Few debuts, certainly none this year, have been as bold, supple and thrilling as Source. Nubya Garcia is a tenor saxophonist, but calling her album jazz is akin to calling Moses Sumney’s grae (on which Garcia appears) rock. It is jazz; it’s just so much more. Most albums that wander this much stylistically are hit or miss; invariably something feels off or contrived. Yet thanks to sure-footed production and grounded performances, you easily go wherever Source takes you. Nothing here is mired in the past. Garcia is a clear Coltrane devotee, but her music is bracing and modern. Cumbias, elements of reggae and dubstep, vocal interludes, and dollops of reverb dominate. Unlike, say, Kamasi Washington, who drives his band hard to their brain-melting peaks, the music here just seems to happen. It’s a subtle sleight of hand, there are no seams. Everything flows through experimentations, shifts in tempo and emotions, all without calling any attention to itself. Without warning, you find her music grabbing you, again and again. Her quick thinking and well-chosen melodic pathways make her an exciting new improviser. Her previous work – with Makaya McCraven, on 2018’s excellent We Out Here compilation, and on her own previous two EP’s – was more than impressive. But Source is something else entirely. Garcia finds a voice, an identity so rarely set for an artist under thirty, and for jazz, she steers a clear roadmap to the future.
Review by Jeff McCord