South London-based jazz guitarist and vocalist Oscar Jerome proclaims that his long-anticipated debut album Breathe Deep is a “broad presentation of who I am musically and my journey to get to this point.”
Reading this ostensibly shallow snippet, you anticipate a certain type of bland debut album, one filled with awkwardly slow moments, incongruently loud moments, some token freak-out moments and some moment moments. However, for once, the cliché strikes true. This is quite the musical journey, courtesy of a vital member of South London’s fecund jazz scene.
Breathe Deep is a free-flowing and effortless mesh of jazz, neo-soul, funk, hip-hop and indie channeled through Jerome’s duality of youthful ebullience and seasoned knowledge accrued from his work with Afrobeat group KOKOROKO and collaborations with South London jazz giants such as Moses Boyd and Shabaka Hutchings.
There are slow moments and loud moments here, but the moments that stick are the perfectly corroborated collisions of sound such as ‘Sun for Someone’, with its laid-back groove, laced with syncopated drum fills, throbbing bass and Jerome’s airy guitar – all wrapped in a tight beat that recalls P. Diddy’s ‘All about the Benjamins’.
Other highlights include rapper and poet Brother Portrait’s breathy and hypnotic verse nestled in ‘Your Saint’, the soaring brass-coated duet with Lianne La Havas in ‘Timeless’ and the Latin American meander of ‘Fkn Happy days’ that gives way to the cozy sound of bleating sheep. Yes, really.
Throughout all this, Jerome’s vocals flourish. His oscillating pitch and pace melts within any melody he’s cooked up, impressionistic images building tension throughout the stories he tells: the climate crisis in ‘Sun for Someone’, the refugee crisis in ‘Your Saint’ or the birth of a celestial star in ‘Gravitate’.
Breathe Deep is a dive straight into the deep end of a buoyant scene, and signals yet another new name to look out for.
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