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Matters Unknown Nubiyan Twist player premieres exploratory new jazz

Streamed live from lockdown, 'A Beginning' is the first cut from multi-instrumentalist and composer Jonny Enser's spiritually-oriented new band.

A long-time member of Now Then favourites Nubiyan Twist, Jonny Enser's new project is devoted to exploring the more cosmic side of jazz that blossomed in the 60s and 70s.

The group have released a live stream from London's Total Refreshment Centre of the first cut from their forthcoming debut, aptly titled 'A Beginning'. We caught up with Enser to ask about the project and his influences.

How did Matters Unknown come together?

Matters Unknown is a project I dreamt up some time in 2017 after living in New Orleans for a few months, and having tried to write original brass band tunes in opposition to the swathes of pop cover British brass bands.

However, once I started recording and working out full arrangements it became clear it wouldn't just be your average brass band. Through my work in Nubiyan Twist I had a lot of production skills raring to be put to use and I wrote a whole bank of material in quick succession and in collaboration with drummer Matt Davies.

I started by recording all the parts myself and eventually layering them up with my friends, who are specialists on their various instruments. Eventually I found the perfect musicians to fulfil the sound I'd dreamt of just before Covid-19 struck and put the trajectory on the backburner for 18 months.

I can definitely hear the spiritual jazz influence in the sound, particularly the Alice Coltrane-y ripples of piano. Who were your main influences?

My primary idol in life and in music is Donald Byrd, a musician and mentor who traversed so many scenes and colour palettes with ease and grace. One of the most formidable improvisors in the 1960s, a spiritual African diasporic influenced composer turned rare groove and disco producer. He also was responsible for the mentorship of countless greats including Herbie Hancock. A legacy I'm hugely inspired by.

As a trumpeter my other main influences are Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Marquis Hill, Christian Scott and Nicholas Payton.

While I love the writing of Alice Coltrane, I would say I'm more influenced by the more contemporary strain for beatmakers and composers coming out of LA and New York including Flying Lotus, Knxwledge, Jeff Parker and Kamasi Washington.

What can jazz fans expect from the album later this year?

All the music I write is situational. The divine force finds me in between places, early in the morning and last thing at night.

I'm never keen to prescribe a genre to my work as I'm trying to fit in between spaces. As someone who's always felt like an imposter I've tried to craft a space just for myself. However I call this "celestial blues", wrapped in contemporary global grooves.

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