Nubya Garcia Injects Fresh Energy Into The UK Jazz Scene


Nubya Garcia is among the 25 artists DownBeat thinks will help shape jazz in the decades to come.

(Photo: Adama Jalloh)

​Affectionately nicknamed “Empress” or “Queen” by British journalists and fans, saxophonist Nubya Garcia took quite a journey to arrive at the release of her debut full-length album, Source (Concord).

After picking up the saxophone at age 10, the London native enrolled in a jazz program at the Royal Academy of Music and later earned her degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Her participation in the educational program Tomorrow’s Warriors was a key influence on her creative development.

Since emerging with the septet Nérija in 2016, Garcia has injected fresh energy into the UK jazz scene. In addition to her EPs Nubya’s 5ive (Jazz re:freshed) and When We Are (Nyasha), she contributed to the landmark UK jazz compilation We Out Here (Brownswood).

Garcia, who was born to Trinidadian and Guyanese parents, addresses big topics on Source. “It’s a collection of thoughts and feelings about identity, family history, connections, collectivism and grief,” she explained. “I had a lot of thoughts and feelings whilst writing the album ... life and identity questions, in terms of me wanting to know more than I already did about where my family’s from.”

Sonically, Source offers a compelling mixture of spiritual jazz, dub, reggae, Latin rhythms and Afro-diasporic sounds.

“I learned so much from [doing my last EP],” she said. “I weighed up my options between remaining independent or whether and I wanted to work with a label.”

Amid her busy schedule of touring, writing and DJing, Garcia came to a natural decision: “I realized that, whilst making an album, you don’t have to do everything. If you want to push yourself to the maximum, then you need a team to do all the other things, because they’re at the top of their field. Really, what I’ve chosen, is to put all of my time back into being a musician.” DB

This story originally was published in the November 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

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