Nubya Garcia Brings Entrancing & Technically Powerful Show to NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge (SHOW REVIEW)

Hot on the heels of a multi-week stint supporting Khruangbin on their U.S. tour, saxophonist Nubya Garcia capped off the American journey – her first performance stateside since the release of her acclaimed debut album SOURCE in 2020 – with a headlining show at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge. With accompaniment from keyboardist Jahari Stampley, bassist Lawrence Shaw, and Sam Jones on drums, the rising London jazz star turned in a powerful performance; breathing new life and power into her songs and proving why she might just be one of the best in the game right now.

The show kicked off with a crack of Jones’ drums that launched the band into the dubby opening groove of “Source” while Garcia made her way to the stage. From the first notes, she sent reverberating through the room one could feel the passion exuding from her playing, and as she delved deep during the song’s solo section it only seemed to increase, until she had the crowd locked firmly in the pocket along with her. They brought the number to a close with a play on its melodic tag set against increasingly chaotic fills from Jones, and had seamlessly transitioned into a rolling vamp on the smooth “The Message Continues” before the applause had even died down. After taking a brief moment to thank the audience Garcia once again took to her horn and led the band through the tune and into another dizzying solo section, this time making funky use of a wah effect on her sax before ceding the floor to Shaw for a bass feature.

Garcia made her way through almost all of the songs on SOURCE over the course of the set, including a standout back to back pairing of “Stand With Each Other” – a song about “how important it is to show up for your community and other communities…even when the fight doesn’t directly affect you” – and “Before Us: In Demerara and Caura” which had the crowd whooping and shouting with excitement as she and Stampley both laid down fiery solos. The quartet’s rendition of “La cumbia me está llamando” was fully reshaped by Stampley’s shifting chord-work and Jones’ propulsive, swinging beat into an uptempo Latin jazz bop, while “Boundless Beings” saw Garcia take the audience on a journey, swooning in and out of the song’s entrancing melody sounding like the score to a classic film noir. 

That same energy continued with a sultry, harmonizer-laden solo the saxophonist performed unaccompanied, which gradually worked its way into the arresting lead riff of “Lost Kingdoms”, a highlight off of her 2017 EP Nubya’s 5ive. After a lengthy round of thanks to her management and label teams, her band, supporting act KeiyaA, and the audience, Garcia closed the set out with an untitled new song, which she called her “ode to UK garage”. Opening with a jaw-dropping two-minute display of technical ability from Stampley on the piano, the tune burst in on a two-step beat with a horn line that displayed the same knack for melodic composition that’s made Garcia such an exceptional figure in the modern jazz scene.

Lawrence Shaw took the final feature of the night, starting off the group’s encore with a bluesy solo on his double bass before being met by the thwack of Jones’ snare to launch into the foreboding groove of SOURCE-opener “Pace”, on which Garcia turned in her finest performance of the night. She wailed on her saxophone with such passion and depth of feeling one could mistake it at times for a human voice, and carried the rapt audience along with her as she brought the energy towering skyward on a bed of Sam Jones’ increasingly thunderous drums, eventually bringing everything gently back down to Earth only for the quartet to quickly pick back up and build a riff from Garcia into a momentous victory march of an outro, bringing the house down with them. 

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