It is no secret that Steppin’ is reppin’ modern-day Jazz to the fullest. And we’ve got the next best thing from Strasbourg coming! Premiering Jazz outfit Emilie Londonien's new single ‘Covered Bridges’ from their sophomore EP. A contemporary street-style Jazz (I refuse to call Nu Jazz*) that combines free-range drums, soothing b-lines, and extended synth chords and melodies, all centered around improv.
Historically, France always had an interesting relationship with Jazz. From the post-war era which saw American expatriates bring the sound to the country, to the blend with the biguine style from the former Caribbean colonies, to Miles Davis’ influence on movie scores and the classic Jazz-Funk album Troupeau Bleu by Cortex. By no means an exhaustive list, but just a selection to illustrate the trail Jazz took, which was different from its North American counterpart, although its influence was maintained. In today’s day and age in France, however, Jazz blends or aligns more with UK-style Jazz. The authority of this style, championed by Yussef Kamaal but since then taken to continuous heights, reigns supreme in the contemporary continental Jazz scene. It’s hard not to recognise the influence of UK Jazz in Emilie Londonien’s music, yet clearly take it as a point of departure.
Back in March 2021, Lucas and I played the band’s previous single ‘Down The Big Street’ during our monthly radio show. We love the non-conforming, or rather, all-inclusive style of composing and it ticked all the boxes to make our ears twitch. It is Jazz Dance modernized, with 25+ years of electronic dance music incorporated in it. Keenly waiting for the next release by Matthieu Drago (drums), Nils Boyny (synth), and Théo Tritsch (bass), Covered Bridges brings a French blend to the mix. Melody and harmonic choices, in my opinion, give away its continental origin. While the 6-minute journey comes off as optimistic and energetic, there are some melancholic moments that balance the track out eloquently, described by the band members as ‘laid back’.
Released on Dope Tone Records, the Strasbourg-based band continue their journey through the modern-day Jazz world and found a common soul along the way who provides the remix of Covered Bridges: Mark de Clive-Lowe. Pioneering the genre, MdCL trades the syncopated groove for a deep house kick drum while the hats, arps and harmonies together form the new groove. You can find this cut later on their Bandcamp.
While Emile Londonien already played Montreux Jazz Festival and Worldwide Festival, gaining nods of approval by various key figures in the scene, Covered Bridges underlines the idea that improv can be accessible. I can see the band play at less niche festivals. In the meantime, I’m bumping this and keeping an eye peered at Strasbourg. Big up!
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* Nu Jazz essentially is an empty signifier due to its poor definition. It served its purpose during the late 90s and early 00s when there was a need to account for the electronic/dance age for young jazz producers, which was already enmeshed within other genre neologisms such as Broken-Beat, Deep House, Jazz House, Acid Jazz and so on. Some stay(ed) and some went. This is the case for Nu Jazz. There are no clear demarcations for the style (although an exception can be found here), which allow it to be the empty signifier that it is. As a result, anything that doesn’t fit any other of the more popular genres (or ones that are overpopulated) resorts to Nu Jazz. This is not to shit on anybody, but rather a cultural critique and a call to move on ;).