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There’s something universal in the appeal of an escape – of finding somewhere to relax and explore your ideas. It’s a feeling which connects together the different parts of Maisha’s debut album. A deep record which provides grist for serious spiritual rumination, the music prompts internal reflection as much as it reflects the surrounds which shaped it. Each of its tracks provokes a feeling of intense revery which is timeless, on the one hand, but realised through a confluence of sounds and circumstances which are undeniably of the present.
The six-piece group, led by bandleader Jake Long, bring a fresh slant to the weighty spiritual jazz tradition. Their 2016 debut EP was released through Jazz Re:freshed (whose weekly shows and record label are an institution for forward-thinking jazz), and were part of We Out Here, Brownswood’s early 2018 record which documented London’s genre-bending, jazz-influenced underground. They’ve been featured on Boiler Room, supported the Sun Ra Arkestra, and played at Church of Sound, a live series that’s quickly become a staple of the emergent scene.
The album’s title alludes to a small, secluded park which bandleader Jake Long would often retreat to, whose peaceful surrounds were the setting for regular moments of reflection. It’s also a reference to London. Or to be more specific, the side of London which has helped nurture him and his peers: rehearsal rooms, friend’s houses and intimate venues. Its band members, Amané Suganami, Twm Dylan, Tim Doyle, Yahael Camara-Onono, Shirley Tetteh and Nubya Garcia, the latter of whom played a part in shaping the early sound of the band, are musicians who’ve come through the same circles as Long.
Spiritual jazz is a tradition that’s leaden with its own traditions, histories and stories. Maisha carve out out their own style through that weight of expectation: they take stock of that history, channelling the greats like Pharoah Sanders, while filtering their own influences – which range from jazz to Afrobeat – through every part of their musical process. It’s a sound which rests on trance-inducing rhythms, instinctive musical interchange and repeated, deeply enriching melodic refrains. It’s a combination which has made for their own singular sound.