The young London jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia is a sought-after representative of her instrument. Her debut album “Source” lives from her curiosity.
“Holidays? Ha! ”Nubya Garcia can only laugh at that. The reporter, who remembers British manners, wanted to end the interview with a classic small talk question. But most Londoners are far from vacation planning in Corona summer 2020. There, too, new lockdown scenarios are already being discussed.
So Nubya Garcia (pronounced “Nubaia”), the saxophonist with Guyanese-Caribbean roots, sits in her London apartment and sighs. “How I would love to do that: stand next to someone in a sweaty club again! But we have to do everything differently now. There are now open-air concerts here too, but who knows what will happen next. ”
After all: the 29-year-old artist has a reason to be happy. Her debut album has just been released: “Source”. “Long-awaited” is a claim that music journalists can find in every second press release. But here it is true: Garcia’s debut EP came out more than three years ago. As a result, she got to know clubs all over England, performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival and was co-founder of two bands. More importantly, the saxophonist became, alongside Shabaka Hutchings, the most sought-after representative of her instrument in the British capital.
Garcia’s tense saxophone sound, described by taz as a “full-oil can sound”, was what everyone wanted on their album: tuba player Theon Cross, Afrobeat troupe Ezra Collective and even Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven called.
First violin, then viola
Nubya Garcia has lived on the Thames all her life: the youngest of four siblings, she was born in 1991 in the Camden district to a Guyanese mother and a Trinidadian father. She learned the violin first, then the viola. At the age of 10, her stepfather, to whom she dedicates a ballad on “Source”, gave her a saxophone. Family influences have shaped Garcia’s musical work ever since. Her song “Before us in Demerara & Caura” with the shimmering rock steady piano and hymn-like horns names the places in Guyana and Trinidad where their ancestors lived.
“I was always curious,” explains Garcia. “I was interested in folk and traditional music from the Caribbean as a child. Last year I was lucky enough to be able to go to Colombia twice to record with the band La Perla. Now there’s a cumbia track on the album. But dub influences are also great. I had an exact idea of which sounds I wanted for my album, electronic influences like FlyLo are also included. ”
Garcia’s songs seem more focused than the compact jazz-hip-hop tracks of Los Angelitos Flying Lotus. The slow soul burners “Together …” and “Boundless Beings” cool the tempers heated by flawless seventies soul jazz tracks like “The Message Continues”. What always resonates and buzzes so prominently in the title track “Source” is the dub. Keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, otherwise a keyboard man at Ezra Collective, plays an enraptured Rhodes solo in “Source”, which is followed by those stoned spiritual jazz choirs that are currently so valued in London. Twelve minutes of perfect groove – what a piece!
Music as consomme
When Garcia is asked to explain the meaning of the album title, she seems a bit nebulous. “I asked myself what gives me energy. I want to be present for myself and others. Me as a musician – that has power! Music can give so much strength, especially in the form of a concert, it is a powerful but also meditative force. Anyone who has had a tough week and is tired can recharge with it. ”
In times of social distancing, the music of “Source” has to be enough to give strength. Garcia’s solos on the album are always played with verve, her penetrating tenor saxophone works as an alarm clock. So much strength can also be exhausting. Stylistically, however, “Source” is enormously diverse with echoes of broken beat, cumbia and post-dubstep. Without making an effort. As diverse as London.
Nubya Garcia lived by the Thames all her life, born in Camden
“I’ve never lived anywhere else,” says Garcia of her hometown. “The differences between rich and poor have always been enormous here. That’s tough, but on the other hand, that’s why the culture is incredibly rich. Whenever I’m somewhere else, I ask myself: could I live here? And the answer is: Of course I could. But, like in London, would I be able to observe so many different people with so many different lives in one ordinary day? Who manage to coexist peacefully? ”
The artist pauses, you think you can hear her on the phone as she looks through the window at the busy Camden High Street. “It’s not a perfect city, but it’s my home.”