The power music holds to bring people together has long been known, but the debut album by British jazz star Emma-Jean Thackray, with its spiritual, hippie-esque qualities, channels a feeling of unity that few other records can muster; she does it sincerely and without an air of preachiness.
With a strong sense of community at its core – an ethos that runs through the UK jazz scene – the connectivity from the dancefloor-angled ‘Yellow’ is especially poignant given the last 18 months. It also aligns perfectly with the Yorkshire-born London-based polymath’s description of it being a record “about the oneness of all things in the universe, showing love and kindness”. It’s fitting, then, that Thackray created it with the mindset of trying to stimulate a psychedelic experience that unveils a hidden dimension. A follow-up to her ‘Rain Dance’ EP (which NME ranked as one of 2020’s best EP releases), and having been releasing music for half a decade (including a collaboration with iconic jazz label Blue Note), ‘Yellow’ vividly expands on Thackray’s crystal clear artistic vision.
The record – which is equally rewarding to both newcomers and devotees of the genre – nails the transcendental and transportive qualities Thackray aims to showcase. The shimmering hi-hats, shuffling cymbals and jazzy keys of opener ‘Mercury’ hit lift off for a cosmic voyage of enlightenment, before an impassioned plea on ‘Say Something’ implores those to carry meaning in their words, not just volume: “Open your eyes, before you open your mouth; open your heart to open up your mind,” she urges before irresistible keys and a funky bassline are perfectly paired with her impressive vocal range. Later, ‘Venus’ acts as an uplifting guiding light and the half-baked haziness of ‘Golden Green’ flows into the woozy ‘Third Eye’ and ‘Our People’.
Released on Thackray’s own label, Movementt, ‘Yellow’ is exactly the life-affirming collection to help those in need to hang onto the idea of a dim light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel; “brighter days are coming” she insists on the gleaming ‘Sun’. Even if just for an hour, Thackray wants your troubles to be forgotten, as the chiming gong and mantra-led sound bath ‘May There Be Peace’ completes the journey to a new utopia.
- Release date: July 23
- Record label: Movementt