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Those of you not hip to Nubya Garcia had better catch up quick, because she’s moving at lightning speed. The British saxophonist and composer was already among jazz’s most impressive young talents based on two previous EPs, Nubya’s 5IVE and When We Are, issued in 2017 and 2018, respectively. But with Source, a bounteous full-length release, she relegates tags such as “promising” to music history’s dustbin. The recording, co-produced by Kwes, whose credits include work with Solange, is a fully realized piece that manages to be forward-looking even as it embraces jazz tradition.
“Pace,” the album’s opener, is appropriately named, since it acclimates the listener to the rapidity with which Garcia and her cohorts shift tempos, and pretty much everything else. The tune begins deliberately, with Garcia laying down an unhurried melody over a rich tapestry woven by pianist Joe Armon-Jones. But the crack of Sam Jones’ drums, supplemented by Daniel Casimir’s dexterous double-bass accompaniment, triggers rising passions — and soon enough, Garcia is absolutely wailing amid crashing cymbals and keyboard heroics whose ebbs and flows suggest an awe-inspiring storm at sea. Elsewhere, Garcia demonstrates her aptitude for imprinting any style with her creative DNA. The title track deploys lilting background vocals and a reggae backbeat recalling classic dub, but the quirky arrangement and Garcia’s restless solo push it well beyond mere homage. Likewise, “La Cumbia Me Está Llamando” escapes the genre-exercise trap thanks to a sound stripped to its essentials: guest Diana Sanmiguel’s lead vocal, maracas and guacharaca, plus Garcia’s delightfully playful interjections. And she’s equally adept at gorgeous balladry (“Together Is a Beautiful Place To Be”), compelling statements of purpose (“Stand With Each Other”) and empowering mysticism (“Boundless Beings”). Source finds Garcia on the fast track. Seeing where it leads next will be fascinating. — Michael RobertsLISTEN OR BUY: