It’s easy to argue that jazz is once again having its moment in the sun, but for those who know where to look, its solidity as one of the 20th century’s defining art forms extends well into the 21st. As for the future, you’d be hard-pressed to think back on a more scene-defining septet than London’s Nérija, even with the city’s years-strong, zero-shortage pool of talent. What’s more, Nérija’s LP Blume, a ten-fold expansion on their scintillating Domino self-titled debut EP, might just go the length to cement their legacy.
Helmed at London’s Soup Studios by producer Kwes, Blume luxuriates in the distinctly vintage, whilst keeping its eyes firmly forward. It savours big band vivacity, even as it maintains a firm grasp on the spontaneity and jagged lyricisms of moderns like Pharaoh Sanders. The fireside warmth of saxophonists Nubya Garcia and Cassie Kinoshi, Rosie Turton’s trombone and Sheila Maurice-Grey’s trumpet is best relished with ‘Riverfest’, and strangely alluring on ‘Equanimous’. The magnitude of the group’s rhythm section upholds throughout; Lizy Exell’s drumming veers from a gentle simmer to an explosive thunderclap, making for a defining guide through the hazy atmospherics of ‘EU (Emotionally Unavailable)’, while Rio Kai’s double bass exhales from burly to tender at a moment’s notice. Guitarist Shirley Tetteh deepens the album’s overall mood, pinging on the audio canvas like the slightest crucial detail.
The emotions here are opaque, but Nérija aren’t a group concerned with simple binaries of feeling so much as their ambiguity. What is crying but a sort of laughter? With Blume, the question is this: how can we console difference, and feel as one?