Jake Long: City Swamp review – mesmerising spiritual jazz channels Miles Davis and William Blake

(New Soil)
Billed as ‘a dystopian suite’, the drummer-composer’s debut solo album is an intense affair, with a stellar lineup that includes Nubya Garcia and Shirley Tetteh

In 2018, bandleader and composer Jake Long and his group Maisha debuted with There Is a Place, an outstanding album of “spiritual jazz” that captured the vibrancy of a new generation of UK talent, including saxophonist Nubya Garcia and guitarist Shirley Tetteh. Long’s debut solo album, City Swamp, is another landmark recording, albeit of a very different sort: a self-proclaimed “dystopian suite representing the cycles of decay and faceless regeneration of London”. It proves a suitably intense ride, built on Long’s mesmerising rhythmic world – drums, beats, guitar riffs, analogue tape loops, dub effects, the works.

Long cites the jazz-rock of Bitches Brew-era Miles as one inspiration, though this is no retro exercise but an update, with funk riffs and reggae basslines. On Ideological Rubble, a mighty but entropic rhythm vies with futurist keyboard runs, and much else here feels like a battle between the ennui of TS Eliot’s Waste Land and the hope of renewal. Throughout, players are in exhilarating form. Garcia plays beauteous, lyrical sax lines over a languid beat on Silhouette, while Tetteh delivers a jaw-dropping solo on Swamp, soaring spaceward in a Hendrix-style spangle of exploding notes. It’s still spiritual jazz, but from a darker place, a Blakean Proverb of Hell for modern times. Remarkable.

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