Updated: Jan 11, 2021
‘Breakthrough Act of 2020’ will be awarded to a jazz-orientated figure or group whose sound has broken through the musical mould, making the industry sit up and take notice.
Here is our list of nominees below...
Leeds’ B-ahwe shared her debut extended-release Nuance this year and it was golden. Her vocals completely draw you in, cascading through different tones seamlessly as she uses her voice to act like an ambient instrument but also to flow quickly through different lyrics in a neo-soul and hip-hop style. Her sound can be delicate and heavenly as much as it can cut through, with her band providing stabs for her melodies to subtly hit you - ‘Sweet’ is THE track that does it all and it’s already a classic for me. B-ahwe certainly won’t find it hard to continue her upward trajectory out of Leeds into wider recognition.
Having been deeply embedded in the London music and jazz scene for a number of years, Chiminyo (Tim Doyles) has really established himself as a solo artist over the past year. Having released his electronically driven debut I Am Chiminyo in 2019, 2020 has seen the release of his debut full-length project I Am Panda, harnessing cleverly built layers, samples and synths to create an enthralling and captivating record. Having established his name in his own right, the world is his oyster.
Ally J Steel
Headed up by multi-instrumentalist Liam Shortall, Glaswegian collective corto.alto have absolutely stormed onto the scene this year. Drawing attention away from a largely London-centric outlook with the Live from 435 project, corto.alto’s intitutiviness and DIY-attitude to music has grasped the imagination of the music scene. Their quality and quantity of what they've produced so far is unreal. 2020 has been so exciting for Liam Shortall’s corto.alto and I can’t wait to see what they next have in store for us.
Ally J Steel
Lady Blackbird’s voice just gives me shivers. Described by Gilles Peterson as ‘the Grace Jones of jazz’, she’s arrived on the scene by storm. Her singles of 2020 (‘Beware the Stranger’, ‘Collage’ and ‘Blackbird’) are just beautiful. At times the music feels ominous and chilling and others like a wonderful dream. She’s one to watch over the next few years for sure.
After 2018’s debut Traphouse Jazz EP, Okvsho have stayed on my radar for some time and finally, a debut release from them arrived with Kamala’s Danz this September. The duo Georg and Christoph Kiss have created a voyage of silky smooth jazz grooves; the keys glow whilst the drum patterns have a slick, clear sound.
There is an exotic tinge to the album, transporting you to a place where the sun is setting over a beach as the sexy grooves sway through the breeze brushing up against your skin - the trumpet, flute and saxophone licks are all perfectly placed as the rhythms caress your body. A fantastic debut LP that lives up to their early promise, and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come from the Zurich duo.
When Leeds based 6-piece frog-rock groovers Shaku released their album, they kicked the Leeds music scene door down, head-butted the bouncer, ran to the stage, only to be stopped in their tracks by COVID-19.
The untamed, raw sound of their debut album Maku, twisted colossal solos with jazz/prog rock grooves, and all kinds of striking sound. This record’s just the kindling that’ll spark the fire of this band. It’s such a pity they couldn’t embark on their tour, but, all is to play for, young Shaku.
Simon Jefferis’s debut album really stood out for me this year. It is irresistibly funky and flits between jazz and hip-hop. The playing of everyone on the album is top quality, from Abhi the Nomad to Rosie Lowe and Ife Ogunjobi (to name just a few). It’s a great album with a host of upcoming talents and Simon Jefferis, the Brixton-based multi-instrumentalist, is the face of it.
2020 has defined ethereal and serene Yaatri. Their meditative, luscious percussive music was a soundtrack for lockdown. Journeying Indian-inspired rhythms and soft grooves uplift soothing percussive vocals.
Complex in its composition, yet so accessible, their debut EP Reach, released at the height of lockdown in April, is stunning. Now, we just want more from an already busy set of band members.
Make sure to keep up-to-date with the rest of our nominations here.