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The New Trend: The Resurgence of Jazz in Mainstream Music

Words: Aliki Barnes


From the dimly lit bars of New Orleans to the grandest stages worldwide, jazz is experiencing a triumphant resurgence as it boldly returns to the mainstream, staking a claim in the hearts of a new generation of listeners. To understand the appeal of jazz in today's world, it's worth looking back at the pioneers who blazed the trail. From the revolutionary tunes of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band to the era-defining brilliance of Louis Armstrong, jazz has always defied conventions and boundaries.

In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band launched the very first jazz record. This historic moment marked the birth of a musical genre that would revolutionise the musical landscape. The syncopated rhythms and exuberant melodies swiftly captivated people’s attention and set the stage for the emergence of the Jazz Age.


As the 1930s unfolded, jazz bands grew in size, with luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie pushing the boundaries and selling millions of records worldwide. Jazz was no longer just a genre; it had become a cultural phenomenon.


Louis Armstrong Jazz

Louis Armstrong

Photo: Biography


Fast forward to the present day, and jazz is enjoying a long overdue comeback, also benefitting from the influence of social media. Platforms like TikTok, with a massive 1.7 billion users (80% of them under the age of 35) have become essential tools for artists seeking visibility and global reach.

Similarly, Instagram, with its 1.35 billion users worldwide, has provided a stage for musicians to showcase their talents and connect with fans. When an artist’s song goes viral, it might be just a fleeting trend, but in some cases is a launchpad for their career.


One example of this phenomenon is Laufey, a 22-year-old GenZ jazz sensation from Iceland, whose music is heavily influenced by jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and George Gershwin. Her unique style features soulful melodies blended with smooth jazz harmonies and bossa nova rhythms, but Laufey stands out for her ability to communicate deep emotions with lyrics that strongly resonate with her younger audience. On social media, she actively engages with her followers, building a devoted fan base to share her musical journey with step-by-step.


It’s clear to see this newly found appetite for jazz is growing. Laufey’s track From the Start, released in May this year, has surpassed 140 million Spotify streams. Its popularity is down to this unique combination of soothing jazz sounds and poetic lyrics that tell the story of an unrequited crush, a sticky situation we can all relate to.


Laufey Musician

Laufey

Photo: The Today Show


The mellifluous and flowing melodies of jazz music serve as an ideal backdrop for heartfelt lyrical poetry. The sound of jazz has the power to whisk listeners away into romantic daydreams, and when coupled with relatable and soul-stirring lyrics, a winning combination emerges that is sure to strike a chord with those who hear it. In fact, this is exactly what happened when Bruno Major’s hit track Nothing (2020) went viral on TikTok last year.


Bruno Major, British singer-songwriter and contemporary of Laufey, is known for his modern take on classic songwriting with deep roots in old-school jazzEarlier this year, Major unveiled his latest album Colombo which he is currently touring in 32 venues worldwide. Frequently posting on Instagram and TikTok, Major offers exclusive behind-the-scenes peaks at his creative process and teasers of new music. The impact of social media as a catalyst in his career is undeniable but it also highlights the demand for this nouveau-jazz sound among the younger generation.


"Ezra Collective's journey from the underground jazz scene to mainstream recognition highlights the growing acceptance and appreciation of jazz..."


The rise in jazz's popularity among younger audiences is evident by the compelling statistics Spotify have revealed. They reported that approximately 40% of jazz listening on its platform is attributed to listeners under 30, a proportion that has remained consistent since 2014, Laufey currently stands at 12.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify. The influence of jazz's resurgence is not confined to the digital realm, as it resonates in live music too. Prominent jazz acts have played festivals like Glastonbury such as Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming. New jazz festivals have also emerged, exemplified by DJ Gilles Peterson's We Out Here festival in Huntingdon, reflecting the genre's increasing appeal to a more musically discerning young audience.


While jazz is crossing over to the mainstream, there's still a thriving underground jazz movement that is worth mentioning too. Jam nights and acts like Steamdown are adored by loyal London jazz fans. Ezra Collective, a British jazz band, have gained widespread recognition for their energetic live performances and fusion of jazz with elements of Afrobeat and hip-hop. Earlier this year, their album You Can't Steal My Joy won the prestigious Mercury Award, marking the first time a jazz record received this honour. Ezra Collective's journey from the underground jazz scene to mainstream recognition highlights the growing acceptance and appreciation of jazz.


The Ezra Collective

Ezra Collective

Photo: Barracuda Music


Another alumni of the London underground scene is Yussef Dayes, a jazz drummer known for his unique approach to rhythm and improvisation. Dayes performed his latest album "Black Classical Music" at the 5,000-seater Royal Albert Hall, in London. It’s remarkable that Dayes has risen to such prominence as a drummer, a feat that would have seemed unimaginable just a decade ago. His story is a testament to how jazz continues to evolve and captivate audiences, both in the shadows and under the spotlight.


Jazz has always been timeless, from the Original Dixieland jazz Band and Louis Armstrong to John Coltrane and Miles Davis and so on, but with the popularity of acts like Laufey and Bruno Major, it seems to be flourishing once again.


Here are five of my top hits to kick you off:


Regents Park, Bruno Major

Breathe, Sam Wills

Truth, Kamasi Washington

Space 2, Nala Sinephro

Drunk on a flight, Eloise


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