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Maisha

Maisha are a London-based jazz band led by drummer/arranger Jake Long. Their music melds the modal jazz investigations of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Their 2016 debut EP, Welcome to a New Welcome, was released on Jazz Refreshed and quickly launched Maisha onto the British jazz scene. In 2018, they were selected to be a part of Brownswood Recordings' seminal We Out Here, an overview compilation of London's jazz scene; Maisha became one of its breakout acts. Signed to the label, they issued their debut long-player, There Is a Place, in 2018. The set placed on streaming charts across the globe and grabbed the attention of jazz critics, making many journalists' year-end best-of-albums lists. The record provided the group with the opportunity to tour internationally, where they struck a live partnership with alto saxophonist Gary Bartz. Founding Maisha in late 2015, Long recruited tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia and guitarist Shirley Tetteh. (The pair also play together in Nérija.) He gathered the talents of in-demand session and touring pianist/keyboardist Amané Suganami (Jorja Smith), bassist Twm Dylan (Rosie Turton, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith), and drummer/percussionist Tim Doyle (Cykada, Don Kipper). After writing and rehearsing together for a short time, they played their first gig at the Royal Albert Pub's "Good Evening Arts" in Deptford. In May 2016, Jazz Refreshed digitally issued their debut EP, Welcome to a New Welcome; it featured three live tracks from that first show. The recording blasted its way to the upper rungs of the British jazz charts and appeared on international DJ set lists. When Gilles Peterson and Shabaka Hutchings were planning the release of We Out Here, Maisha's composition "Inside the Acorn" was selected as the set opener because it reflected the panoramic cultural and musical diversity of London's interconnected scene. Other artists included Garcia's own quintet, Ezra Collective, Theon Cross, Moses Boyd, Hutchings, and pianist Joe Armon-Jones. While the 2018 compilation became a standard-bearer for London's jazz scene, Maisha's "Inside the Acorn" got airplay at the BBC and on French national radio and ran up the streaming charts. After gigging extensively around London, Maisha entered Soup Studios to cut their debut album, which was recorded and mixed by David Holmes. In addition to the sextet, they hired percussionist Yahael Camara-Onono (Balimaya Project) and trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lindstrom (Cykada, Levitation Orchestra), expanding the group's core lineup; they also recruited harpist Maria Zofia Osuchowska and a string quartet. After finishing the record and playing it for Peterson, they were signed to Brownswood Recordings and the label released There Is a Place in 2018. The album served to further showcase the outfit's technical ability and sensitivity: Each instrument was given equal value in creating the band's sound. It drew universal acclaim from daily and monthly publications, club DJs across Europe, Asia, and North America, and jazz critics who selected the set as one of the year's best offerings. Critics lauded the way Maisha joined the musical dots from Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra to Kamasi Washington and Sons of Kemet. In 2019 the release was nominated for Jazz Album of the Year at the Worldwide Awards. There Is a Place's chart success made it possible for Maisha to expand their touring regimen. They played everywhere from Switzerland to Turkey, from London to Poland, and everywhere in between. They became a must-see act for critics and fans alike at music festivals. Due to touring demands and respective members' outside projects, Long expanded the ensemble creating to what was nearly a rotating cast of supplemental live players who included Binker Golding, Tamar Osborn, Wayne Francis, Al Macsween, Artie Zaitz, Arnaud Guichard, and others. Long felt the lineup rotations allowed additional musicians to use their own voices to fully invest in Maisha's music. In 2019, Peterson staged the inaugural We Out Here Festival. He slotted Maisha to play their own gig as well as do double duty backing 78-year-old American saxophonist and jazz-funk legend Gary Bartz, who was impressed at how closely Maisha listened to one another. That performance went so well, the complete outfit performed at Royal Albert Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, then spent two days at a recording studio in the Netherlands with direct-to-disc specialists Night Dreamer Records. The ensemble cut five tracks, including remakes of Bartz's "Uhuru Sasa" from Harlem Bush Music: Uhuru (Milestone, 1971) and "Doctor Follows Dance" from Follow the Medicine Man (Prestige, 1973). The other three tunes were collectively written by Bartz and Maisha in the studio. Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions was issued July 2020, two months before Bartz's 80th birthday. Maisha subsequently released the Open the Gates EP in the fall of 2020. It included the 17-minute "Epic" and a live version of the We Out Here album track "Osiris." Released through Brownswood Recordings, the EP was manufactured in partnership with the Vinyl Factory, which pressed it on 100-percent recycled vinyl.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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