January to March 2018 – the Jazz Herstory season at Poplar Union in London – Nérija (18th January); Laura Jurd (15th February); Yazz Ahmed (15th March)

2 Jan

Sitting tight beside the Limehouse Cut (up above the Isle of Dogs), Poplar Union, is one of London’s newest, friendliest and most promising arts centres. It’s already had some early-days gig triumphs with Norwegian jazz-pop duo 1816 and Simon Roth’s folk/classical quintet Land Of If, and (most recently) has warmed me with a stunning early-December evening of jazz-and-folk-infused Sephardic love songs from Sefiroth.

These are now being followed up with a triple set of gigs in collaboration with the enthusiastic feminist jazz initiative Jazz Herstory, which among other things presents “female led bands playing jazz now, spanning styles, sounds and generations. Showcasing the richness of jazz being made in the UK today and celebrating the women who contribute, Jazz Herstory presents award winning bands and instrumentalists, composers of national and international acclaim and people making waves locally. We aim to share: to bring women from the background to a balanced foreground in jazz. Female instrumentalists have not been part of the story of jazz as much as their male counterparts and we want to play a part in writing a more balanced story from here on in and dissolve stereotypes in the process.”

In turn, Poplar Union comments “we are very excited to present this series of live performances featuring a line-up of true talent from the up-coming London jazz scene. This is an integrative platform, aiming to bring women from the background to a balanced foreground in jazz.” This debut series – hopefully the first of many – features three different acts in three different concerts (one per month), all scheduled for a fairly family-friendly early-night start. (Bring your young daughters, and granddaughters. Bring your nieces…)

* * * * * * * *

Nérija are a London-based collective playing exciting and original music inspired by jazz, hip hop, Afrobeat and South African township. Their eclectic repertoire has appealed to not only the UK jazz scene but also given them a presence within rap and pop-focused festivals. The collective (trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, trombonist Rosie Turton, saxophonists Cassie Kinoshi and Nubya Garcia, guitarist Shirley Tetteh, double bass player Rio Kai and drummer Lizy Exell) were winners of the Jazz Newcomer Parliamentary Jazz Award 2017 and Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 nominees. They will be showcasing work from their unreleased new album as well as picking from their critically acclaimed self-titled 2016 EP.”


 
“Highly active throughout the UK scene, Laura Jurd has developed a formidable reputation as one of the most creative young musicians to emerge in recent years: an award-winning trumpet player, composer, leader of the 2017 Mercury-Prize-nominated Dinosaur, and a BBC New Generation Artist for 2015-2017. Described by ‘All About Jazz’ as a musician who “embraces melody, harmony and groove as much as she provokes with blasts of dissonance and gutsy angularity”, it is her ability to combine the soft with the abrasive, the calm with the fiery, that makes her music-making so compelling.”

(For her Jazz Herstory concert, Laura will be playing with a brand-new trio in which she’s joined by regular Dinosaur drummer Corrie Dick but also by a newer collaborator – bassist Tom Herbert of Polar Bear, The Invisible and Acoustic Ladyland).


 
“Since releasing her debut album ‘Finding My Way Home’ in 2011, British-Bahraini trumpet player Yazz Ahmed has emerged as a distinctive voice on the UK Jazz scene, both as a soloist and composer. Her new album, ‘La Saboteuse’, is a deep exploration of her mixed heritage and her growing interest in sound design and electronic effects. The album has been described as “intoxicating, compelling and sonically outstanding”, and as transforming what jazz means in the twenty-first century. As an LSO Soundhub composer, Yazz has explored writing music for her newly developed quarter-tone flugelhorn to enable her to get closer to the spiritual nature of the blue notes in Arabic music; and in recent years has led her quartet and her seven-piece, Ahmed Family Hafla, in concerts around the UK and abroad”


 
All concerts are at Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England. Dates as follows:

  • Nérija – Thursday 18th January 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Laura Jurd – Thursday 15th February 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Yazz Ahmed – Thursday 15th March 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here

Incidentally, the Jazz Herstory Facebook page is a fine place to wander for a engaging, rapid-fire primer and pointer in obscure (or, rather, obscured) female jazz artists throughout the music’s history: not dwelling too much on what they weren’t allowed to achieve but on what they did achieve… and it’s been impressive. I’ve rarely felt so rapidly educated.
 

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