Nubya Garcia (Concord Jazz)
Caribbean migrations have birthed new generations of creatives, challenging definitions of music in their new homelands. Nubya Garcia is the daughter of Trinidadian and Guyanese parents, and with this heritage the UK-born and -based jazz saxophonist has marked her musical space there with equal parts nature, nurture, and nostalgia. Her new record Source, her first full-length album, plays between the innovative soundscapes of the contemporary British jazz scene and a look back to influences that echo the Caribbean and transplanted African music, as captured by children of the diaspora. The controlled tone of her tenor sax dances through dub on “Source”, and splashes up against Afro-Columbian rhythmic elements on “La cumbia me está llamando” without ever being discordant. On “Before Us: In Demerara & Cuara”, one hears that calypso bass modernised and influencing a new jazz exploration beyond boundaries. Garcia is finding the centre in a world of influences.
Raise (3M-Mizik Moun Matinik)
Martniquan singer Tony Chasseur calls his music kréyol djaz(creole jazz in its native form): “jazz coming from creole lands in all parts of the globe using the rhythms endemic to each land as a rhythmic base, whatever the level of harmonic elaboration and improvisation.” This reorientation of the jazz aesthetic away from the US is heartening in our Caribbean space. Raise is the new supergroup of Antillean music stars: along with Chasseur are Ronald Tulle on piano, Michel Alibo on bass, Thomas Belon on drums, and Alain Dracius on percussion. Sublime musicianship by all five guides the listener to places where the primacy of zouk and other Caribbean rhythms creates an elegant counterpoint to modern soul-jazz music. There are songs to make you dance on this album, and there are songs to make you sing along, even if kréyol is not your primary language. Tulle’s playing shines here on tracks like “Dous O Péyi”, while Chasseur’s voice has the tone that keeps listeners attached to the sound.
In Search of Lost Time
Protoje (In.Digg.Nation Collective/RCA Records)
Jamaican reggae artist Protoje is on a mission with the release of this new album, his fifth. In addition to continuing to tell his story, he is now a music businessman controlling his output. “The main goal is that I want this album to reach more ears than any album I have put out before,” he says. And In Search of Lost Time has the right elements to make people get up and listen: collaborations with Grammy winner Koffee along with Popcaan, Lila Iké, and American rapper Wiz Kalifa; high production values, fusing hip-hop and hints of electronica with modern reggae with a cutting edge sound; and compelling songs. “Mi bring him with me go LA / Is like a him get nominate, him watch the Grammy side a me / ’Cause how much people can you say / Would feed you when you hungry / When you broke dem bless you with money?” These lyrics from “Like Royalty” ring with autobiographical truth. And there are nine more recollections of a life to embrace.
Kes (Kes/Ineffable Records)
As the year 2020 comes to a close, music lovers and Carnival fanatics note how the global pandemic decimated the live celebration the region is known for. Soca, the music that drives festivals, became a memory, as island Carnivals were cancelled throughout the year. Out of Trinidad, though, soca superstar Kes focused on the long-term viability of soca by repackaging and re-arranging his and his band’s hits from the last few years into a new album. A kind of “Greatest Hits” live, this album serves as a necessary fillip for soca lovers going into withdrawal, recognising that Carnivals may not be on in 2021. The intense jam necessary for moving masqueraders on the road and partiers in fetes is dialled down to allow his pure voice to shine, along with a renewed focus on the instrumentation of his bandmates. A Caribbean pop vibe is balanced with Kes’s island-accented vocal delivery to reignite hits like “Savannah Grass” and “Endless Summer”. “Beautiful Life”, a new ballad, closes this showcase.