Jazz FM announced the full list of nominees for their 2018 awards last week and unsurprisingly, a number of talented young musicians from London’s thriving scene were amongst them. Theon Cross, who recently participated in the fourth of our Jazz Directors series residencies, is up for Instrumentalist of the year alongside Yazz Ahmed, while Elliot Galvin finds himself in the running for UK Jazz Act of the year with the quartet, Dinosaur.
Cross’ nomination emphasises what has been a phenomenal year so far for the tuba player. Through his playing and composition, he challenges preconceptions about the versatility of his instrument and brings an abundance of energy to each ensemble he works with. Discussing his nomination for Instrumentalist of the year, Cross explained ‘when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in jazz playing the tuba, there was no guarantee I was going to be successful. There were also a few musicians who tried to persuade me to play a different instrument early on, so it shows how persistence, hard work and having a vision for yourself pays off’. He attributed his development to a number of teachers, organisations and peers: ‘A big shout out to the great teachers I had such as Andy Grappy, Oren Marshall, Patrick Harrild and my GCSE teacher in music Mr Joseph Morgan…the kinetika bloco and Tomorrow’s Warriors who also played a big part in my development’.
He and Sons of Kemet look set for a breakout year, with the imminent release of their new album Your Queen is a Reptile on Impulse! and the beginning of an extensive tour. ‘Surreal’ was the term he used to describe recording on the same label as heroes such as Coltrane and Mingus. ‘It’s a sign of an important time in jazz where artists from outside of America are also starting to get a look in, and I’m extremely excited to be a part of that’ he added.
Having contributed to the Brownswood compilation We’re Out Here earlier this year – he can claim to have played a significant part in the international recognition he now recognises – with recent praise and citation in Rolling Stone serving to reinforce that belief.
He called it ‘a pleasure to be alongside some of the amazing talents of my generation’ when asked about his experience with Courtney Pine & The Inner City Ensemble and adds ‘I think the ideology that unites us [in the London scene] is being true to ourselves through music whilst making the best art we can possibly make’. We wish he, his London peers and fellow residency participants every success off the back of their stunning starts to 2018.
Pianist and composer Elliot Galvin can too reflect on a fantastic Winter. His new solo album The Influencing Machine has been met with unanimous praise: called ‘contemporary jazz that moves between inviting lyricism and explosive edginess, much like that of his musical soulmate and most famous associate, trumpeter Laura Jurd’ by John Fordham of Guardian music.
Galvin launched the album with shows at London’s Vortex club – ‘It almost feels like coming home playing there’ he said, adding that ‘people were really responsive to the new material’. The track Bees, Dogs and Flies is an album highlight and one which we were keen to explore the production of. Galvin told us that the track contains ‘a specific extended technique’ explaining ‘I placed sheets of paper on the strings of the grand piano to create a crunchy, airy sound on the chords of the piece. I also added to that in production by doubling the chords with a Hammond Organ underneath, to create a kind of ethereal sound’. It’s inventiveness and experimental desire such as this that helps make he and his Dinosaur bandmates such pivotal figures in contemporary jazz today and we’re thrilled that they’ll be back to perform at Band on the Wall in June. So too will Yazz Ahmed, the trumpet and flugelhorn player featured in the aforementioned Rolling Stone article on British jazz.
Listen to Theon Cross trio live on Worldwide FM here, check out Yazz Ahmed at New York’s Winter Jazzfest below and cast your vote for UK Jazz act of the year here.