Jake Long (Maisha): 'I love the moments where people are trying to discover what's happening together'
Drummer and bandleader discusses the influence of spiritual jazz and the importance of exploring sound
Maisha are among the breakout acts on We Out Here, the Shabaka Hutchings-helmed compilation which has helped define the new London jazz scene. Fusing spiritual jazz with a West African, Caribbean and Latin influences, Maisha draw from a pool of musicians who are taking jazz to new audiences. Led by drummer Jake Long, the collective features in-demand saxophonist Nubya Garcia, guitarist Shirley Tetteh (Nérija, Kokoroko), pianist Amané Suganami, bassist Twm Dylan, and percussionists Tim Doyle and Yahael Camara-Onono. The group followed 'Inside The Acorn', their luminous contribution to We Out Here, with their debut album There Is A Place in Autumn last year. With its infectious grooves, luscious strings and rousing solos, the album joins the dots from Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, to Kamasi Washington and Sons of Kemet.
The project took shape in the shared house immortalised in the track 'Eaglehurst/The Palace'. 'I was playing with a lot of those guys at the time, doing different projects, and I just enjoyed all of their playing so much,' Long recalls. 'People would come round and we'd jam and rehearse there. That tune was written in that room. And then we moved out of that house, so it was a way of remembering where it all started.'
Although he acknowledges the influence of spiritual jazz and Afrobeat, Long is keen to point out the wide range of sounds that feed into Maisha. 'I was thinking for quite a long time what kind of influences I wanted to draw on. Once I had the sound in my head and knew what I wanted it to be like, it started to take that shape. I'm influenced by Brazilian records, West African drumming. I was listening to a load of a Jimi Hendrix at the time. It continually evolves. The more I listen to, the more everybody listens to, I think that finds its way in. I'll direct it so that it fits within the sound world.'
For Long, playing live is all about the sense of discovery. 'We've got to the point where we know the music so well that we can really start to explore it, and because there are no members in the band that don't know what's going on, it means it's just really, really, free. I've started to enjoy this approach where I don't think about the gig or the set list before I get on stage. Every time I start, I try and hit the drums before I know what tune I'm going to do. I'll play something and that will spark an idea in my mind of how I could work back into this tune, so then it'll flow into that one. I love the moments where people are trying to discover what's happening together. We're all just probing to see where we can go next. And those bits for me, those are the most exciting, in between the songs where your ears need to be really open to explore the sound.'
Maisha, Broadcast, Glasgow, Mon 3 Jun.
London-based ensemble lead by drummer Jake Long, inspired by the sounds of artists such as Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, fused with West African and Afro-beat rhythms.