Nu Jazz, Shaking Off The Past
Jazz music seems to provoke a polarizing effect amongst people like no other genre of music. There isn’t a lot of in between when it comes to Jazz, you either love it or you hate it. Until recent years this also applied equally to Jazz fusion styles, like Smooth Jazz. However, with the emergence of the “Nu Jazz” scene in many cities around the world, it may be the first shot for any form of Jazz to challenge the success of the more popular forms of music.
Since the 1970’s a number of Jazz fusion styles of music have developed, the most well known of which is the so called “Smooth Jazz”. Often thought of as as elevator or lounge music, it’s easy listening style, heavy with saxophone or synthesizer, was epitomized but artists such as Sade and Kenny G. While this style of music falls under the banner of Jazz, the high production levels associated with it means that in reality there is very little about “Smooth” Jazz that resembles traditional Jazz.
This is not the case with the latest Jazz off shoot, “Nu Jazz”. Drawing heavily from modern musical genres such as soul, funk and hip hop as well, Nu Jazz aligns it self closely with traditional Jazz in a stand out way. A lack of high production allows improvisation to occur organically. The collaborative effort needed in these situations is also a principle ingredient of traditional Jazz.
Originating In the inner city environments of Europe, in particular Germany, Norway, Paris and London, these melting pots of human cultures has allowed experimentation within Nu Jazz that has not been scene since the days of experimental Jazz. The London Nu Jazz scene is leading the way and draws heavily form Caribbean and African beats. This reflects the migrant population of all of London but the same is true for many other cities in Europe. The growing following of Nu Jazz has seen the leading artists in this new wave of Jazz fusion in high demand with Indie record labels and music festival billing.
The Centre of the Jazz world has traditionally been New Orleans in the United State, however with the thriving Nu Jazz scene in Europe the position is shifting. With the average age of followers of Nu Jazz in their 20’s or 30’s and the age of the fans of traditional Jazz much older this shift is inevitable.
Nu Jazz, the super cool version child of its parent traditional Jazz, has stepped out of the shadow of its brother, Smooth Jazz and is taking off to heights that could only have been dreamed off not that long ago.