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Ambassadors of London’s Rebooted, Revitalized Jazz Scene Come to New York

These are a few of the myriad groups that have incubated at Jazz Re:freshed’s weekly shows, which have taken place since 2003 at a bar in West London called Mau Mau. The concerts began as the pet project of two broken-beat D.J.’s, Justin McKenzie and Adam Moses, who branched out and began presenting live acts like Mark de Clive-Lowe and Kaidi Tatham. They found out quickly that their broad affinities resonated with an unnamed cross-section of listeners.

“We had a space for musicians who were in the jazz world and wanted to experiment, or who were doing stuff that the jazz world was frowning on,” Mr. McKenzie said.

Ms. Touray said that her band came together at a Jazz Re:freshed show three years ago, and has played at Mau Mau ever since. “They’ve been sort of our grounding, like our base in London,” she said. “People feel so comfortable going into that space that they have in West London, they’re engaged instantly.”

Jazz Re:freshed has grown into a multifaceted nonprofit, releasing albums; organizing a free yearly festival that now attracts 5,000 people; and offering some educational programs.

The concerts in New York, the group’s first, were produced as part of a musical diplomacy project in association with British Underground, and they attracted an American version of the Jazz Re:freshed audience.

“One of the defining qualities of Jazz Re:freshed is that since its inception they’ve said, ‘We’re trying to increase ethnic minority representation in both the performers and the audience,’” Mr. Hutchings said. “You’d go to Jazz Re:freshed and you’d see more black people at your jazz gigs than you’d seen maybe all year.”


Nathaniel Cross, left, and Theon Cross performed with Moses Boyd’s Exodus at Baby’s All Right.

Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times

That speaks to the intent of the team, but it also reflects the rising nonwhite population in London — and the pendulum swing toward live entertainment that has helped push jazz back onto young people’s radar in cities across the world.

The history of jazz in Britain begins in the early 20th century, when the sounds of New Orleans and big band music traveled across the Atlantic. American influence has loomed ever since, but to the extent that Britain has boasted its own innovations, they’ve mostly come from the country’s avant-garde, or through musicians with roots in the former British colonies.

The latter influence is ascendant now. That includes forms of electronic music and hip-hop that have defined British club culture for decades without much seeping into its improvised music.

Mr. Hutchings is probably the only musician of his generation receiving serious acclaim outside Britain, but there’s a worthy bumper crop. Yussef Kamaal is a duo that owes equally to broken beat and to Alice Coltrane. Nérija is a group of seven women making sunny, grooving funk. Ashley Henry is a pianist with debt on the surface to Robert Glasper, and traces of Vijay Iyer’s rhythmic approach a few levels deeper.


The drummer Moses Boyd played with Shabaka Hutchings and led his own quintet, Exodus, at both shows.

Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times

Mr. Boyd, 26, is one of the most sought-after drummers on the London scene. He hails from South London, where he fell in love early with grime, the unruly hip-hop native to Britain, and with the hyped-up electronic music known as garage. As a teenager, he taught himself to make beats in his bedroom, while learning jazz drumming as a student in Tomorrow’s Warriors, an educational program aimed at young minority students.

Last year he released “Rye Lane Shuffle,” a sauntering, Afrobeat-like tune that became a favorite of Gilles Peterson and other influential British D.J.’s. This month Mr. Boyd put out “Absolute Zero,” a different kind of EP, featuring his big-boned drumming wreathed only in twinkly, yawning synthesizers.

Moses Boyd – “Rye Lane Shuffle” Video by Gilles Peterson

At Baby’s All Right on Saturday, he started with a chip-chopping funk groove on the hi-hat, with wide guitar chords falling in heavy, single strokes, then lingering. A saxophone and trombone stated slow, three-note phrases, forthright and free of vibrato, and nearly everyone in the room started to sway steadily — somewhere between a dance step and a state of surrender.

On Monday at Nublu, with higher ceilings and a wide-open floor plan, Mr. Boyd’s band couldn’t harness the same pull. Its playing felt more full of jargon, and less open-ended. It made you wonder about the consensual, closed loop that can set in when a bunch of young talent stays in communion for too long. Maybe some intergenerational friction, some conflicts of language and reference, could work to the advantage here.

But the opposite was true of Mr. Hutchings, 33, who put on an even more infectious performance than he had two nights before; he seemed eager and able to fill the room to its rafters, pulling Mr. Boyd and Mr. Cross into a frothy repartee and never letting them flag.


From left, Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd and Theon Cross, performing “Mzwandile” from “Wisdom of Elders,” an album recorded with a band of South African musicians.

Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times

At both shows, his trio played “Mzwandile,” a doleful and heralding tune from his latest album, “Wisdom of Elders,” recorded with a band of South African musicians. Like Kamasi Washington, his more famous American contemporary, Mr. Hutchings uses minor keys to convey seriousness and passion, creating lift without forfeiting control. But the mutability of his sound, the many angles of his attack, the rhythmic ebullience — they’re well beyond Mr. Washington’s playbook.

Perhaps Mr. Hutchings was feeling something familiar in the room at Nublu. In Britain, he says, he sometimes plays clubs that are crowded with audience members under 30. In these situations, he said, “there’s a fire and an energy from the audience.”

“They want to dance and party but they’re also enthusiastic about the music,” he added. “They’re finding a way to balance that. We don’t have to — they do. That energy then passes upward to the musicians, and you figure out how to communicate it.”

Correction: August 29, 2017

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the vocalist who performed with Native Dancer. She is Frida Mariama Touray, not Toura.

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