TRACK REVIEW: Rosie Turton - The Unknown



Rosie Turton


The Unknown




The track, The Unknown, is available via:


London, U.K.



The album, Rosie’s 5ive, is available via:


11th January, 2019


THIS is a bit of a step into a new direction...


and it is quite hard for someone like me to review music that is instrumental. A lot of my ‘skill’ comes from interpreting words and deciphering what an artist is talking about. I have reviewed Jazz before and the trick is to be able to understand the music and what that is trying to say. I will come to the song in question in due time but, right now, Rosie Turton is in front of me and it brings a few things to mind. I want to discuss Jazz and organisations that are raising its profile in the U.K. a lot; why we have overlooked the genre and what it offers to the world; the beauty of composition and how it can say more than words; a look at the future for Rosie Turton and how Jazz can come more into the fore and integrate with other genres. The Jazz:refreshed name is one that has been helping raise the profile of Jazz musicians in the U.K. for years. In 2003, they created a weekly residence in the Jazz world for artists who wanted to experiment and push boundaries. It is hard to succeed in certain genres because the music played can be quite unconventional and strange to some. Think about genres such as Grime and Drill and, why they are getting respect and being heard, it is hard to assimilate into the mainstream. The core of modern music relies on a certain safeness and a familiarity. If one were to splice anything a bit edgy or new into the mix then that ruffles feathers. I will explore Jazz and why it has always struggled to impress upon the mainstream but it is great that Jazz:refreshed is around and helping to aid and uplift some of the best Jazz musicians in the country. The ‘5ives’ series of records – Rosie Turton has released hers recently – has been brought from the Jazz:refreshed stable and brought artists like Ashley Henry and Nubya Garcia. It can be hard for musicians to get heard and have their music discovered and I like the fact there is a label/body like this that is a safe haven and common voice.

I like the fact there is this place for Jazz musicians to go and a supportive hand. If we think about Jazz then we often look back to the past and get a very distinct impression. In terms of the modern brand, perhaps the U.S. leads in our views. I am thinking about Kamasi Washington and the sounds he is putting down right now. There is a rich and hugely impressive stock of Jazz musicians in the U.K. and that has always been the way! I think we need to clear our mind of preconceptions and stereotypes and listen to what is coming through right now. It is always going to be hard for Jazz to truly make its voice heard but there are so few radio stations who take a chance and actually play it. Jazz:refreshed has gone a long way to raise the profiles of some of the best Jazz musicians in the country and make it more accessible to the people. I do wonder whether there is a time when all genres will be together in the mainstream and it is a much broader canvas than it is right now. The reason I say that is because Jazz offers something one does not get from other genres. Think about the sheer sense of expression and individuality one gets from a Jazz player. Pop and Rock can be very generic and you rarely feel like the artist is putting their everything into the music. Also, the music can play second fiddle and, when faced with lyrics and voice, there is not much to distinguish from the rest. It can be quite frustrating seeing this fairly narrow market where there are few risks and truly unique artists. Jazz is a lot more accommodating to those who want to stand aside and genuinely make people feel something. Rosie Turton is someone who can help bring Jazz to more people and show what a strong and varied genre it really is.

She studied Jazz at Trinity College London and she has expressed herself through a variety of musical projects, including composing and playing with the septet Nerija, Sun Ra space-influenced Where Pathways Meet and recording with Hollie Cook. You mention Jazz to most people and they will wrinkle their noses and tell you it is boring. Many people have that impression Jazz is all the same and it is going to be very similar to what was coming out in the 1950s and 1960s. I love Miles Davis but, to some, he can be seen as dry and not terribly exciting. His playing is exemplary and he is a true pioneer but, in terms of excitement and capturing minds, there are some who grow weary and feel there is little on offer. It is different retuning your mind to listen to a form of music that is largely wordless. It is more about the sound and mood set rather than what is being sung. For that reason, some cannot cope and feel like they need vocals in order to understand. Davis proved, through his career, that Jazz is this malleable and ever-evolving form – he moved from the chill of Birth of the Cool to the wild experimentation and fire of Bitches Brew! Modern Jazz is very different to what came out decades ago and there is much to recommend. There is that need for reappropriation and seeing the genre in a new light. Jazz has always been vital and part of the music fabric. From its beginnings to its use in Hip-Hop and Rap – think about the classic records where Jazz can be found – through to the modern breed. Many see Jazz as this club-based thing where people are nodding their heads and it is all quite pretentious and dull. That does still happen but Jazz is so misunderstood. There is so much physicality, beauty and colour to be found and, even if you are new to Jazz, there are modern artists who can make it tangible and real.

You do not need to be an expert and know the history of Jazz to get involved with the genre. Maybe start with artists like Rosie Turton and then work your way back. Turton is a modern talent who is pushing Jazz in new directions and putting her stamp on it. Listen to her album, Rosie’s 5ive, and you have five tracks that are all under ten minutes. One of the problems with Jazz is brevity and focus. It is as much about expression and experimentation as anything and, as such, a little time is needed. Many have short concentration spans and do struggle to sit with a piece of music. Because of that, modern Jazz is offering more fizz, explosion and life than the older, classic icons of the past. I feel Jazz is a mobile and evolving genre. Maybe it will be hard to integrate it fully into the mainstream – due to the lack of vocals – but listen to modern Pop and Rock albums and there is something missing. Maybe it is a certain explosion or that lack of real soul. I think Jazz has a lot to offer and shows what can be accomplished when you get musicians together who create these evocative and hugely impressive pieces. I do think Jazz has so much to give and we often get hung up on this rather cliché and misguided view. Turton’s album does offer some vocals but it is more about the compositional sound and what it is saying. There is a real sense of the international and explorative in the record. Inspired by London, New York; the Himalayas and India, it is a global recording that proves why Jazz warrants respect. How often do you listen to music today and feel genuinely moved?! It is hard in this fast-paced and competitive world to find music that gets into the brain and takes you somewhere special. Jazz, in so many ways, is the perfect form of music for these stressful and busy times.

Most of us are stressed and have very demanding lives. We do not have that much time to relax and set time aside so, when it comes to music, we often play what we are familiar with or something that is quite simple. We need that release and music that makes us feel less tense. I think Jazz has a vital role in that respect because it provides a carapace and comfort. A new article from The Guardian shows many under-thirty-fives are turning to Classical music because it offers an escape from the noise of modern life. That makes sense. We want something calming and beautiful to soothe our minds and ease the strains. I think Classical music will continue to grow and gain focus from young listeners. The same can be said for Jazz. One does not get blasted with guitars and drums and, if you need something de-stressing and inspiring, Jazz is where you go. I do think many assume it is boring and there is not going to be anything worth exploring. I do admit some Jazz music is very academic and unmoving: more about technique and ability rather than emotion and feel. Jazz has always suffered from elitist sneering and snobby disregard. I feel the new breed of players in the U.K. are showing what people are missing. One can add a vocalist to the music but that is not always necessary. It is great just listening to the compositions and discovering all the life and texture that is being presented. Unlike Pop and Rock – which guides us and tells us what is being presented – Jazz allows the listener to go their own way and paint their own images. Music that offers that personal and unique perspective should be applauded. I think too much modern music is very literal and provides little imagination and wonder. Maybe this is why Classical music is bringing in the younger listeners and stressed workers – they want to unwind and be eased but also want something that channels that restlessness in a creative way.

Rosie Turton will go a long way and is already establishing herself as one of the finest young performers in the U.K. Recorded at Soup Studios in East London, Rosie’s 5ive blends together trombone, violin and electronic elements. One of the most important things to remember regarding modern Jazz is how progressive and varied it is. Many feel Jazz is just about trumpets and saxophones and that is about it. Modern Jazz, in fact, integrates many others genres and has quite a modern and fresh feel. Turton and her players explore Indian sounds and Hip-Hop; fuse that with traditional Jazz and pepper through something quite special. It is a blend and explosion of sounds that perfectly draws from Turton’s itinerant and busy past. She has travelled far and met many different people. All of this is brought into the music and she urges the listeners to enter her world and see where she has been. It can be hard convincing a stoic audience Jazz is a genre on the rise and worth exploring. We are all comfortable with our tastes and many of us feel unwilling to bend and try something new. I feel there are elements in Jazz that we do not get with other genres. Consider the power of music itself and how a composition can say more than words. Genres like Pop are great but they are very literal and there is little opportunity to experience the composition – the vocal and lyric are very much the focus. I listen to a lot of modern music and there is this focus towards the vocal and words. The compositions are okay but it is very rare to be drawn to the background and what is happening there. Jazz is all about the musicianship and hearing these committed and passionate players unite and create something stunning. Think about what you can experience when listening to Jazz.

Rather than put it on in the background and dismiss the genre, listen to the music itself and realise how much work and technique goes into it. Rosie Turton is someone who seems completely natural and free but she has many years of music experience and puts so much of herself into every note. (Alongside her is Johanna Burnheart on violin; Maria Chiara Argirò on piano/wurlizter; Twm Dylan on Bass and Jake Long on drums’ Ben Hayes on synthesisers (on Orange Moon) and Luke Newman on vocals (on the track, Stolen Ribs). One can listen to the album and discover something new in every track. Some are more rhythm-heavy and intense whereas you get something softer and more teasing in other moments. Jazz is always fighting against misconception but young British Jazz musicians are showing what can be realised. With the likes of Jazz:refreshed offering stages, support and a community, so much terrific work is emerging. I am excited to see how British Jazz develops and what is around the corner. I think Jazz will not convert everyone and it can be quite hard bonding with a form of music that is more about music than it is vocals and words. You need to have patience to truly appreciate the music in its glory but I think we all need that right now. Classical music is making an impression on the young and I can feel a tangible desire for music that calms us and makes us feel safer. Jazz has that power and, in fact, I think it is much more varied and wide-ranging. Have a listen to songs like The Unknown and, before long, you will realise it is a sign of what Jazz is right now rather than what it used to be – and what people think Jazz is all about. I am not saying modern Jazz has abandoned its past but what we have today is much more exciting and eclectic than the Jazz of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Rosie Turton is among a group of young musicians who are making Jazz more accessible without compromising on ambition and ethics.


I love the production and sound of The Unknown. Rather than starting as this apocalyptic, scary and bleak place, it is quite sparse and rhythmic. Percussion takes the lead and one gets this almost Asian sound coming through in the beats. It is someone spiritual and meditative and, alongside the fast clicks and rolls, there is a contemplative nature that steadies the mind and opens the imagination. Piano rolls in and, at once, the listener is imagining and picturing the song. We begin with this gentle introduction but one that offers plenty of pace and nuance. My lack of technical knowledge will come in regarding the instruments but I love how there are so many different percussive sounds. There is a deeper drum boom at the background that drives the accelerated and bone-clicking lead. The piano rolls romantically and tees up Turton who brings in some smooth, caramel and sensual trombone. I am reminded of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue but, in many ways, Turton adds her own spins and provides something even more tender and romantic. It is a great fusion against the passion and pace of the foreground. In many ways, we get a new stage and vision. I am not sure what ‘the unknown’ relates to. Maybe it a physical thing and a darkness we all experience or a more spiritual realisation. Many will have their own views but Turton’s introduction takes the song in a new direction. The players weave in and out of one another and you get this rather scintillating and exciting mixture. The percussion and trombone have their own pattern and path but the piano offers this constantly moving narrative that takes the song to its next phase. There are Jazz numbers that can be cluttered but The Unknown balances the instruments perfectly and everything sounds wonderfully balanced. It is a hypnotic brew that gets into the mind and takes you away. Whereas there are no words in the song, you have these images and scenes that mix the darkness of the night and something more nourishing.

Turton and her band fuse supremely and create this fulsome, rich and epic sound. I feel this song could well be sampled by a Hip-Hop or Rap act because there is so much life and potential to be found. There are moments where certain instruments stand out and get chance to tell a story. I like how the percussion and piano come through when Turton stands back. The song builds and becomes more intense. There is cymbal from the percussion and the trombone sets its own course. Turton both guides her band and creates her own thread. The piano is less audible as we hear this rise but then, before long, the song comes back down new elements come through. There is a violin and the piano shines once more. The Unknown started calm and dark but rises to this sunshine thing that burns and warms with its radiance. I like how there is this improvised feel and the band do not sound overly-rehearsed. One gets romance and yearning from the violin and the piano provides this sense of movement and curiosity. Percussion gives that heartbeat and backbone and the bass keeps things solid. The sheer spritz and energy of the track does not relent and you get captured by this incredible force! I love how it is impossible to turn away from the song and how you will be immersed within. I was imagining this colourful and bustling city that is full of life but there is that confusion and fear. The traffic blares and the people rush; the signs are neon and there is this somewhat spiritual light that emerges from a local café. Maybe there is some psychological fear and sense of the unknown but, to me, the anxiety comes from the physical aspects and the busy streets – something I get from the music. Each player acts like a part of that scene and it is quite an experience!


As the drums pulsate and the trumpet expresses with emotion and conversation, I see that as the rush of traffic and the chatter of people. The piano, bass and other elements are the background noise and life that keeps the feet music and keeps me moving. I find myself drawn to this hectic and multicultural landscape and trying to find some sense of reflection and gravity. Like Kamasi Washington’s work; Turton and her crew are able to create these grand and atmospheric pieces that are full of life but can be understood and appreciation by those new to Jazz. The Unknown calms and retreats and then builds up into this almighty high. It is a sensational track and one that definitely needs a lot of plays. You listen to its first and try to get to grips with all being played and, the more you play it, the more you discover. I was amazed listening back again and finding stuff I did not notice the first time around. The Unknown is the second track from Rosie’s 5ive and leads to the wonderful The Purge. I love how the album/E.P. is arranged and what role each song plays in the overall narrative story arc. There are few songs that leave an impression as big as that from The Unknown. I do not listen to a lot of Jazz but I think this track is a perfect introduction. You do not need to be aware of the genre’s history to understand and appreciate what is being played. If you have not heard Rosie Turton’s music and often find Jazz can be quite stiff and unarresting then do yourself a favour and investigate The Unknown. It is a jewel in an extraordinary album and shows how strong modern British Jazz is.


Rosie Turton has grown as a musician and shows great maturity throughout Rosie’s 5ive. Follow her social media pages – which are at the bottom of this review – and make sure you listen to all the songs on her new album. I love the musicians she plays with and they have a real connection and chemistry. It is important to bond with the musicians and make sure everyone is on the same page. I am not sure how long they have all been playing together but one finds a blend of freedom and routine. The music is exceptionally tight and together but there are moments for free expression and improvisation. Jazz is at its strongest when there is looseness but always retains its focus. I think many avoided Jazz because of the noodling and experimental aspects – often going off in all directions and not really saying anything cohesive and productive. I do like musicians being lost in the moment but you need to tell a story and not just wander off and play whatever sounds ‘right’. Modern Jazz feels a lot more disciplined and focused but is also more genre-fusing and bold. I think grandfathers like Miles Davis and John Coltrane are in their bones and D.N.A. but look at how Jazz has grown. It is no shock it has been part of the Hip-Hop and Rap tapestry since the 1980s. Think about the glory days of Hip-Hop and how Jazz was an essential background. Modern artists like Kendrick Lamar use Jazz to heighten the music and offer something dynamic, fiery and thrilling. Jazz will always be vital in the musical landscape but I want to see it assimilated into the mainstream and used more heavily by artists there. Listen to great Jazz musicians today and you will find much variation and quality. Jazz is no longer a genre that is reserved for the diehards and the intellectuals. That might sound insulting but that slightly dusty and dry sound that used to appeal to a certain breed has gone and been replaced by a much more modern and relatable flair.


I will end things soon but want to urge people to listen to Rosie Turton and get more involved with British Jazz. This article highlights British Jazz pioneers like Shabaka Hutchings, Yazmin Lacey and Nubya Gracia – some of the most expressive and inventive players in the world right now. That feature offers some useful words and reasons why Jazz is essential right now. The artists feature mention how Jazz is changing and appealing much more to a younger audience. It is much broader and more exciting than we can imagine and there are so many clubs around the capital that are offering a space for these talented players. We also have this impression of the old Jazz clubs being all smoky and accommodating these beard-stroking quartets that are all finger-clicking and too-cool-for-school. Modern Jazz clubs offer temples for musicians to hone their craft and draw together the generations. Modern Jazz artists like Rosie Turton and Kamasi Washington are bringing more story and concept to the plate. Turton mixes together her travels and experience around the world into this variegated boiling pot. Kamasi Washington, on Heaven and Earth, brings spirituality and physicality together; a deep and proactive selection of songs that are as potent and impressive as any I have heard in the last few years. One of the challenges Turton faces arrives when it comes to accepting a female leader on the stage. Nubya Garcia, in the above feature, talked about experiences of talking to people impressed to see a young woman on the stage. They are used to men – men of a certain age – and are unfamiliar with seeing a woman lead a band or stand alone. Nobody can define modern Jazz or easily write it off. I do worry we are not willing to expand our minds and get beyond the comfortable and commercial. Modern Jazz is a broad canvas and one that offers fast-paced rides, comfortable templates and genre-fusing magic. These times are stressful and unsure and artists like Rosie Turton are providing music that provides safety, inspiration and majesty. If you do anything today, make sure you play Rosie’s 5ive and fall in love with this bold, varied and accomplished...


QUINTET of compositions.


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