5 Young British Jazz Artists To Watch BBC Radio's Jazz on 3 program showcases the richness of the U.K. jazz scene with a particular emphasis on seeking out and supporting young talent. Host Jez Nelson and the rest of the team pick out some recent British jazz albums everyone should keep on their radar.
NPR logo 5 Young British Jazz Artists To Watch

5 Young British Jazz Artists To Watch

Don't let Jasper Hoiby's Scandinavian cheekbones fool you. The Danish bassist (center) is very much a key part of London's jazz scene. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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courtesy of the artist

Jazz on 3 is on air every Monday from 11.15 p.m. - 1 a.m. GMT on BBC Radio 3. Follow the program on Twitter.

Jazz on 3 is BBC Radio's flagship platform for contemporary jazz. We aim to bring the experience of being at a live concert to your living room, so we're out and about, around the U.K., with our recording truck on a weekly basis. Jazz is a broad church and we attempt to reflect this on the show — free, fusion, postbop, electronica — as long as it's good we don't care what sub-genre it fits.

Showcasing the richness of the U.K. scene, with a particular emphasis on seeking out and supporting young talent, is at the heart of what we do. Here are some of the British albums we've been enjoying recently, as chosen by host Jez Nelson and the rest of the team.

5 Young British Jazz Artists To Watch

Music of the Mind

Popcorn Brain

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Finn Peters

  • Song: Popcorn Brain
  • from Music of the Mind

Imagine you only needed to think of a melody to hear it out loud. That was the idea behind award-winning reeds player Finn Peters' new project. This is music inspired by, not controlled by technology. Using the latest advances in Brain Computer Interface, Peters and software developer and improviser Matthew Yee King have mapped Peters' moods to form the basis of compositions, and created software that learns and recreates his style of playing. Music of the Mind taps into a kind of genetic blueprint that is at once otherworldly and oddly familiar. "Popcorn Brain" features Finn improvising fearlessly with his own brain waves transcribed for vibraphone. The results might be academic if it weren't for the all-star young British players showcased here, such as tuba virtuoso Oren Marshall and the highly versatile drummer Tom Skinner. Deeply original and strangely soulful — you might not recognize it, but your mind will. -- Joby Waldman, Producer

For more information visit Music of the Mind.

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No Now Is So


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Alexander Hawkins

  • Song: Baobabs
  • from No Now Is So

Free improvisation is at the heart of Oxford based pianist Alex Hawkins' music, and what that means for him is the freedom to explore in all directions. In an interview for Jazz On 3 earlier this year, Hawkins talked about his passions: from Duke Ellington to Henry Threadgill, via Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It's the way he has fun making an adventurous, fresh and coherent statement that's informed by these diverse influences, as well as his multiple approaches to composition and improvisation, that makes No Now Is So stand out. Alex took an equally imaginative approach to assembling this vibrant bunch of musicians: Orphy Robinson on steel pan, guitarist Otto Fischer, cellist Hannah Marshall, bassist Dominic Lash and drummer Javier Carmona are all familiar names on the British free improv scene, but have plenty of other musical interests besides. The horn free line-up makes for unusual, almost folk-like timbres and textures, within which Alex creates space for each individual voice. -- Peggy Sutton, Producer

For more information, visit FMR Records.


Tax Return

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  • Song: Tax Return

Troyka may be too young to have lived through the highs and lows of prog-rock, but when keyboardist supreme Kit Downes fires up the organ, Josh Blackmore lays down the groove and Chris Montague straps on his axe, they somehow manage to distill the best parts of it into their sound. But Trokya are thoroughly modern, with a sound that's informed by the music they've grown up with — grunge, rock and electronica — as well as jazz and the blues. Montague, the group's chief composer, has even confessed a partiality for country music, which manifests itself in delicate Frisell-like melodies and voicings. Jazz meets rock meets free improv may be enjoying a revival, but Troyka stand out from the crowd. -- Jez Nelson, Host

For more information, visit Edition Records.

Fill It Up With Ghosts


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  • Song: Returns
  • from Fill It Up With Ghosts

The northern English county of Yorkshire is not what you'd call a hotbed of jazz, but its isolation does breed a unique approach and time to grow outside of the spotlight. In the early 1960s, Sheffield gestated the pioneering free improv of Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley and Gavin Bryars. Nowadays the nearby city of Leeds is home to a distinctive scene of its own, with TrioVD and others such as the anarchic pianist Matthew Bourne at its heart. On first hearing TrioVD, you might think of noise rock or full on free freak outs, but soon you realize when they stop and start on a sixpence that these guys are telepathically tight. Weirdly all called Chris, guitarist Chris Sharkey, drummer Chris Bussey and saxophonist Christophe de Bezenac are all trained in jazz, yet they are by no means constrained by it; this music could just as easily sit alongside much on the art rock scene. But for ears attuned to jazz, they're a lot more interesting than most within that bracket. Fill It Up With Ghosts does a good job of capturing the excitement of the band's live act, making it a promising debut from a post-jazz power trio that deserves wider attention. -- Russell Finch, Producer

For more information, visit TrioVD's Myspace page.


Abraham's New Gift

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  • Song: Abraham's New Gift
  • from Alive

When you see bassist Jasper Hoiby's huge Scandinavian cheekbones looming at you from the front of Phronesis' new album, Alive, you can understand why U.K.'s Jazzwise magazine jumped at the opportunity to highlight the release in its August 2010 edition. The CD was recorded live in London with Avishai Cohen regular, Mark Guiliana, sitting in for the trio's usual drummer, Anton Eger. Guiliana takes every opportunity to make an impression; the album has the freshness and immediacy of the best live gigs, and inevitably it's the rhythm section you notice. On Alive, Hoiby's compositions are more about catchy (but not clichéd) bass hooks, foot tapping rhythms and textures that build, rather than a more cerebral through-composed melodic approach. I'm sure that's why many UK critics have compared them to the still sorely missed and hugely popular E.S.T. But there's probably more to enjoy for the hardcore jazzer than a crossover audience on Alive. -- Robert Abel, Producer

For more information, visit Edition Records.