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.
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