March 10th | Rough Trade
Photos: Luke Macpherson
Moses Boyd took the stage in the dimly-lit backroom of Rough Trade with the only lights highlighting Boyd and his band. The crowds were in early, attentively awestruck from the first beat.
The night opened with the same track as his latest project Dark Matter does, which unsurprisingly seemingly structured the album signing performance. The Twinkling opener of Stranger Than Fiction, teased Boyd’s unapologetic nature of ignoring the traditional boundaries of jazz compositions. Boyd’s fluid style blended multiple tracks one after another without breaking for applause, despite fans’ cheers at the natural conclusion of the track, seamlessly rolling into the subsequent interlude track of the album ‘Hard Food’, but minus the vocals – a theme of the night.
Boyd’s delivery left the night feeling more structured around the stereotypical tropes of a classic jazz lounge than a typical gig, blending and extending tracks into each other, only breaking to abruptly switch up the tempo, keeping the audience engaged. Boyd effortlessly juxtaposed chaotic modern dance and Afrobeat-inspired jazz, plus eerily quiet solo drumming with slow building synths, brass and strings.
The rules seemingly don’t exist in Boyd’s writing, giving him the ability to break down normal jazz structures and reconstruct them with a melting pot of genre influences that are still undeniably grounded in his jazz roots. Utilising his otherworldly grasp of complex rhythmic techniques on drums, he effortlessly introduced multiple aspects of the UK nightclub sounds to present us with a modern take on what jazz can be.
The distinct airy opener to the track ‘Shades of You’ had clearly been anticipated. While performed without the angelic vocals of Poppy Ajudha as heard on the album, the instrumentals were enough to carry the track. The unique bouncy drumbeat accompanied by the bright synths clearly resonated with the crowd and saw what had previously been quiet a static audience finally show some movement.
While drums are naturally the driving force behind Boyd’s work, this track is a stark reminder where the compositions spawn from. Boyd managed to create a sound that struck a balance of what could equally be heard in both a jazz lounge and nightclub, with its more dance-inspired jazz than some of his other tracks, thanks to its funky undertones.
The gig came to a conclusion with a seemingly authentic encore, Moses had introduced the band that had made his compositions come to life and announced he’d be about for signings, before apologising as he thought he was over curfew. The band sprung back into action for the track that gave Moses Boyd his platform, that launched Boyd to the forefront of British jazz, with an extended cut of ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’.
Boyd manages to blend old with new, poetically bringing new energy and excitement to a timeless genre. Unapologetically blending genres and influences gives him a unique and exciting sound that is paving a new way for British jazz. His genius compositions echoed through the dark room better than any record could capture.
See the video for ‘Shades of You’ (feat. Poppy Ajudha) here: