Interview: Nubya Garcia

nubya garcia jazz

Nubya Garcia is an award-winning saxophonist and composer at the heart of the UK’s resurgent jazz movement.

Her debut LP, Nubya’s 5ive, which dropped last year via Jazz Re:freshed, toyed with the concept of genre, welcoming shades of funk, hip-hop, garage and broken beat into its frenetic fold.

Aided and abetted in its recording by long-time friends and collaborators Moses Boyd, Theon Cross and, it tapped into the scene’s rhythmic energy and provided a first glimpse into Nubya’s solid composition style.

With the Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year Award now under her belt, and a slot performing at PRS Foundation and BBC Introducing’s showcase at Winter JazzFest in New York tonight (Wednesday), we learn more about her musical beginnings and what’s in store for 2018…

When were you first exposed to jazz?

So, the other day, very recently, my mum told me that when she was pregnant with me she used to listen to Jazz FM. Other than that, there were always different styles playing in the house when I was younger. I started going to gigs with my parents when I was quite young and I heard my older brother playing in the Camden Youth Jazz Band when I was about nine or 10.

What was it about the music that grabbed you?

Probably the huge range in what I was listening to. I couldn’t believe that they were improvising, especially when I went to live gigs – I was really amazed!

How did you find your way into composing?

I think I was encouraged to compose several times throughout the years by various teachers and also playing in bands and groups.

Who or what have been your biggest influences?

It’s always changing really, but there are a few legends that are always at the top of my listening pile… Coltrane, Sonny definitely… Also Miles, McCoy, Sarah Vaughan, Billie, Alice Coltrane… and many, many more.

Why do you think jazz is such a hotbed for innovation at the moment?

Jazz has always been an intense medium of expression. There’s always been a search going on, people are inspired by what’s come before but are looking for their own voice as well and mixing their influences too.

How do you think the genre is evolving?

I’m not sure I can say how…  but to me that’s the nature of the genre really. It’s always evolving and will continue to be inspired and influenced by several areas of life. Essentially, it has and is adapting to the context and the environment it finds itself in.

Nubya’s 5ive was really well received last year – how was that? Were you surprised?

That was great! To be honest, recording a body of work with friends I’ve been playing with and have known for years was phenomenal and really special. An absolute bonus was that the 5ives was really well received – but just having something to work towards and writing music with the aim of putting it out on a record was really transformational for me.

What are you working on at the moment?

Got news dropping soon about a few things!

How do you feel about performing at the Winter Jazz Fest at the PRS Foundation and BBC Introducing showcase?

I’m supremely excited! Absolutely didn’t see myself reaching New York this year, I’m unbelievably grateful for this opportunity.

What’s the last great record you heard?

Ezra Collective – Juan Pablo the Philosopher. What an unbelievably great record.

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