From its inception in New Orleans bordellos at the dawn of the 20th Century, jazz has never stood still. Fashioned by young jazz musicians seeking new modes of expression, the future of jazz has always reflected the changing times that have shaped its creators’ sensibilities.
In the second decade of the 21st Century, the music whose essence is improvisation is prospering again: a younger generation of listeners have turned to pathfinding figures like Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, who have helped jazz reclaim its relevance. With broader exposure, young jazz musicians are passing on the music’s DNA and keeping it alive – and ever-changing – by marrying it with other types of music.
As the 21st Century approaches its third decade, the young jazz musicians listed below show us that the music is in very good hands. Shaping the future of jazz for the generations to come, they’ll ensure that it never becomes stagnant.
While you’re reading, listen to our New Jazz playlist here.
10 Young Jazz Musicians Shaping The Future Of Jazz
Born in London and raised in Barbados, 35-year-old Hutchings is an award-winning multi-reed player who can alternate between saxophone and clarinet. Though he started out gigging with calypso bands he’s now regarded as the doyen of the UK’s contemporary jazz scene and currently leads three different bands, each of which can lay claim to shaping the future of jazz: an octet called Shabaka & The Ancestors; a quartet, Sons Of Kemet; and The Comet Is Coming, the latter a futuristic trio that blends electronic music with jazz and a punk-like attitude.
Key cut: ‘Summon The Fire’ (The Comet Is Coming)
One of the reasons that jazz is reconnecting with young people is down to the appeal of this LA-born saxophonist’s transformative 2015 debut album, a sprawling triple-set called The Epic, on which he morphed from a journeyman-like saxophonist-for-hire into an inspirational apostle of spiritual jazz. Like many of today’s young jazz musicians, Washington’s music is influenced as much by hip-hop as jazz; he even appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s visionary album To Pimp A Butterfly.
Key cut: ‘Truth’
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
From jazz’s birthplace, New Orleans, Adjuah is a trumpeter with a clear, burnished tone who acknowledges the tradition of the music but sees the future of jazz in a fusion of alt.rock, African music, movie soundtracks and hip-hop. He describes his allusive, polyglot style as “stretch music”, a term that refers to its elastic characteristics. Adjuah’s music is also socio-politically conscious.
Key cut: ‘West Of The West’
Sounding like a young Joni Mitchell fronting Return To Forever on steroids, this 34-year-old Portland-born singer, composer and bass virtuoso is extending the frontiers of jazz with boundary-breaking music that embraces rock, funk, Latin, fusion and the avant-garde. Spalding has also been an advocate of using social media as a tool for creativity, exemplified by her 2017 album, Exposure, which was recorded from scratch, live in 77 hours while being streamed on the internet. She’s undoubtedly one of the most original thinkers and cutting-edge conceptualists in jazz right now.
Key cut: ‘12 Little Spells’
One of the UK’s fastest-rising young jazz musicians, Garcia is a 28-year-old tenor saxophonist/composer from London who also plays with the spiritual jazz group Maisha. She’s a product of the Tomorrow’s Warriors talent agency – famed for bringing young British jazz musicians to the wider public – and released her critically-lauded debut album, Nubya’s 5ive, in 2017. She’s also recorded with Sons Of Kemet, Ezra Collective and Makaya McCraven.
Key cut: ‘Lost Kingdoms’
Born in Paris and raised in the US, drummer/composer McCraven is a self-proclaimed “beat scientist” who keeps his eye firmly on the future of jazz, playing groove-oriented avant-garde jazz with a hip-hop attitude. Priding himself on spontaneity, his three albums, In The Moment, Highly Rare and 2019’s acclaimed Universal Beings, all feature live recordings. McCraven’s goal, he once told an interviewer, was to make music that is “socially challenging, not technically challenging”.
Key cut: ‘Young Genius’
Binker And Moses
Debuting in 2016 with the award-winning album Dem Ones, saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd established themselves as the John Coltrane and Rasheed Ali of British jazz with their impassioned duos. Their second album, an epic double-set called Journey To The Mountain Of Forever, saw them expanding their palette by featuring veteran British avant-garde saxophonist Evan Parker on some tracks. Since then, the duo has released a live album (Alive In The East?) which captures the raw visceral power of their in-concert improvisations.
Key cut: ‘Fete By The River’
Kendrick Scott Oracle
From Houston, Texas, Scott is a drummer/composer whose distinctive and supremely elegant brand of post-bop jazz is infused with R&B and hip-hop flavours. The latest incarnation of his band – whose second album, a 12-track song cycle called A Wall Becomes A Bridge, was released in April 2018 on Blue Note – has expanded to a sextet via the addition of a turntablist who sits alongside more traditional jazz instruments in the shape of a piano, saxophone and guitar.
Key cut: ‘Mocean’
Given her ear-catching first name, this 27-year-old Texas chanteuse was born to sing jazz. From the school of athletic jazz singers like Carmen McRae and Ella Fitzgerald, Horn triumphed at the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, which earned her a contract with Concord Records. Her 2017 debut album, A Social Call, released by Concord via the revived Prestige imprint, won rave reviews and established Horn as the new voice of jazz.
Key cut: ‘Tight’
A stalwart of Kamasi Washington’s touring band, Hollywood-born Mosley is a double bass player who was taught by the legendary Ray Brown, but whose use of effects pedals make him fiercely contemporary in his outlook. A former sideman for musicians as varied as Chris Cornell, Kenny Loggins and Lauryn Hill, Mosley released his solo debut, Uprising, on Verve in 2017. An unclassifiable amalgam of jazz, funk, soul and rock, it allowed Mosley to expose his talents as a vocalist and songwriter besides his phenomenal bass playing.
Key cut: ‘Abraham’
Once home to the great Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and, more recently, Stephon Harris, Blue Note has a long history of great vibraphone players on its books. Now there’s a new vibes man in town: Joel Ross. An exciting new addition to the Blue Note roster, Chicago-born Ross – whose debut album, KingMaker, is set for release on 3 May – is a post-bop vibraphonist who has played with legends like Herbie Hancock but is better known for his contributions to cutting-edge jazz albums by Makaya McCraven, James Francies and Marquis Hill.
Key cut: ‘Ill Relations’
A future star in the making, perhaps, this Californian flautist and vocalist is set to release her major-label debut for Verve Forecast later this year. Pinderhughes recorded her first album when she was nine and has since performed with jazz greats Herbie Hancock and Hubert Laws as well as featuring on albums by contemporary leaders such as Joshua Redman, Ambrose Akinmusire and Christian Scott. Those who’ve been lucky enough to hear her live know that Pinderhughes promises much for the future of jazz.
Key cut: ‘Completely’ (with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah)
A South London-born pianist who studied at the Royal Academy Of Music as well as the BRIT school, 26-year-old Henry – who has toured as the keyboardist for French pop act Christine And The Queens – is set to release his debut album, Beautiful Vinyl Hunter, in September 2018. He’s one of just two UK jazz artists signed with a major label (the other is Shabaka Hutchings) and has developed a unique, ear-catching signature style that fuses jazz with hip-hop, grime, R&B and even punk flavours.
Key cut: ‘Dark Honey’
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