The dog ate Chris Daly‘s homework.
Back in ’91, Janine Irons and Gary Crosby launched Tomorrow’s Warriors,a jazz development program “with a special focus on those from the African diaspora and girls.” Graduates from the program read like a current “Who’s Who” of British jazz, but one group of attendees is starting to stand out from the rest. Nérija, the septet comprised of Nubya Garcia (tenor saxophone), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), Cassie Kinoshi (alto saxophone), Rosie Turton (trombone), Shirley Tetteh (guitar), Lizy Exell (drums) and Rio Kai (bass), has been kicking ass and taking names for a few years now, having already dropped their superb, eponymous EP in 2016. Now the women in the band (plus, Rio, the one dude) are back with Blume, attempting to prove that the best jazz is performed collectively.
With two group compositions and one track composed by each individual member, Blume very much has a family affair appeal. Whether it’s the easy entry groove of the band-composed opener, “Nascence,” or the more frenetic approach of “Last Straw,” the band gives ample time and space to each individual for solos while retaining a group strength that carries each track. Nérija shifts stylistically throughout the album, from the funk-driven guitar work on “Last Straw” to the thumping percussion and bass on “Equanimous” to the blood pumping pace of “Swift.” No two tracks sound alike, and quite frankly, that seems to be the point. When you’ve got a crew this talented, you let them each shine. Their touch is light, but do not mistake that for anything approaching weak. This is a band that WORKS in basically every sense of the word.
You know the drill here at POW. No matter the situation, you’re always better served listening to more jazz. On Blume, Nérija makes that a treat, not homework.