As a self-confessed follower of Oscar Jeromism I was intrigued to listen to the new single that he featured on, ahead of his gig in London next week, and following his concert at Ghost Notes some months back. At the concert in Ghost Notes Jerome had played a guitar, which had a calypso feel to it, which looking back one can clearly hear in his collaboration with Kokoroko in Abusey Junction, but which during the gig seemed a bit of a departure from the sound in the tracks he’d released up to the point. This sound is clearly present in his collaboration with New Gods and Jay Prince. I really do like the way that Jerome sees what he is doing as more than about himself, but about a musical collective. You could see from his gig in Ghost Notes, with the guests that he introduced into his show, that he was keen to keep the musical family together, to involve them in the work that he did. We can see that in his collaboration with Kokoroko and with New Gods here. One of the strengths of this collective approach is that Jerome adapts himself and is challenged to widen his repertoire to the influences around him – it keeps him fresh as a musician. New Gods have produced a different type of track to the stuff that Jerome has produced up to now, it is lounge music, almost formulaic, naturally with some jazzy tones. However, as if often the case Jerome has added something special to it, given it a bit of spice. He’s done this, firstly by adding laid back lyrics, but also with some of that really nice calypso guitar, sparkles gently like a Caribbean sea peacefully undulating under a setting son. Almost Chris Rea. Really got me looking forward to the gig at Village Underground.
South London’s Oscar Jerome has today announced details of his debut headline UK tour. Commencing on September 20 at Brighton’s Hope & Ruin, the seven-date run will include a headline a stop at London’s 700-capacity Village Underground on September 25, 2018. All ticket links below. Alongside the announcement, Jerome is sharing the new Eda Feola-directed video for recent 6 Music and 1 Xtra-supported single, ‘Smile On A Screen’ – watch here.
The 6-minute breakbeat hip-hop of ‘Smile On A Screen’ finds Oscar working alongside the Dazed-tipped poet and Massive Attack collaborator, James Massiah. Speaking about the track’s new video, Jerome says: “In this song I’m discussing the unrealistic expectations we have of life, success, love and lust because of the airbrushed reality we are fed through media. I wanted this to be reflected in the video that shows me, the band and James Massiah as cut-out photos placed in crazy, unreal settings. Everything from the way we move to how the scenes are set out like pieces of art, are to help show the way we have completely lost contact with the world around us.”
September’s debut headline tour follows the release of Oscar’s acclaimed ‘Where Are Your Branches?’ EP and recent sell-out shows at Corsica Studios and Ghost Notes in London, plus a slot at Love Supreme Festival alongside Mr Jukes and Soccer96. 2018 has also seen Jerome collaborate – alongside James Messiah – with the likes of Maxwell Owin and Joe Armon-Jones. Oscar will return later this year with more new music.
September 20 | Hope & Ruin, Brighton | https://bit.ly/2J9BCaF
September 21 | Hug & Pint, Glasgow | https://bit.ly/2xxKLsb
September 22 | Headrow House, Leeds | https://bit.ly/2xu9tto
September 25 | Village Underground, London | https://bit.ly/2LdZcUk
September 27 | Bodega, Nottingham | https://bit.ly/2J1daMt
September 28 | Soup Kitchen, Manchester | https://bit.ly/2J1daMt
September 29 | The Louisiana, Bristol | https://bit.ly/2J1daMt
He’s a little bit like a young Jamiroquai to me he is, is Oscar Jerome. He’s handsome though scruffy, clever, a little bit street and a little bit political. He’s also into the jazz thing and the funk thing, in a big way. Jamiroquai Mark II he is not though. Whereas Jamiroquai has more of a pop sentimentality, I find Jerome likes to get lost in funk jams, he also likes to change tone mid-song, he completely changes the script and the sound. More than this, unlike JK, he uses his voice more as a percussion instrument, he mourns, hums his way through songs, eating his lyrics rather than singing them.
Last night at the new micro-club Ghost Notes, in Peckham, Jerome and his four band members crammed on to a tiny platform, enough to put them neck and shoulders above everyone else. They plied some beautiful sounds, gravitating around what I can only describe as a resonant calypso guitar. It felt beautiful, like a tropical breeze, you could see the very trendy jazz set at the front swaying in it.
But Jerome doesn’t just write music for Hawaiian funk focused ice cream vans. At times he broke the whole thing down, the music suddenly and deliberately became discordant, instruments competed against each other for pace and volume. At the same time Jerome’s vocals changed mid-song, from sexy and sultry to punchy and passionate, he sung high and then completely changed his range, dipping down a few scales on the opera singer slider, as if he had a multiple-personality disorder.
But all of this, all of this nuance and change of direction, was done whilst maintaining a jazz funk vibe. That vibe was the backcloth, the running track and the object of devotion. And there was something very rich about it, in some ways it was a classic funk sound, in some ways it wasn’t, but it was the richness of it, the quality, so hard to articulate, which kept the audience, albeit a very chatty audience, luxuriating in the set from start to finish.
Jerome loves his jamming, he loves his instrumental solos. He did a few guitar ones, and they were extremely impressive. When he let rip on his guitar on his best track to date, Subdued, at the end, I thought he was going to break the thing. He hit the strings so hard it felt like you were being dowsed with machine gun fire. Similarly, there was a saxophone solo too, with such fury did the sax player play, that at times I thought his head was going to pop off.
He’s got a bit of stage presence too, has Jerome. He wasn’t particularly cocky, although he had a glint in his eye and smile, which made you think he could be. But no, on stage he presented himself like a college kid, stumbling his words, saying ‘yeh’ and ‘but’ alot and making this ‘tse’ sound, almost a tutting sound, possibly to ground himself, which he did by flicking his tongue off the back of his upper teeth. The whole humble demeanour was incredibly endearing and a refreshing compliment to his precocious talent. At the end of the gig, as the band left the stage before the encore, someone gave him a pat on the back and said ‘Brilliant’. Jerome turned around, almost as if he was surprised to hear it, and said ‘Oh, thanks’.
Last word to the venue itself, because Ghost Notes is one hell of a clubbing proposition. With wafer biscuit dimensions, its located on the fifth floor of an old unused multi-storey car park, and accessed via a side alley, which you walk down against all your better judgment. The club itself faces a railway line, which means that at night as well as watching the band, you could, through the large window behind the band, also watch the night trains travelling away from and towards Peckham Rye station. At one point we were all treated to the rather surreal sight of a Balfour Beatty railway maintenance train pounding past. It was white, quite short and had several cranes on it. It was an extraordinary thing to see and weakly illuminated by the surrounding street lights, moved across our field of vision in a ghostly manner. It turned a lot of heads and only added to the glorious wonder of the Oscar Jerome experience.
More on Oscar Jerome, from earlier this year
I’m kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to go and see Oscar Jerome early this year at Corsica Studios. Too late for the gig, I was really taken by the EP he released at the beginning of this year. Subdued is the first track on Oscar Jerome’s soon to be released EP Where are your Branches. Its an epic in the style—although not quite of the magnitude—of Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Hope For a Generation. It starts off with a rich mix of soul and acid jazz twangs, just like Jamiroquai. Jerome however, true to the title of the track, adds a mournful tinge to his punched out impassioned soul vocals, like a dog licking his wounds, similar to Dallas Tamaira. It ends with a slow building and yet melancholy instrumental, I get the tiniest hint of Bebel Gilberto’s Autumn Day Song.
Then just the other night I came across a track called Abusey Street by a London based Afrobeat collective, by the name of Kokoroko. The track Abusey Junction is likely to be the softest and beautiful thing you’re going to hear in 2018. It is at the end of the day only an instrumental, only an Afrobeat instrumental–but it is a monumental instrumental–a monstrumental! It is at the same time soothing and emotional, it is like that feeling you get towards the end of a good cry. Sadness and warmth combined. It is the gentle beats of the percussion that soothe. It is the plucking of the guitar strings that pull on your heart. In this way it is reminiscent of ‘Mediterranean Sundance’. Its long, but it deserves to be long in the same way that Fat Freddy’s Drop ‘Hope for a Generation’, Sebastien Letellier’s ‘La Ritournelle’ and The Hot 8 Brass Band’s ‘Sexual Healing’ deserve to be long. After all if you’re going to have a cry, get it all out eh?
I fell in love with Abusey Junction immediately and after doing a little of internet digging I was both disappointed and delighted to hear that the track was written by Oscar Jerome. Disappointed because it rather takes away the shine from my perception of Kokoroko’s achievement, don’t get me wrong they’re a good band but that track is something special and it makes me wonder what else they’re capable of producing. Oscar Jerome meanwhile is already out there, his name written in the stars of my musical sky. And yet he’s so young and he has many years to come. But then, more research, and it really is worth doing your research, revealed that Oscar Jerome was a member of Kokoroko, and in fact the track was written whilst Jerome, as a member of the collective was out in Gambia, exploring the Gambian music scene. So all is well with the world.
Jerome trained first in classical guitar and then jazz at London’s Trinity Laban. He is said to have been part of a jazz collective in London with Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia and Ezra Collective. In Clash magazine Amar Kalia writes that Jerome, ‘would attend formative jam sessions such as Peckham’s Steez and Good Evening Arts’. In 2015 Jerome was in several collectives. Kalia explains that music from the collective has been bought together on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood’s ‘We Out Here’ compilation. It would be interesting to know a bit more about Gilles Peterson’s role in all this. Peterson, frankly, has for the last three decades been the lynchpin of the contemporary jazz scene in the UK. He is a DJ and a record label owner. There seems to be a conflict of interest here but he gets away with it—there aren’t the same rules in the music industry like you get in politics and football.
As far as his musical relationship with Kokoroko goes, Jerome explains to Kalia, “It’s a very equal writing process with Kokoroko, normally each person will bring an idea to the table and then we’ll build it from there. With the music I release under my own name, though, I write every part for every instrument, it’s very much my vision of how I want the music to be and I love being able to express that.”
In any case, not all is lost, Jerome will be playing Ghost Notes in Peckham in April.
Other related music:
If you like acid jazz, funk and soul…
Could be the early 80s, could be the mid 90s.
Cheltenham Jazz Festival runs from May 2nd – 7th 2018.
If you like jazz, funk and soul give these a listen…
Korokoko’s Abusey Junction is likely to be the softest and beautiful thing you’re going to hear in 2018. It is at the end of the day only an instrumental, only an Afrobeat instrumental – but it is a monumental instrumental – a monstrumental! It is at the same time soothing and emotional, it is like that feeling you get towards the end of a good cry. Sadness and warmth combined. It is the gentle beats of the percussion that soothe. It is the plucking of the guitar strings that pull on your heart ones. In this way it is reminiscent of ‘Mediterranean Sundance’. Its long, but it deserves to be long in the same way that Fat Freddy’s Drop ‘Hope for a Generation’, Sebastien Letellier’s ‘La Ritournelle’ and The Hot 8 Brass Band’s ‘Sexual Healing’ deserve to be long. After all if you’re going to have a cry, get it all out eh?
I’ve just read elsewhere that the track was written by Oscar Jerome, which was a real coincidence because I included at the bottom of this article a review of Oscar Jerome’s ‘Subdued’ which I recently likened to Fat Freddy’s Drop ‘Hope for a Generation’ as a ‘whilst you’re here you might be interested in…’ addition. In ‘Greedy for Music’ it says
The song is a ballad, written by guitarist Oscar Jerome, on the roof of a compound in Gambia, where the band spent time last year immersing themselves in the soundscapes of the region. http://www.greedyforbestmusic.com/journal/friends/abusey-junction/
The track is included on an album called ‘We Out Here’ recently released by ‘Brownswood Recordings’ designed to promote new jazz talent. https://weouthere.bandcamp.com/album/we-out-here
More music from Kokoroko
Subdued is the first track on Oscar Jerome’s soon to be released EP Where are your Branches. Its an epic in the style, although not quite of the magnitude, of Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Hope For a Generation. It starts off like with a rich mix of soul and acid jazz twangs, just like Jamiroquai. Jerome, however, true to the title of the track, adds a mournful tinge to his punched out impassioned soul vocals, like a dog licking his wounds, similar to Dallas Tamaira. It ends with a slow building and yet melancholy instrumental, I get the tiniest hint of Bebel Gilberto’s Autumn Day Song.
He’s playing Ghost Notes in London 18th April.