Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Oscar Jerome: Cool as...

Oscar Jerome
Oscar Jerome Oscar Jerome Oscar Jerome Oscar Jerome

While the rather brilliant singer, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Oscar Jerome has been labelled by and large as a ‘jazz musician’, his whole reason d’être is, as he states, ‘a love of music’. It’s a love which has pushed, cajoled and directed his musical pursuits.

“I have been getting stuff ready for my radio music show, in fact, for an internet radio station called “Balamii”, he tells me when we start the interview, “sometimes I get guest people in to come and talk to me on the show but mostly, it’s just me. It’s an excuse to listen to new music and support other people’s music. In truth, sometimes, when you are concentrating on your own music you can lose touch with what is going on around you and what other people are doing.” He adds, “it is hard at times…like today, I am supposed to be preparing stuff for a recording session I have next week but listening to new music inspires me to write. I think you can lose sight of what is going on when you are in the lab all the time”.

In the lab, Oscar Jerome’s bountiful creations of alchemy have seen sets at places like the renowned and kudos enhancing Boiler Rooms. But a defining moment occurred when he dropped his eponymous EP in 2016. He had previous material but it was this EP, which stated with assurance, that he should be added to a swelling stable of talented London jazz musicians who had started to make a name for themselves. Indeed, there’s no doubt that being part of the vibrant London jazz scene has been integral in his musical journey.
“Hundred per cent people are loving the London scene” he states confidently, “I am always meeting people from different countries and they are loving it. Like, I am going to Hamburg to play at this festival called Uber Jazz and literally, most of the line-up is London jazz musicians. There is a buzz around our scene. There is obviously a buzz around the US names like Kamasi Washington, Thundercat and Robert Glasper but I think we are different”.

In fact, a little while back I interviewed another of those London exponents, Joe Armon-Jones, in that positive (if there can be such a thing) incestuous like energy, Oscar Jerome featured on Joe Armon-Jones’ 2018 project, “Starting Today”. For Armon-Jones, London’s jazz scene is glowing because many of the main protagonists in the scene have known or worked with each other before their success.
“I met Joe Armon-Jones, a drummer called Olly Sarker and Jack Polley (now in Jerome’s band) and they would do this thing where they would play Dilla and Madlib beats… I always liked hip-hop but at the time, I never really ‘played’ hip-hop…I never really knew it was a ‘thing’ that you did. So, when I met them, they were like ‘you like hip-hop why don’t you? Come and play some stuff with us’. They were in the year below me, so I didn’t really know them. But, I was like “wow”, there are people who are into other things apart from jazz. I think that more and more UK artists are blending, they don’t have a specific lane, they just want to make music they enjoy. We are influenced by UK music, like dance music and the whole broken beat scene, even though that happened a while ago and that is what is drawing people to us”.
It’s strange when talking with Oscar Jerome, who talks with the maturity of someone who has been in the business for years. And while he has been pushing this music thing for a while, in terms of exposure, he is a relative newcomer. But he is becoming something of a ‘familiar name’. It helps of course when names like Gilles Petersen wax lyrically with all the verve of a rather ardent groupie but this verbal waxing has validity. Like all the best musicians, Oscar Jerome is in a constant state of learning and flux-restless, while agitating for music that reflects his rather cultured musical self, along with his state of mind at the time.

“I definitely go through phases” he answers when I ask him about his creative process, “I am listening to a lot of Goldie and Devo recently and that has definitely influenced the way I am approaching drumbeats with some of the new stuff. I am always very conscious about avoiding imitation. Like someone has already done that and ‘well’ so I am not going to try and imitate it”.

The track “Do You Really” is out through Au Contraire Music.

Catch Oscar Jerome live at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) London, Feb 20

You can read more from our exclusive interview with top UK jazz/funk talent Oscar Jerome, including his thoughts on his creative process and exciting news on his debut album. All in the current issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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Words Semper Azeez-Harris

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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