‘We could lose it all’: UK jazz tries to get its groove back after Covid

Music moves differently depending on the space it’s played in. A typical pre-Covid Wednesday evening at the Matchstick Piehouse in London would see its arch space filled with writhing bodies as the jazz collective Steam Down spilled off the stage, their music in dialogue with our yelps, claps and calls to the band.

But on a humid night in May, during the first week of socially distanced indoor performances beginning again, the music took a different route. Playing two Steam Down sessions to a 30-person, seated and masked audience, the seven-person band launched into an extended riff on Nas’s The World Is Yours and bandleader Ahnansé’s liquid tenor solo bounced off the walls while a train rumbled overhead. Steam Down’s music loudly reverberated around us as we danced in our seats, feet vigorously tapping to the beat.

For fans of the London jazz scene, which has gained a global reputation in recent years, Steam Down was a weekly pilgrimage – a jam session-cum-performance that has seen the likes of Kendrick Lamar collaborator Kamasi Washington, Sons of Kemet bandleader Shabaka Hutchings and saxophonist Soweto Kinch all sit in to collaborate with a new generation of players and listeners.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 16/06/21]