Via her debut full-length record Source, the moment has arrived for those searching out an entry point to the root of 28-year-old London tenor sax player Nubya Garcia’s inspiration. Her debut EP Nubia’s 5ive and 2018’s When We Are both received well-earned praise in the hushed tones of NPR speak, adding fire and momentum to WE OUT HERE. That Brownswood compilation, a Gilles Peterson project, celebrated London’s young and exciting jazz scene. Showcasing this generation’s prism of creativity, the release came from within the sphere of their culture.
WE OUT HERE features Garcia on five of the nine selections, an auditory dominance that speaks directly to her award-winning talent, and the plethora of endeavors in which she’s involved. Well-earned swag-juice by way of sweat equity, a mirror of her collaborative spirit.
Source‘s nine songs clocking in at just under an hour. The LP stays rooted in Caribbean influence while touching on soul, dub, and cumbia. The artist was raised in an immigrant family, with her mother from Guyana and her father from Trinidad raising Garcia in the London borough of Camden. In Source, Garcia puts that home influence up-front, on glistening display.
The jump-off for her many musical affiliations was when Garcia became involved in her late teens with Tomorrow’s Warriors, the innovative jazz music educational non-profit co-founded by producer Janine Irons and bassist Gary Crosby. The group is committed to increasing diversity across the arts through jazz, with a special focus on young women from the African diaspora. Nowadays, Garcia performs as a member of the septet she founded, Nérija, a 7-piece London-based, all-female jazz band. There, she serves up soul, hip-hop, and a few more genres you probably weren’t expecting. Then there’s MASHA, a sextet—but it was last year’s performance on Fyah, the tuba-playing phenom Theon Cross’ debut album, where Garcia provided both dedicated group player chops and solo performer ascension.
It’s the core trio—Cross, Garcia, and drummer Moses Boyd—that made every waking moment on Fyah come to life. Musical familial bond produced a locked-in fearlessness among them that’s always at work regardless of tempo, allowing the trio to move, pivot, or layout with intuitive unity. On the hymn-like meditation of “The Offerings,” which sounds like it was recorded in a live setting, we get sheets of autumnal, shamanic-like runs from Garcia. They swirl and blend in with outsized crowd buzz that remains throughout the performance. It’s not rude, nobody yelling or interrupting the performance. Just people choosing to be jazz-adjacent, consuming this energy while they order their pint and take a swig off a smuggled-in flask, vibing in what can be assumed is a sweaty, compacted, funky alternative space. Something we covet these days.
About three minutes and change into “Pace,” the lead song from Source, her Concord Jazz debut album (making her labelmates with Esperanza Spalding), those sheets have become whitecap waves, brimming with upper register majesty-shifting, honking and squeezing every last drop of energy from her dart-accurate band.
As Garcia has mentioned to Downbeat and the New York Times, the song was written a year ago while she reflected on her breakneck touring and performing pace, and just how long that could be sustainable for a groundbreaking artist that has yet to hit 30. She translates the mania with meditative and roaring runs filled with jarring staccato passages and furious double-time spurts. It’s a zinger of an opener.
With the bump-hustling dance floor jazz kicker, “The Message Continues” and calypso-tinged “Inner Game,” we get driver type joints, Garcia takes us outside to the amphitheater, allowing us to sip on some cup wine and breathe … that smoke-filled air. We’re invited to be present without worry. These sax runs are playful, melodic, and just so damn freeing. Members of her band—including Sam Jones, Daniel Casimir, and Joe Armon Jones—shine throughout the track and album, moving in unison with hive mind clarity.
But it’s the album’s eponymous 12-minute foundational skanking dub opus “Source” that takes all the cool points. The track features KOKOROKO‘s Ms. Maurice and Ezra Collective’s Richie Seivwright on trumpet and trombone, respectively, and additional sax support from Cassie Kinoshi, Garcia’s Nérija bandmate. Between tsunami wave solos from Garcia, Joe Armon Jones comes with Donny Hathaway-type soul-jazz phrasing on the keys. Again, it’s the trust between this entire wave of musicians, in utter service to the song, that gives Garcia’s debut stately vibration.