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Emma-Jean Thackray

UM YANG 음 양 (Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions)

    Emma-Jean Thackray, an outstanding figure in the UK jazz scene, releases Um Yang, her long-dreamed project dedicated to the Taoist philosophy of duality and harmony. A highly ambitious and personal record that sees Thackray leading a septet featuring Soweto Kinch and Steam Down’s Wonky Logic, recorded straight to vinyl.

    An accomplished trumpeter, beat-maker, singer, composer and DJ, Thackray draws on far wider influences than jazz. Her sound is distinctive; in the words of The Guardian like “Bitches Brew era Miles entering the dub chamber with a New Orleans marching band – in a good way”. Since debuting in 2016, Thackray has directed the London Symphony Orchestra, performed at the NY Winter Jazz Fest, played Glastonbury five times in 2019 alone, and launched her own record label, Movementt (in association with Warp).

    Raised in Yorkshire, Thackray inherited a grounding in Taoism from her father, and approaches her music with the same pursuit of harmony between Um & Yang (the Korean Ying & Yang), balancing melody and rhythm, groove and free improvisation, cerebral and physical. For this one-off recording, Thackray has applied this ideology in every sense, even down to the ensemble itself featuring not one but two percussionists. Um commences with ethereal interplay between keys, percussion, and Thackray’s trumpet, recalling the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane’s classic records. As the piece builds, an earthy groove emerges. On both trumpet and vocals, Thackray leads the ensemble further out until the piece peaks with an epic breakdown. On the flip, Yang starts on the same cacophonous note but progresses to a joyful groove before returning to a peaceful state again, balance restored.

    When Night Dreamer Records invited Emma to record Um Yang straight-to-disc at Artone’s vintage recording studio in Haarlem, Holland, Emma was excited by the idea of capturing this specific project in one-take, without overdubs or edits. “Recording in (Artone) was such a dream” Thackray recalls. “It had all the fantasy analogue equipment you daydream about one day being able to use. The desk looked like something Uhura would use. All the instruments were natural, woods and metals, no plastic in sight, and everything was to be hit or blown, all analogue. I really needed everything to be natural and real, because the music is about the universe, about the energy of all things, and what is more real than that.” Honest sound to match truly honest music. With Um Yang, Emma-Jean Thackray has created her most personal and defining work to date.

    PERSONNEL:
    Emma-Jean Thackray - Trumpet, Voice, Percussion
    Soweto Kinch - Saxophones
    Lyle Barton - Rhodes
    Ben Kelly - Sousaphone
    Dwayne Kilvington - Percussion
    Crispin Robinson - Congas
    Dougal Taylor - Drums

    Gary Bartz & Maisha

    Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions

      The third release from Night Dreamer’s essential “Direct-to-Disc” sessions sees an incredible meeting between legendary US saxophonist Gary Bartz and leading UK spiritual jazz ensemble, Maisha, featuring two Bartz classics and three brand new joint songs written by both Bartz & Maisha in close collaboration.

      Having cut his teeth playing with the likes of Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Art Blakey and finally in 1970, Miles Davis at the peak of his electric period, Gary Bartz became a leading figure of the early-to-mid 70s spiritual jazz movement, releasing a string of ground-breaking albums on legendary NYC jazz label Prestige Records with his NTU Troop, featuring classics such as “Celestial Blues”, “Uhuru Dance” and “I’ve Known Rivers”, before collaborating on Blue Note Records with the Mizell Brothers on the anthemic jazz funk of “Music Is My Sanctuary”. An oeuvre much loved by soul jazzers and hip hop fans alike.

      Led by drummer Jake Long, Maisha have been central to the UK’s jazz explosion, and have fast become the UK’s most exciting and in-demand young spiritual jazz ensemble, from steller shows at Jazz re:freshed, Total Refreshment Centre & Church of Sound and supporting the Sun Ra Arkestra, to releasing their critically acclaimed debut LP, “There Is A Place” on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings in 2018. Theirs is an organic & explosive sound that blends influences from afrobeat and broken beat to Persian music, with a deep love and understanding of jazz, particularly the heritage of spiritual jazz led by titans such as Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane and of course, Gary Bartz.

      Which makes this collaboration even more special. Bartz was first invited to share a stage with Maisha by Gilles Peterson to headline the inaugural We Out Here festival. Their chemistry was rich and instantaneous, certainly a two-way street, with the young musicians reinvigorating the legend’s performance and wowing the intergenerational festival audience. A European tour followed, including a London Jazz Festival highlight at the Royal Festival Hall, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his album “Another Earth”, originally featuring fellow legends, Pharoah Sanders, Charles Tolliver, Stanley Cowell, and John Coltrane’s own bassist, Reggie Workman. Now the relationship has evolved into a special straight-to-disc recording for Night Dreamer Records, that captures the vitality of their collaboration. Whilst Bartz and Maisha reinvent classic Bartz compositions “Uhuru Sasa” and “Dr Follows Dance”, extending the pieces into long piece improvised grooves, their recording session gave birth to three brand new joint compositions, written the very same day. These include the propulsive “Leta’s Dance” that magically combines the Bartz’ soulful musical lyricism with Maisha’s African-jazz influences, and the organic jazz funk of “Harlem to Haarlem”, featuring a hot solo from guest trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lidstrom of Cykada & Levitation Orchestra fame.

      Like previous Night Dreamer efforts from afrobeat star Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, and the beautiful collaboration between Brazilian stars Seu Jorge & Rogê, the album was recorded in Haarlem’s Artone Studio, a stones throw from Amsterdam, in just one-take, straight-to-disc, avoiding postproduction embellishments and retaining the purity of the performance lost in modern recording techniques.

      This record really is an event, in and of itself, a meeting of talents, minds, generations and zeitgeist moments, captured in a unique and pure manner. The music does not disappoint, as Maisha have been inspired to reach new heights whilst we find Bartz truly reinvigorated, and both artists in tune to the spirit of the other.


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