Of all the bands that have been recently lauded under the banner of bright young things in British jazz, Maisha is arguably the most interesting. That they have been finding their way at a relatively safe distance far from the hype machine is a good thing, and there is a pleasing sense of focus on this debut. Saxophonist Nubya Garcia and guitarist Shirley Tetteh are the players here with the highest profiles but the other members of the rhythm section, drummer Jake Long, pianist Amane Suganami and percussionists Tim Doyle and Yahael Camara-Onolo are really no less significant, particularly the latter pair as they provide a pneumatic thrust to the higher tempos on offer.
Stylistically, this is a very contemporary affair. The Afrobeat influences that are commonplace these days are handled with sufficient imagination to avoid cliché, while an artfully deployed string section invokes the spirit of anybody from Chris Bowden and 4-Hero to Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But it is the rich original melodies and potent improvisations, particularly from Tetteh, that more than carry the day.
Maisha, There Is A Place (Brownswood)