Jasmine Myra is a saxophonist, composer and band leader, based in Leeds. Part of the bustling, creative, cross-genre music scene in the city, she has surrounded herself with some of the best young talent in the north of England. Her original instrumental music has a euphoric and uplifting sound, influenced by artists as diverse as Bonobo, Olafur Arnalds and Kenny Wheeler, artists whose music shares an emotive quality that you can also hear in Myra’s own compositions.
A perfect Friday night program tends to focus on the sweet spots that deliver both quality and lightness to unwind after a long week. Bursting into the weekend, I and some other Stockholmers who do their research of the Friday do’s and don’ts, managed to witness Jasmine Myra’s opening of the Fasching stage at Stockholm Jazz Festival 2023.
The first couple of minutes of the ambient beginning clearly establishes who is who – tonight the saxophone directed by Myra takes the lead. Nevertheless, a gentle direction gifts everybody their shining moment. You could definitely feel the element of trust within the band. At a certain point, Myra just gave up the reins and peacefully vibed to the consequences of her decision. Together with the adorable excitement and charming smiles, Myra kills two birds with one stone – she leaves the audience smitten and validates herself as a talented lead.
What I find amusing about jazz bands is the weight shifting of the instruments throughout the performance. After leaving the initial impression of a lightweight jazz for aficionados, a reassuring drum entrance by George Hall delivers smooth soothing rhythms and styles the atmosphere in an easygoing Friday night fashion. The mission is accomplished in 10 minutes – a cosy vibrant energy is ruling among the crowd.
The next breakthrough comes with Nico Widdowson’s concentrated delivery on the keys. A subtle but consistent rainfall of notes elevates the after-eight hotel jazz environment into a more complex but melodic groove. It is not hard to notice how the modern jazz reading plants the seeds of thoughtfulness within the clapping attendees.
Presenting her debut album, Jasmine Myra shares the bits and pieces of the introspection and work on mental health that inspired her album Horizons during the pandemic times. She confidently unpacks those issues and breaks into the soft evening with an ode to morning sadness. By sharing a personal story based on loss, all present share a heartfelt moment recognising the sentimental influences within us.
It might be just my impression, but looking around the audience, I certainly noticed the prolonged reflective gaze in people’s eyes. A respectable gentleman wiped a tear off his cheek. A couple dove into silent communication through their looks. Many of us shared the minute of acknowledging the Unspoken Words. Simply staring into the thin air and evaluating, “Do I still have the chance to turn things around and say what how much I love my close ones?”.
I found myself sinking into the musicality of corona blues that gave New Beginnings to the performance. Towards the end, Myra and the band shifted the gears from the memory road to the modern assertiveness supported by the drum-intensive session. In a more present-oriented flow, Rachel Horton Kitchlew on the harp lets herself go and inspires the band members for a strong finale that forms an assertive performance to the promising new age of jazz.
Please join us on this incredible jazz discovery journey by browsing through the extensive program of Stockholm Jazz Festival here. Hope to see you there!
The photos are courtesy of Leo Ahmed.