2018 was full of amazing jazz releases: Kamasi Washington’s Heaven and Earth, Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, and Robert Glasper’s new R+R=Now project. There was also John Coltrane’s lost album Both Directions At Once. Some amazing hidden gems were released by Ben Lamar Gay, Chris Dave, or Ambrose Akinmusire. And there was the whole British jazz explosion: Ezra Collective, Joe Armon-Jones, Kamaal Williams, Maisha, Moses Boyd, Sons Of Kemet and many more who released new albums in 2018. Yet, no other album epitomized the year better than We Out Here.
For many years, Gilles Peterson has been a prime international music tastemaker when it comes to jazz, soul, and pretty much every other related music genre. From his London headquarters, the influential DJ-broadcaster has introduced emerging artists to worldwide audiences on his BBC Radio show as well as through his “Brownswood Recordings” label, the Worldwide Festival and its namesake radio station. Curated by the man himself, We Out Here is a compilation album that showcases the young musicians of the London jazz scene.
Throughout his career, Peterson mainly released compilations albums under his name. Although he has put out many jazz compilations, he has recently focused on Brazilian, African, and Cuban music. No compilation has proved as influential as We Out Here, which gave a boost to the careers of Maisha, Ezra Collective, Moses Boyd, Theon Cross, Nubya Garcia, and Joe Armon-Jones.
More importantly, We Out Here gave fresh awareness to the UK jazz scene. The last time British jazz attracted so much attention was in the ‘90s when Peterson introduced the acid jazz phenomenon to global audiences. What’s different with this year’s compilation however, is that this time the music sounds so much more like jazz since the artists that have been selected do not wander far from the jazz tradition.
The opening track by Maisha incorporates exotic eastern influences and doesn’t contain any steady rhythm although it is full of percussive richness. Ezra Collective’s track evokes Carribean calypso elements, while Moses Boyd’s performance mixes synthetic and repetitive EDM elements with an explosive saxophone solo. While fully acoustic, Theon Cross’ track is also unusual in terms of the drumming, which sound nothing like typical jazz drums.
Nubya Garcia’s performance is probably the most traditional sounding of the first five tracks. Although Garcia is one of the preeminent artists of the London and UK jazz scenes, she is far from a jazz traditionalist. The same stylistic narrative is heard throughout the rest of the album with performances by Shabaka Hutchings, Triforce, Joe Armon-Jones and Kokoroko. Various musical genres from across London and UK musical cultures are blended with the abstract framework of the jazz tradition.
We Out Here is accompanied by a documentary film that captures a more intimate portrait of the artistic community involved in the album’s production. The film not only helps the album stand out amongst other 2018 releases, it also gives additional insight into the music.We Out Here sums up 2018 better than any other jazz album in a year that marked the global resurgence of British jazz.