophical pianist Alfa Mist, heavyweight drummer/producer Moses Boyd or afro-jazz collective KOKOROKO. The talent is staggering, and it’s not too late to join the party.
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