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Yussef Dayes

Language available : english
Present at the embryonic stage of the explosive South London jazz scene, Yussef Dayes is a talented drummer and composer whose expressive and characterful style was first heard by many as part of United Vibrations, an act fusing Afro-beat stylings with forward-looking jazz and rock, as evidenced best on their acclaimed 2016 album, The Myth of the Golden Ratio. That same year brought the release of Black Focus, a jazz-funk collaboration with Kamaal Williams under the name Yussef Kamaal. In 2020 he issued What Kinda Music, a top five collaboration with singer/songwriter Tom Misch for Blue Note. In February 2021, the Yussef Dayes Trio released the live Welcome To The Hills. In September 2022, The Yussef Dayes Experience: Live At Joshua Tree EP appeared from the Brownswood label. In Septembner 2023, Dayes issued his 19-track debut studio album, Black Classical Music for Nonesuch. Born in South East London, Dayes was given his first drum kit at age four by his bass-playing Jamaican father. While his mother played country music and '60s pop around the house, his father listened to reggae and jazz vinyl. This eclectic mix of genres wove into his rhythmic sensibility, but it was the opportunity to study, at ten years old, under the tutelage of fusion icon Billy Cobham that secured his interest in chasing professional musicianship. The grime and hip-hop loved by his friends at school, as well as the jungle produced by his elder brother Ahmad, additionally went on to inspire his playing style. Even prior to Dayes reaching his teenage years, United Vibrations played gigs in areas of South London -- such as Peckham and Camberwell -- that would later become synonymous with the burgeoning jazz scene swooped upon by the U.K. press and beyond. In 2009, they set out their stall with the single "Ra!"; as its name suggests, the song was inspired by their spiritual jazz idol, Sun Ra. This eventually formed part of their 2011 debut album, Galaxies Not Ghettos, and further evidence of their influences could be found on the 2012 EP We Never Die. The release included tributes to both John Coltrane and Gil Scott-Heron and featured an appearance on the lead track by grime MC Conrad Kira. In 2015, Dayes and pianist/keyboardist Kamaal Williams formed Yussef Kamaal and collaborated on funk-inspired sessions with Shabaka Hutchings, released as the Black Focus LP the following year. The record was soon certified silver, which led to an invite to play at South by Southwest in 2017; however, the performance was canceled when a travel ban prevented Dayes from entering the U.S. They were named named Best Breakthrough Act at 2017's Jazz FM awards. That same year, he appeared on Binker and Moses' widely celebrated Journey to the Mountain of Forever. After Yussef Kamaal split, Dayes' career hit a slower pace temporarily, but over the next couple of years, he released a handful of tracks in collaboration with artists such as Alfa Mist, Charlie Stacey, and Rocco Palladino. When Dayes crossed paths with singer songwriter Tom Misch at a recording session for Loyle Carner's single "Angel," the pair stayed on in the studio to jam and record. These tracks would form the basis of for 2020's What Kinda Music, on Blue Note. The collaborative set went top five and served as Dayes' first charting album. In 2019, Dayes perfomed at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival with a trio that included Palladino and Stacey. Their set was issued as Welcome To The Hills in February 2021. In September 2022 The Yussef Dayes Experience: Live at Joshua Tree EP was released by Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label. Across five songs he led a quintet that included Palladino, saxophonist Malik Venna, keyboardist/synthesist Elijah Fox, and percussionist Alexander Bourt. During this period Dayes assembled his quartet with Venna, Palladino, new keyboardist Charlie Stacey, and guitarist Miles James, and a large studio cast that included guests Tom Misch, Shabaka Hutchings, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Theon Cross, and strings from Chineke! Orchestra -- to name scant few. He began recording his debut studio solo offering in rooms across London. Dayes produced the many sessions, but his co-producers and engineers included Malcolm Catto, Rachel Blum, James, Misch, and others. Dayes titled the set Black Classical Music and released it through Nonesuch in September 2023.
© James Wilkinson /TiVo
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