We’ve talked quite often about the rising British nu-jazz scene, with London town being the pulsing heart of this new wave of talented musicians. Among its bright protagonists, like Kamaal Williams, Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings, we couldn’t fail to mention Alfa Mist – composer, keyboardist, multi-instrumentalist hailing from Newham, London – who’s been on the radar since his 2015 debut album Nocturne. Having dived deep into hip-hop and grime in his teenage years, around college the young producer got into jazz and taught himself to play the piano, the first step to becoming the skilled producer he is today.
On October 7th, the young British talent published 7th October [out on Sekito Records], a two-track EP that reprises his last album Antiphon, published back in March 2017. But before diving into his most recent productions, let’s talk about the album which made him known and appreciated well outside the confines of London. Antiphon revolves around a conversation between Alfa and his brothers about family, consciousness, respect and more. Snippets of their conversations can be heard from track to track, starting from the very first minutes of ‘Keep On’, the melancholic album opener, where a Coltranesque mellow saxophone merges with an intricate yet gentle drum groove. The jazz blueprint is evident as he saves room for instrument solos on the tracks’ main themes in most of his compositions.
The drums provide a continuous and compelling rhythmic background, creating relentless and ever-changing grooves and enhancing the melodies with accents and breaks just at the right time – like sudden jumps in your breath. The sounds are woven together carefully and seamlessly – every element of the compositions is perfectly fitting, intertwining, coupling, like coloured threads intertwined in an endless piece of fabric. It’s difficult to pick one track that represents this well, as all of them do in different ways. ‘Breathe’ features the touching voice of Kaya Thomas-Dyke, carrying us even further away before diving into the next track, ‘7th October’, when we hear Alfa’s voice for the first time. Skilfully rapping on an evocative piano melody and broken beat, Alfa exposes himself to another level beyond his music.
It’s exactly from this track that Alfa Mist decides to take inspiration for the homonymous EP published last October. The first track ‘Resolve’ further explores the outro section of ‘7th October’, turning the original guitar-only melody (played by Mansur Brown in Antiphon) into a more complete track entirely in his style – with hectic drum grooves behind trumpet, bass, guitar and keys.
The second and only other track of the EP, ‘Exit’, explores the hip-hop side of the track – a downtempo and steady beat featuring 2nd Exit, Alfa’s side project, together with musician, producer and songwriter Lester Duval.
Alfa Mist’s sound reflects all of his musical influences — ranging from hip-hop and grime in his rap flow and the signature broken beats to jazz music and movie scores, with Hans Zimmer’s work being an important inspiration for him. Just like his previous works, 7th October sounds as fine, complex and beautiful – two new tracks further delving into the uniquely evocative sound he has developed in the past years – giving us a new soundtrack to accompany the coming winter days.