While jazz already has a long and storied history, that doesn’t mean it ever stopped evolving. Innovators reshape the genre regularly, introducing the world to unique sounds and astonishing skills, unlike anything that’s been witnessed before.
As the third decade of the 21st-century begins, many young jazz musicians are doing more than paying homage to jazz’s roots; they are creating something new and exciting. They are the future of the genre and are ensuring that jazz remains as relevant and enticing as it always was.
Whether you are a fan of jazz already or are new to its nuanced and eclectic sound, you’ll find these young musicians electrifying. Here’s a look at ten up-and-coming jazz musicians to watch today.
1. Shabaka Hutchings
Shabaka Hutchings was born in London but raised in Barbados, and became an award-winning player who can transition between the clarinet and saxophone with a startling amount of ease. While he started out in calypso bands, he transitioned, becoming a bastion in the UK contemporary jazz scene.
Currently, he leads three separate bands. Possibly the most intriguing is The Comet is Coming, a unique trio that blends jazz, electronic music, and a whole lot of attitude to create something futuristic that will likely alter the course of several genres.
2. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Hailing from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s trumpet playing is awe-inspiring. While his music respects the origins of jazz, it also includes a variety of influences. He fuses jazz with hip-hop, African music, rock, and more. It seems his goal is to always keep the listener on the edge of their seat, and he accomplishes it in spades.
3. Kamasi Washington
Jazz has been connecting with a younger audience in recent years, and Kamasi Washington is one of the musicians responsible. In 2015, he released The Epic, an inspirational triple-set that has strong jazz roots with hip-hop influences. He even made an appearance on To Pimp A Butterfly, an innovative album by Kendrick Lamar.
4. Esperanza Spalding
With a voice reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell, Esperanza Spalding isn’t just a talented jazz musician, but an innovator. Her compositions genuinely take the listener on an unexpected journey, weaving together jazz, Latin, rock, and funk sounds into an avant-garde fusion experience unlike any other.
Paris-born but raised in the United States, Makaya McCraven is a self-proclaimed “beat scientist” with serous drum skills and a talent for composing. He applies a hip-hop attitude to avant-garde jazz, focusing on keeping the listener guessing as he weaves a tune.
6. Nubya Garcia
Another young jazz musician in the UK scene that’s making waves is Nubya Garcia. The tenor saxophone player and composer released a critically acclaimed debut album – Nubya’s 5ive – in 2017 and has continued to impress ever since. She’s also recorded with some greats, including Ezra Collective and Sons of Kemet, as well as Makaya McCraven, another up-and-comer. Additionally, she plays with Maisha, a spiritual jazz ensemble.
7. Camila Meza
Born in Chile, Camila Meza easily qualifies as a triple threat. Along with being an exceptional guitarist and singer, she’s also an accomplished songwriter. Her music features classic jazz elements melded with the sounds of Brazil, South American folk, and even American pop.
8. Kendrick Scott Oracle
With a sound dripping with R&B and hip-hop undertones, Kendrick Scott Oracle is a drummer and composer from Houston. His take on jazz is exquisite but incredibly unique, often featuring unexpected additions, like turntables, alongside traditional instruments like saxophones and pianos.
9. Jazzmeia Horn
With a name like Jazzmeia Horn, it can be easy to see how jazz would ultimately be a calling. The singer from Texas scored rave reviews with her debut album in 2017, A Social Call. Her sound resembles the active approach used by greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae, but it never feels derivative. Instead, Jazzmeia Horn is uniquely her own, and the jazz world will be better for it.
10. Connie Han
Connie Han, a pianist from Los Angeles, exudes a maturity far beyond her age. Her blend of traditional and modern jazz is both edgy and a bit unexpected, a reflection of her unique vision for the genre. Her album Crime Zone pays homage to jazz piano greats like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Kenny Kirkland while still maintaining her own sound, and it’s truly something worth experiencing.