Saxophonist Nubya Garcia, currently leading the resurgence of the London jazz scene, is celebrating the release of her debut solo album entitled Source (out now!). The talented and ambitious musician has been playing since the age of 10 and went from the Trinity Laban Conservative in Greenwich to a part of Tomorrow’s Warriors, which also boasts Soweto Kinch, Shabaka Hutchings and Cassie Kinoshi as alumni.
“I was inspired by artists such as Mala, Commodo, Silkie, Ravel, and Dego,” Nubya tells ESSENCE when asked about the musicians that influenced her over the years.
It’s that level of openness and honesty that fuels the theme for this week’s edition of ESSENCE’s The Playlist. Garcia shared 10 songs that have served as sources of inspiration for her debut album, which provided an opportunity to introduce herself.
“If I could describe the source of my own inspiration in one word, it would be ‘diaspora,'” she shares. “It’s part of the fabric of who I am and how I interact with the world.”
Garcia has made huge strides in just a few short years and changed perceptions of what jazz can be and who it is for. For myself, as someone who thrives on being creatively inventive, I wanted to ask the newly crowned “Queen of Jazz” for advice about channeling inspiration during those “hard-to-do” moments to which she says, “Be patient with yourself.”
Wise words from one of the freshest virtuosos (and friends in my head) in the music world. With that said, it’s our hope that you too are inspired by this Camden Town-powered playlist, and add these 10 song selections to your personal rotation!
1. Nubya Garcia — Source (ft. Ms MAURICE, Cassie Kinoshi & Richie Seivwright)
Garcia’s first pick is her otherworldly titular track, “Source,” which was recorded at La Perla in Colombia. “Being in the studio with the band was really inspiring,” Garcia says. “To hear everything come together was an incredible moment for me.” Featuring Ms MAURICE, Cassie Kinoshi and Richie Seivwright (who also appears on “Stand With Each Other”), “Source” is a smooth wave of melodious marvel. “I love the feeling it invokes,” Nubya shares, “and if you aren’t paying attention [to the song] you’re certainly guaranteed to miss things.” Don’t miss out on this opportunity to listen to a legend-in-the-making, y’all!
2. Immanuel Wilkins — “Grace and Mercy”
An impressively astute and knowledgable artist in his own right, 22-year-old Immanuel Wilkins‘ debut album Omega, weaves Black history throughout his melodious opus. On “Grace and Mercy,” he intently infuses the sublime to chase the harder topics of pain that fill in other songs on the album. An irresistibly catchy composition, which features a spacious solo from pianist Micah Thomas, “Grace and Mercy” is about how God has shown favor in the alto saxophonist’s life and how he’s continuing to gain more “compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and humility” for others. This is inspiring energy in audio form.
3. Lianne La Havas — “Green Papaya”
“I love this whole album,” Garcia says about this pick for The Playlist. “I’ve had it on repeat at home and whilst driving. ‘Green Papaya’ in particular is so beautiful—the songwriting and her vocals, of course, are amazing.” From the melancholic finger-picking to the gorgeous fragility that Lianne La Havas displays on the track, “Green Papaya” is that sort of smooth jam that proves why the Mercury-nominated soloist should be added to your own well-curated playlist.
4. Brasstracks — “Golden Ticket” (ft. Maségo & Common)
I’ve made it no secret that I absolutely love Brasstracks. Ivan Jackson and Conor Rayne bring their Grammy Award-winning shine to the forefront on “Golden Ticket,” which features slick wordplay from Common and effortless croons from (another friend in my head) Maségo. This is another groovy number that adds to their awesomeness, which should encourage horn-and-drum lovers to check out their debut album by the same name that’s out today!
5. Demae — “Stuck in a Daze” (ft. Ego Ella May)
Demae, the artist formerly known as Bubblerap is prepping her solo artist debut LP later this year. The London-born singer is warming up listeners with the single, “Stuck in a Daze.” “I really love Demae’s new track,” Nubya confesses. “I’ve heard the upcoming album, which is also great!” With no shortage of musical gifts, “Stuck in a Daze” is a uniquely dreamy offering, which features fellow Londoners, Ego Ella May and Joe Armon-Jones, and is a caramel-soft, but emotive bit of jazz-leaning soul you’ll enjoy. “I can’t wait for people to hear the full record,” Nubya says, and I wholeheartedly agree.
6. UNO Stereo — “Keynote Interlude” (ft. Jordan Dennis)
UNO Stereo, the Grammy-nominated, ARIA Award-winning alter-ego of producer Nic Martin, has been in my rotation since his new project dropped a while back. Innerludes, which is as colorful as it is creative, is personally inspiring to me as someone who desires to do something different with these words I write. “Keynote Interlude” is a stylish and richly textured song that weaves in elements of hip-hop, traditional soul, modern electronica, and includes the vastly talented Jordan Dennis on the must-download-immediately track.
7. Greentea Peng — “Hu Man”
“Hu Man” is a refreshing song that continues to mark the rise of Greentea Peng. “This new release is just what we all need, I reckon,” Nubya says about her fellow Londoner. “I really love her music.” Beamed straight from the beaches of Ipanema, “Hu Man” has bossa nova flavors, but filtered through a defiantly London prism. “The sentiment behind the track resonates with me. I wholeheartedly agree that we could all get back to our center, grounding ourselves and reaching out for unity,” she says. If you’re inspired by the exploration of self and your attachment to identity, then “Hu Man” is a war cry needed during these times of confusion.
8. The JuJu Exchange — “Eternal Boombox” (ft. Tank and the Bangas)
The JuJu Exchange is a jazz act that’s hard to pin down or define. It is inspiring to learn that they’ve teamed up with Tank and The Bangas (Hi, Terriona!) to explore the concept of grief in this new song called “Eternal Boombox.” This track is an ever-changing, yet smooth song, with its jazz-meets-R&B energy, insistently moving beat, and recurring horn blasts that hit the ears as a welcomed surprise. Add in Tank’s hypnotically evocative spoken word verse to close out the track and I’m grateful that The JuJu Exchange has allowed this song to grace music lovers everywhere.
9. Charles Tolliver — “Blue Soul”
“This track in particular just really resonates with me,” Nubya says about Charles Tolliver‘s first studio material in more than a decade. “Blue Soul” is a glorious nugget of cool with classic-era Blue Note-energy imbued throughout. Charles is an unsung hero in the jazz world who makes music for the true music lovers. “I’ve had [‘Blue Soul’] on repeat over these last few weeks and I’ve just been loving getting deeper into it,” Nubya shares.
10. DUCKWRTH — “New Love Song”
To close out this week’s The Playlist, DUCKWRTH‘s “New Love Song” provides some much needed love and joy. Despite the chaotic backdrop of 2020 that we’re living in, the LA rapper and songwriter’s first track from his major label studio album is a N.E.R.D.-channeling dose of escapism that has enough positivity to light up an entire coast. With “an appreciation for Black music and Black rhythm” as the song’s DNA, “New Love Song” and SuperGood provides enough evidence that suggests DUCKWRTH will be an inspirational artist for years to come.
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