Jazz has gone all over the world in modern times since the movement’s beginnings in New Orleans, USA. The classical jazz instrumentations played in new ways provide a relaxing background to chilled out café and bar settings as summer jazz festivals have become popular in recent years. The soulful vocals of jazz singers usually get the most attention, but don’t dismiss the importance of the band behind them. Here are the current most acclaimed jazz bands and performers…
Gregory Porter is one of the stand-out current American jazz singers. As well as a stunning vocal range, he is known for his idiosyncratic flat cap with a modified strap which covers his ears and chin. He explains that he first wore it to hide facial scars, but the look has remained. His crowning achievement is winning theGrammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2014 for platinum-selling ‘Liquid Spirit’. Porter has had a fast rise to fame since becoming a recording artist at the age of 40. He continues the legacy of Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole as a vocalist to perform at the major jazz arenas in the US, but he has also broken out of the jazz scene and into the world of pop – for example his tracks with UK-based house hit-makers Disclosure in 2016.
From New Orleans, the traditional home of jazz, Tipitina are a part of the new school of high-tempo feel-good jazz bands, along with the Ezra Collective. They were voted 3rd in the Best Small Group category of the 2017 British Jazz Awards, as well as runner-up in the jazz category of the 2017 Urban Music Awards. Bloggers Big Bear Music hail singer Debbie Jones a “powerhouse” and pianist Justin Randall “the finest and most exciting New Orleans-style piano player from outside of Louisiana”. The duo were the main attraction at the 2019 Birmingham Jazz Festival, along with Burt Bacharach.
The American musical trio from Houston, Texas with a Thai name and a Spanish-entitled album ‘Con Todo El Mundo’, are an experimental band known for blending global music influences as they showcase their varied talents and styles. However, their key influences are definitely drawn from jazz and funk. Having an excellent bassist in Laura Lee, Donald “DJ” Johnson – a talented drummer who can also play piano -and an accomplished melodic guitarist (Mark Speer) means the band can be versatile with their music. Khruangbin are influenced by music from Ethiopa, Spain and Thailand. With such a global collection of styles, their sound is hard to define. However, they mainly deal in laidback beats such as With All The World, the headline track of their 2018 album.
Alfa Mist developed an interest in jazz music while learning to play the piano aged 16. Before then, he was into hip-hop and grime like many of his mates growing up in London. Alfa blended those contrasting influences in his acclaimed debut album, Antiphon, released in 2017. The pianist and producer has recently returned with Structuralism, which was released in April, again with Kaya Thomas-Dyke on vocals, and also pop darling Jordan Rakei. The album is hailed for its elements of classic jazz composition, with a focus on technical instrumentation.