Emma-Jean Thackray brings a lush touch to modern jazz | Music

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British modern jazz ensembles like Sons of Kemet and Black Midi brought the heyday of free jazz back to Sun Ra, but it lacked a touch of lush feminine funk, Alice Coltrane style. Unexpectedly, Leeds-based conductor Emma-Jean Thackray arrives with its debut Yellow (Movement / Warp Records), which kicks off with an Art Ensemble of Chicago blossoming before adding a warm voice promising possible worlds in space, reminiscent of the funk ensembles of the mid-1970s.

Just behind Thackray is the last of Esperanza Spalding, the bassist who oscillates between complex instrumental work and her own spicy sci-fi lyricism. Songwrights Apothecary Lab (Concord Jazz), stars Spalding collaborator Ganavya Doraiswamy on vocals, and aims for nothing less than healing through Carnatic teaching, conscious music, and neuroscience. The three-part “Theme” (formwela 1/2/3) sets the tone, whimsical and sweet, proving that modern jazz can be as calming as it is surprising.

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