We Out Here – it started as a compilation album, and it since snowballed into something much bigger; a brand of jazz? An event? A movement? Whatever stamp you want to put on it, one thing is clear to see and hear: Gilles Peterson’s inaugural We Out Here festival this August is the result of a buzz that has seen jazz and related music break from its box and spill out into the mainstream.
We Out Here, album origins
The We Out Here compilation album, which hit the shelves on the 9th of February 2018, was created with a few key goals in mind. Designed as a primer on London’s bright burning jazz scene, it sought to act as a platform for a clutch of exciting new artists. Much of this sentiment was contained within the title, designed to evoke the sense of a restless underground that was ready to be taken notice of. The artists who made up the album were as follows: Theon Cross, Nubya Garcia, Maisha, Ezra Collective, Moses Boyd, Shabaka Hutchings, Triforce, Kokoroko and Joe Armon-Jones.
True to this idea of a new jazz community, both in London and further afield in Britain, all of these artists have secured spot in the festival’s line up (barring Ezra Collective and Triforce). The sound of We Out Here has become something of an export in this way, inseparable from the British and the London milieu that resonates between the notes. It has prompted musings of a post-American jazz revival being spun by writers and commentators alike.
But in trying to define what this all means, there are a few unifying factors that crop up again and again: all participants are steadfastly multicultural in their outlook, all have one foot in the past while looking to the future, all are genre-benders and all play with confidence, dynamism and muscle. It is this energy that has got London live sessions feeling more like club raves, with speakers vibrating and sweat dripping from the walls.
We Out Here, ones to watch
Theon Cross is perhaps the artist that best represents this tone. A tuba player, he breaks down preconceptions in real time, bouncing around on stage while creating almost inconceivable warbling basslines. His album, Fyah, marked something of an unexpected hit (when was the last time an album lead by the tuba was generating traction online?) and managed to blow away the cobwebs of connotation in real time, showing how old dixieland instruments can be used to sound modern and percussive, evoking a variety of genres, from soca to grime. Read our full review below:
Shabaka Hutchings signed to Impulse in 2018, all but crowing him the cross-continental flagbearer for the We Out Here sound. He leads the groups Sons of Kemet (along with Theon Cross), as well as the Comet is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors. As eloquent in speech as any musician out there, his articulation has led to the creation of a swirl of conceptual theorizing that follows his music around the media like a shadow. Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery was the album released by the Comet is Coming in 2019, and it is a cosmic jazz rollercoaster, showcasing a set of musicians who are teetering on the edge of realizing their full artistic capabilities. Read Qwest TV’s full review:
But perhaps the most enduring and surprising success from the We Out Here album came in the form of Kokoroko, the jazz and afrobeat 7 or 8 piece (depending on the day) who delivered “Abusey Junction,” the album’s last and most-played track. One way or another, they achieved a kind of alchemy with this release, the opening guitar notes seeming powerful enough to transport listeners to that sweet spot, where both pain and joy sing together. Despite still not having subsequently delivered a full album together, Kokoroko have made themselves a hot prospect everywhere they go, selling out shows at a rate of knots. Qwest TV caught up with them recently, check out the full interview here:
We Out Here, selected artists
This kind of collaboration, one between Brownswood Records and Worldwide FM, is bound to bring a broad and generation-hopping group of artists to the stage in Cambridgeshire this August. As well as the young players on the London scene, We Out Here will give space to some legends of the game, from several continents. As such, it is shaping up to be an event that follows the progressively blended and bold direction of modern jazz, soul, funk, hiphop and electronica. As suggested in the description on the website, it is for listeners to join up the dots between these increasingly blurred genre markers.
Keep an eye out for some vocal legends hailing from the USA. For example, the spiritual jazz singer Dwight Trible will take to the stage alongside Gary Bartz and Saul Williams, two men who need no introduction, both masters of their respective crafts (saxophonist and spoken word wizard) who undertake collaborative projects with the leaders of tomorrow, acting as bridges between different schools of thought. Notably, Saul Williams’ recent feature in Christian Scott’s Ancestral Recall is worth having a look at.
Lee Fields will take up his place at the We Out Here festival, too, something that those in the know will be preparing themselves for. A bonefide living godfather of soul, Fields has been singing for over half a century. Since the so-called soul revival in the early 2000s, Fields’ sound has matured. Rooted in love and in faith, the music he produces has been resonating with more people than ever in this late stage in his career. Fields has been Qwest TV’s guest of the month in 2019 and he sat down with us for perhaps the most revealing interview of his career. Read it here.
Another veteran artist who has experienced a shift in recent years is Hailu Mergia. He went from being one of the leading lights in Swingin’ Addis Ababa, to a taxi driver in Washington, who pulled over onto the side of the road to play the keyboard in his trunk. Since receiving a successful reissue from Awesome Tapes from Africa, Mergia has been able to tour again, connecting with fans he never realized he had. Because of this and many other episodes, his is a life story that will interest fans of music, as well as consumers of culture and history in general. In an illuming chat, he revealed all to Qwest TV.
We Out Here, Gilles Peterson
The DJ, broadcaster and record label owner stands at the crux of this glowing set up, seeking to ignore barriers, and to bring together those who are passionate about music in an open and inclusive environment. “I really wanted to bring to the UK a festival that celebrates elements of club culture, and the community that surrounds it, that I have been lucky enough to be a part of over the years.”
The momentum is with him and the beginnings of a significant era can be felt far and wide. While We Out Here 2019 may be the inaugural instalment of the event, but it is very unlikely to be the last.
Where is We Out Here?
How much are tickets and where to get them?
All info can be found here!