The ‘UK Act of the Year’ will be awarded for an outstanding jazz-orientated UK figure or group, whose impact in 2020 cannot be understated.
Here is our list of nominees below.
UK Act of 2020 nominees:
He’s already a legend of the UK jazz scene, and this year, Chip released Blue to Red rocketing himself off through the stratosphere into his own blend of cosmic jazz. And it’s been a triumph. He’s such a deeply-rooted session instrumentalist and an insanely entertaining live musician. Album by album, he’s transmitted his electric presence to the peoples’ speakers, and Blue to Red was a new high for his ever-expanding sound.
The hyper-talented multi-instrumentalist, beat-maker and producer Emma-Jean Thackray has had a superb year. Over the past 12 months, she’s launched her own label, released a cracking visceral EP (Rain Dance), produced a brilliant expansive passion project with Night Dreamer, recently reissued her first two works as well as creating a series of cracking beat-laden remixes. Her depth of musicality and heightened creative vision never fails to impress me. If her name is on it, it's guaranteed to make me smile.
Ally J Steel
Known as one half of the once pioneering Yussef Kamaal, DJ-producer and keys player Kamaal Williams has had a fairly busy year with a live album Live at Dekmantel Festival and his second solo studio record Wu Hen. Keeping standards and expectations as high as he has set with his previous projects, Wu Hen really emphasised why he is revered in the music community as the whole LP flows effectively through different moods. His music is timeless, and he is spearheading how to use jazz to crossover into different genres, with the best success in electronica. The sky’s the limit with Kamaal Williams.
South London’s Moses Boyd takes jazz into hip-hop and into the sphere of dance music, his sound is so unique that he’ll have hoards of impersonators coming after him in years to come. ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’ gave South London an anthem and his new album Dark Matter has been one of my favourites of the year. An icon and easily a nominee for UK Artist of 2020.
Nubya is arguably the face of British jazz today but that’s not just why she’s my nominee. I’ve seen her live three times: at Peckham’s Bussey Building, at Worldwide Festival in 2017 and at Belgrave in Leeds a year after. Her clear evolution has been staggering, and her new album Source has taken her music into new directions. Nubya’s Fives is what first got me into the young-contemporary jazz scene and her music keeps on growing and improving.
Tamar Osborn has been unstoppable in 2020. The saxophonist, multi-wind specialist and composer seems to have popped up everywhere I turn this year. A linchpin of On The Corner Records, Tamar released the emotively driven Continuation on the label with her group Collocutor at the start of the year, before going onto feature on releases with the spiritually-driven Maisha, the multifaceted Scrimshire and most recently Sarathy Korwar’s Night Dreamer record as part of the Upaj Collective. Tamar is a phenomenal talent, whose name deserves to be recognised as one of the forefront figures of our flourishing jazz community.
Ally J Steel
Tenderlonious is one of those people who is totally and innovatively driven by sound. 2020 has seen him release 5 projects, across opposing genres, collaborating with diverse musicians. With his lockdown home-studio recordings, his international improvisational collaborations with Pakistani raga band Jaubi, his constant infectious house grooves, Tenderlonious is an obvious nominee, and one of 2020’s voices of modern UK jazz.
The Colours That Rise
The Colours That Rise debut album Grey Doubt really lived up to my expectations, built up from their debut EP 2020, with South London duo Simeon Jones and Nathanael Williams releasing through house-orientated label Rhythm Section. A fantastic eclectic mix of genres on their record mostly comes through as deep-house and jazz-funk, with the record feeling more like an extended beat-tape. Whilst this was their only major release of the year, the duo are really pushing the boundaries for music that can be played for relaxed situations or live DJ events, with their recent Boiler Room lockdown session displaying their talent for both supremely. Their underground status will change over time, but they are shaping how powerful crossover jazz can be.