This week, April 30th, the 2021 International Jazz Day and its All-Star Global Concert will once again serve as a positive experience that we all need in our lives today. = Herbie Hancock, who presides over International Jazz Day, promises this historic 10th anniversary milestone will be a beautiful experience that will be a healing balm on what has been a cruel set of months.
Presented live via YouTube and Facebook, the All-Star Global Concert will feature performances by Andra Day, Stefon Harris, Ben Williams, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and more. As a self-professed jazz head, I’m happy for us to enjoy the 2021 International Jazz Day as a family. I’m also excited to share my personal MVP picks starring these young jazz giants who are creating enticing experiences and are the future of the genre.
In no ranking order, here are 7 breakout up-and-coming talents that you need to know and add to your playlist rotation.
- Immanuel Wilkins
Must Listen: Omega
The brilliance of this 22-year-old altoist is not just relegated to his debut solo album, Omega. His transformative talents set ablaze live stages, as evident on songs such as “Grace and Mercy” and “Ferguson – An American Tradition”. Immanuel Wilkins’ musical DNA has traces of Gary Bartz and Charlie Parker and his deep lyricism illuminates the fight taken on by this new generation. With a style that uses melodic content to fight injustice, his work will leave listeners in awe.
2. Nubya Garcia
Must Listen: Nubya’s 5ive
The first time you hear Nubya Garcia, you’ll commit where you were at to memory. For me, it was Brooklyn. Listening to Abusey Junction, a project from Brownswood Recordings celebrating London’s young jazz scene, “Once” has built an impressive legacy for Nubya Garcia that continues to impact the culture, leading into 2020’s Source and beyond.
3. NYEUSI & Justin Brown
Must Listen: NYEUSI
From his first-class elite status as a drummer/bandleader to being an MVP in both the Grammy Band and the Brubeck Institute — Justin Brown is one not to miss. His curiosity and commitment to the craft, mixed with his fresh, synthesizer-heavy riffs, made him and his band, NYEUSI, a genre-busting force different from the rest. One playthrough of “Lesson 1: Dance” will convince you he’s no Ordinary Joe, and whenever he comes to town — cop tickets so you can witness his sonic complexities live.
4. Ashley Henry
Must Listen: Altruism
Not even 30-years-old and Ashley Henry is listed amongst a crop of new jazz wunderkinds who do not fail whenever they grace the stage. I first heard the London-born jazz pianist when I played “Altruism” from Ashley Henry’s 5ive, which dropped in 2016. His beautiful playing is steeped in a wide range of influences—from Jason Rebello to Robert Glasper to J Dilla—and has been lauded by music lovers from all over the world. His debut album, Beautiful Vinyl Hunter, is a worthy inclusion in everyone’s jazz discography and separates himself from the merely talented.
5. Ambrose Akinmusire
Must Listen: Origami Harvest
Blessed with an exacted and emotive sound, 38-year-old Ambrose Akinmusire is a trumpeter on the verge of jazz superstardom. His work with other players on the list only adds to the growing stature of his legend. A Blue Note signee, his 2020 release — on the tender spot of every calloused moment — is the most stripped down of his recorded outings for the label. Every bit as socially and emotionally engaged as any of its predecessors, Akinmusire brings soothing light to the darkness with his musical compositions.
Must Listen: We Out Here
Another Abusey Junction alumnus, KOKOROKO embodies an invitation to celebrate life. As one of London’s most thrilling new jazz and Afrobeat collectives, these young musicians have shaken up the live scene with soul-shaking, West African-infused rhythms. Trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey leads this 8-piece band, placing KOKOROKO at the intersection of past and present, where they induce fires on the dance floor while also honoring highlife heroes. Once outside opens, don’t miss KOKOROKO performing live!
7. Shabaka Hutchings
Must Listen: We Are Sent Here By History
Shabaka Hutchings is an otherworldly performer and creative. At this stage of his career, he has been the bridge between some of the names on this list and ushering in the future of jazz artistry. Currently, he leads three separate bands — Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, and Shabaka and the Ancestors — and has played saxophone with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Mulatu Astatke, and Floating Points. An award-winning player, Shabaka Hutchings is able to blend different genres and create something futuristic that is guaranteed to alter the course of sound for listeners.
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersections of music, pop culture and social justice. Follow him @KevitoClark.