Multi award-winning saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia is back with her much anticipated debut album, SOURCE. Her first release on Concord Records, under the iconic Concord Jazz imprint, SOURCE is due for release on August 21, 2020. The album is produced by Garcia in collaboration with the celebrated producer Kwes (Nerija, Bobby Womack, Solange). Garcia returns with Joe Armon-Jones (keys), Daniel Casimir (bass) and Sam Jones (drums).
The album follows her 2018 self-released EP, WHEN WE ARE, the title track of which was described as “effervescent” by The New York Times and named one of NPR’s Best Songs of 2018. Her debut EP, NUBYA’s 5IVE, released in 2017, was hailed as “exceptional” by The Vinyl Factory and sold out on vinyl within 24 hours. In 2018, Garcia also featured on five of the nine tracks on WE OUT HERE, the Brownswood compilation project celebrating London’s young and exciting jazz scene. She won the Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year Award and the Sky Arts Breakthrough Act of the Year Award in 2018, and the Jazz FM UK Jazz Act of the Year Award in 2019.
A collection of sonic mantras to live by, SOURCE is a deeply personal offering in which Garcia maps cartographies around the coordinate points of her identity, her family histories, grief, afro-diasporic connections and collectivism. SOURCE is fundamentally about getting grounded within yourself, so that you can be present with others. It’s about a realization of personal and collective power: the evolution of the saxophonist’s values as she re-connects with herself, her roots and her community. Garcia digs deep to present an album with a global outlook: from London to Bogota, Caura to Georgetown, it’s a record drawing inspiration from the many places Garcia calls home.
Garcia’s erudite blend of broken beat, soul, dub-step, afro-diasporic sounds – from cumbia to calypso expands further on this record, all whilst never losing her deep jazz foundation. The album takes as much inspiration from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as it does from Flying Lotus, Calypso Rose, Mala and Nidia Góngora. SOURCE is about a radical, relentless belief in our capacity to surmount the individual and collective challenges we face now, and those to come.
The record opens with Pace, a purposeful composition, the track swings between spatial quietude and intense peaks, which Garcia likens to crashing waves. The track’s relentlessness mimics the hustle and hyper productivity of modern life, a mode of living that can leave us collectively “very isolated and disconnected from ourselves and each other”, Garcia says. As an antidote, Garcia wanted “to think about what makes each of us joyful, what things we personally reach towards to feel grounded.” Moments of rest on the record are “like sweeping your hands for stillness before you go back out again, on whatever journey you’re on.” The irony of the track’s title and intentions aren’t lost on Garcia in the midst of this pandemic – it’s a track about reassessing her own values, something the uncertainty of the current moment demands we all do.
Where Pace is about an internal sense of grounding, with its steady, questing solos and capacious grooves, The Message Continues is about taking root in the stories and experiences of our elders. Garcia hones in on the importance of learning about and passing on stories from the past, so that knowledge isn’t forgotten.
The album’s title track, Source, arrives reworked in steamy dub overtones, blending together reggae, jazz and myriad sounds from her youth. The sweltering heat generated in the track’s basslines and Garcia’s militant sax place the track as a paean to personal power. It’s a theme that carries over into Together is a Beautiful Place To Be, a soaring ballad dedicated to her late stepfather. Dancing on the outer edges of soul and gospel, it’s a meditative space, a wake of sorts, set to high hat soft blows, a delicate accompaniment from Sheila Maurice-Grey and Joe Armon-Jones’ gentle keys. “I miss him,” Garcia reflects. “I’m thankful that I got to say goodbye. When I take my experiences out of the song, it’s about being with your family, your people and your community.”
Stand With Each Other is built on serpentine nyabinghi grooves. Here, Garcia is joined by Kokoroko’s Richie Sievwright, Cassie Kinoshi and Sheila Maurice-Grey on standout vocals recalling classic reggae harmonies from the likes of the Wailers and The Congos: “I love the three of them singing so much, the blend is like nothing I’ve heard for a really long time – I wanted the vocals to sound like a classic Lover’s Rock tune and they nailed it,” Garcia shared. It’s a celebration of collectivism, particularly of women: Garcia wants to celebrate the incredible artists she’s in community with, and at the same time, wants the industry to move beyond viewing artists only in terms of their genders: “I’m more than a woman. And I’m not the only woman [on the scene],’ she shares.
On La cumbia está llamando, the lyrics say it all: ‘’the cumbia is calling me.’ Last year with the British Council, and alongside other members of the London Jazz Scene, Garcia spent a week in Colombia where she first met multi-instrumentalist Diana San Miguel of La Perla, a young trio celebrating the nation’s traditional music. Garcia was so enamored that she went back this past winter, soaking in the sounds across her travels through Cali, Bogotá (where the track was recorded at the renowned Mambo Negro studios), and Timbiquí.
Curious to know more about her family’s lives and histories, Before Us: In Demerara & Caura follows deep dive excavations into Garcia’s family histories. Musically, Garcia draws from a rich web of Guyanese folk songs and carnival culture both in London and the Caribbean. Through the track, it’s an attempt to honor those experiences, and to attend to the alienation she feels from distant homelands.
Anchored on Daniel Casimir’s pliable bass and the haunting control of Chicagoan vocalist Akenya, the album’s closer Boundless Beings, in Garcia’s words, sums up the sentiment of the album. A dystopian anti-ballad, it’s a testament to personal triumph. It brings to mind the erotic – in Audre Lorde’s definition – as a mode of survival, one that is generative not only for each of us personally, but each other and the planet – all concerns that Garcia shares. It’s about radical, relentless belief in our capacity to surmount the individual and collective challenges we face now, and those to come.
Garcia studied under pianist Nikki Yeoh at Camden Music, before joining Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors in her late teens and completed her training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music. She is a member of the contemporary septet, Nerija, and has toured extensively internationally, playing venues and festivals across Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the United States. Garcia’s reputation as a DJ is also burgeoning; she currently helms a hit radio residency on NTS and plays a growing number of live sets across Europe.
1. Pace (7:52)
2. The Message Continues (6:44)
3. Source featuring Ms MAURICE, Cassie Kinoshi, Richie Seivwright (12:08)
4. Together Is A Beautiful Place To Be (7:36)
5. Stand With Each Other featuring Ms MAURICE, Cassie Kinoshi, Richie Seivwright (3:38)
6. Inner Game (7:44)
7. La cumbia me está llamando featuring La Perla (4:15)
8. Before Us: In Demerara & Caura featuring Ms MAURICE (8:00)
9. Boundless Beings featuring Akenya (2:46)