Tuesday 5th March 2019
Outside, a mildly dreary February, inside it’s a rammed sweatbox. Plenty of people make it out for the openers Yadasofi, who do a grand job of executing a bunch of tight, neat harmonic ideas, louche solos and giving off a real sense of exploration. Particularly enjoyable for the double bassist George’s admirable trick of having his glasses perilously close to falling off mid-solo but managing to keep them on by sheer force of jazz will.
Crowd suitably lubricated, Garcia takes to the stage and delivers some luscious, plantive soloing – lyrical and controlled and the sort of honeyed tone you could happily swim in. Her band are well turned out and together like old hands – plenty of spaces in the arrangements for their effortless virtuosity, plenty of twists and nooks in the sharp, clever, considered arrangements to keep all parties interested.
It’s quite a feat that Garcia has pulled off with this set of pieces – there’s a raft of the audience clearly digging the smooth, laid-back vibes but there’s a wicked edge to a lot of it. Never bandstanding, Garcia is happy to take an early solo which dotes on one note, slowly syncopating it against the rhythm. There’s an unhemmed edge here and there where Garcia shows she knows her polyphonic technique and how to make the horn honk but it’s never indulged – just dappled around the edges as coloratura.
The breadth of her compositions is pretty broad – while there’s a core of smoother, laid-back vibes it’s offset by some afrobeat flourishes and, most impressively, clear debts of gratitude to dub. Dub can be an indomitable genre to get right – relying on repetition and minimal variation and heavy, spatial grooves, it’s something of an antithesis to jazz’s reliance on extemporisation. Garcia somehow finds the space within the grooves to let in touches of variations around the rhythm, never into free blowing territory but just enough to squeeze virtuosity into a space that traditionally doesn’t fit it.
Overall the word I keep wanting to say is fearless. Garcia’s as comfortable around dub or fully harmonic jazz arrangements, one-note refrains and fully complex melodicism. Her band carries a prodiguous amount of cool, considered smarts – keys solidly all over the place, bassist seemingly born with one hand on the big neck, drummer on point to a fault. It’s by no means a short set but left the distinct impression that more would be warranted. Fearless because it’s all held together in a way that’s not going to alienate the couple-of-gigs-a-year bits of the audience but enough teeth and tenacity to be unafraid to play with the edges of whatever genre’s filtered through. In a sense, very London – a jazz take on the raft of influences all over the capital. Definitely a one to watch.
Nubya Garcia, saxophone; Joe Armon-Jones, keyboard; Daniel Cassimir, double bass; Sam Jones, drums.
Photo of Nubya Garcia by Anya Arnold.