May 28, 2024

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One to watch: Emma-Jean Thackray: Video

The Yorkshire-born trumpeter, producer, singer, bandleader, DJ and more is a crossover star in the making.

In the ever-bright constellation of UK jazz players, Emma-Jean Thackray is a supernova. She’s not only a trumpeter but a singer, bandleader, beat-maker, radio host, DJ and now a label head, with her own imprint via Warp Records. That she’s called it Movementt is telling: Thackray’s compositions are of a spiritual and 70s jazz-fusion persuasion, and yet they are often aimed at the dancefloor – nourishing late-night heaters that bring the restless freneticism of broken beat and house into the fray. “Everything I release is based around the mantra ‘music to move the mind, move the body, move the soul’,” she has said.

Thackray is Yorkshire-born, and started off playing cornet in a brass band before switching to jazz trumpet aged 14, which she eventually studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Around this time she got into the hip-hop instrumentals of Madlib and J Dilla, alongside hard-bop and classical, and then relocated to London for a masters at Trinity Laban. She hasn’t lost her brass band roots, however: Thackray tends to layer her trumpet with horns such as the flugel and trombone, while on new single Say Something, the tuba’s low parp has a starring role.

During her cool, assured performance of that track on a recent Later… With Jools Holland, as Thackray laser-eyed the camera to deliver the chorus of “don’t just speak/ say something”, it’s clear that she has the makings of a crossover star such as Kae Tempest. And she has an important message too. Debut album Yellow is a sunburst of stoner jazz (“smells like biscuits and weed”, sings Thackray on Golden Green), Roy Ayers soul, funk, serene strings, and even chanting and windchimes, as she encourages unity (Our People), harmony (May There Be Peace) and hope (Sun). It burns bright – just in time for summer 2021.

‘Has the makings of a crossover star’: Emma-Jean Thackray.
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