Six albums that helped us through the strangest of times.
It is no secret that 2020 has been a turbulent year for us all.
During these trying times, many of us turned to music to get us through.
While live music had to be put on pause, there was still a wealth of artists who had new records ready to go prior to lockdown that eventually emerged. There were also several who took lockdown as a creative challenge and recorded online or in a socially distanced studio.
While many things changed, the ability of music to bring us joy, share our pain and provide welcome relief never left and these six artists are a testament to that.
NUBYA GARCIA - SOURCE
A prolific and prominent presence in the London jazz scene, it seems almost unfathomable that this is the first full-length record from saxophonist Nubya Garcia.
As a member of both Nerija & Maisha as well as collaborating with a laundry list of other artists, expectations were sky-high for her debut album.
These expectations were more than matched on ‘Source’ where Garcia leads her band (completed by bassist Daniel Casimir, drummer Sam Jones and equally prolific keys player Joe Armon-Jones) through a raw and diverse journey of influences and styles.
a stunning introduction
Lianne La Havas - S/T
Arriving 5 years after her phenomenally successful (and more importantly, really good) second album ‘Blood’, Lianne La Havas’ 3rd album is a rawer prospect than it’s predecessor.
Typically, when an artist releases a self-titled album well into their career it is to signify a new identity or fresh representation of themselves. Traces of that mindset can be found throughout this full-length.
While La Havas hallmark style is present; her vocals are as accomplished as ever, her guitar playing retains that trademark flair and her arrangements still reach dizzying orchestral crescendos, there is a new side to La Havas that makes the recorded feel more grounded and organic.
Take the scuzzy outro to ‘Weird Fishes’, the head-nodding sluggish groove on opener ‘Bittersweet’ or the addictive guitar loop that provides the foundation to ‘Can’t Fight’. These fresh touches give this record a contemporary feel that is informed by the classics.
purposeful, tender and bold
Brad Mehldau - Suite: April 2020
Brad Mehldau holds a special place in the Love Supreme office. A last-minute addition to the line-up minutes before a print deadline? Pop a bit of Mehldau on. Website crashing on the launch day? That’s Mehldau o’clock.
His more meditative works have been the antidote to the occasionally high-stress moments that come with running a festival. With Suite: April 2020, he seems to have taken that idea and applied it to the entire planet. Written and recorded in Amsterdam during lockdown, this solo album finds Mehldau in reflective and contemplative form.
The 12 original compositions on here see Mehldau try and express the tornado of emotions that many of us experienced during the height of lockdown. Ending with three of Mehldau’s signature covers (including a melancholy take on ‘Empire State of Mind’), this is a short beautiful attempt to navigate an unprecedented time.
London Jazz News
Kamaal Williams - Wu Hen
South London Keyboardist Kamaal Williams has never been a showy player. Rather than peppering his compositions with elastic solos and chin-stroking arrangements, Williams acts as a sort of vibe conductor for his band and audience.
It is a similar role that he occupies in his DJ alter ego Henry Wu and those two personas have never been closer than on this album. At times, it can feel like ‘Wu Hen’ is flirting with being a mixtape in its smorgasbord of influence. Across ten tracks, Williams lurches between neo-bop (on the flat-out opening two-thirds Pigalle), grime (One More Time is begging for an MC to take a crack at it) and ethereal neo-soul (Lauren Faith & Alina Bzhezhinska on vocals and harp respectively offer a delicate counterpoint to the more squelchy synths on Hold On).
However, it is all unified by Williams’ ability to take the listener where they want to go, even if they didn’t quite know it at the time.
Loud & Queit
Wu Hen feels like an important record
Gregory Porter - All Rise
This is Gregory Porters BIG record: big expectations, big production and thankfully big songs.
Porter’s skill throughout his career has been to take the intimacy that comes from a simple set up and, through the power of his once-in-a-generation voice, translate that to a huge stage.
With each record he has released the production has got fuller and more bombastic and All Rise continues that trend. However, the songs (and the voice) still remain. ‘Revival Song’ is a brash foot-stomper while ‘If Love Is Overrated’ is a gorgeous, orchestral musical ode to a more romantic era of popular music.
At the centre of it all sits Porter, as empathetic and heartfelt as ever, still with that spellbinding je ne sais quoi he has always had.
a reminder of his incredible songwriting ability
Shabaka & The Ancestors - WE ARE SENT HERE BY HISTORY
Another prolific London-based saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings is the busiest man in jazz.
This second album from his Ancestors project came out on Impulse mere weeks before lockdown in the UK started and as such flew under the radar somewhat. The poetic irony of this being that ‘We Were Sent Here By History’ is Hutching’s most foreboding record to date.
Hutchings is an artist who, across multiple projects, performs an abstract deep dive into the theme of time, sometimes reflecting on our history and at other points warning of our future. ‘We Are Sent Here By History’ tells the story of the latter with the tools of the former, using a brush dipped in history to paint an abstract picture of the collapse to come.