Nubya Garcia’s Proms debut

From BBC Proms website: “British saxophonist, composer, DJ and bandleader Nubya Garcia is one of the brightest of a new generation of jazz talent, drawing comparison with greats such as Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon. Named a ‘major voice’ by The New York Times, she has devised a brand of ‘eclectic, danceable, political jazz’ that draws on influences from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Tonight marks her Proms debut.

Nubya Garcia (saxophone), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), Sam Jones (drums), Joe Armon-Jones (keyboards), Daniel Casimir (double bass), Vula Malinga, LaDonna Young, & Michelle NDegwa (backing vocalists)

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Jones

Reviewed: 18 August, 2021
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

This was the Proms debut of London’s own jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia, and another step in the extraordinary progress of the female jazz performer. A nod to her vocal predecessor Sade, Nubya sported a rope side plait. And, an evolutionary step up from Sade, Nubya entered stage-left bedecked in the voluminous folds of an Issy Miyake frock, having already garnered a deal with luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta.

The jazz fan is a doggedly loyal soul, and sure enough the venue was max pax. The jazz audience is truly a rainbow coalition of generations and nations with an enthusiasm matched, perhaps, by only a few other Prom audiences in a Season. Heads swayed, nodded and bobbed. Fingers clicked. Eyes closed in Ayahuasca-style reverie.

Source, from the eponymous album, launched the evening. An insistent, melancholic Ska keyboard beat underscored Nubya’s solo jazz tenor sax – sweet tristesse. Nubya thanked the audience, informing us that this week was the anniversary debut of the album released “in the craziest of times”. Then came The Message Continues, soothing elevator music, ’70s-style jazz club.

Daniel Casimir’s Bachian double-bass solo introduction for Pace was the stand-out of the night: a masterful display of excellence, dominating the cavernous infinity of the Hall as no other. Alas, the cavern bettered much of the night’s music, with the oft heard lack of balance with drums crowding other instrumentalists. The band, backing vocals, and guest trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey were extraordinarily able. The music was ‘smooth-corporate’ WeJazz  tricked-out in alternative garb.

What image is Nubya seeking? The audience needs to know. 

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