LAURA Jurd is one of the most remarkable young musicians to emerge in Britain in many years.
Still only 26, the trumpet-playing bandleader and composer has released three strikingly diverse albums, won a series of high-profile awards, and been heralded as a rising jazz star whose music consistently “stretches critics and musicians’ repertoire of superlatives”.
She is also, of course, a female trumpet-playing bandleader and composer, and jazz, in particular, has not produced many of those.
Jurd and her rock- and groove- influenced band Dinosaur are about to embark on their first Irish tour, an eight-date run.
Jurd has already come a long way from the Hampshire village of Medstead, where she grew up. Something of a musical prodigy, she began piano lessons at four and trumpet lessons at eight, going on to study at the renowned Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London. Her progress has been, by any standard, rapid.
“Well, I feel very lucky, and there have certainly been a few serendipitous things along the way, like great music teachers at school,” she says, from her home in Sevenoaks, Kent. “But I like to do things, to have lots of projects on the go, and because I love quite a lot of different music, I’ve had to somehow get certain things out of my system. Like the three albums. There’s no point in waiting for the sake of waiting.”
Indeed, her first album, Landing Ground, a suite of nine original compositions for string quartet and jazz ensemble, was released in 2012, while she was still a student. The album’s maturity, poise, and ambition surprised many and signalled the arrival of an exceptional talent.
Human Spirit, released a couple of years later, explored Jurd’s love of songs and lyrics. Featuring an offbeat septet including electric guitar and bass saxophone, and integrating elements of folk, rock, and world music, the album also spotlighted the work of two Irish improvisers — trombonist Colm O’Hara and vocalist Lauren Kinsella. “Meeting Lauren and hearing her sing was part of the inspiration to do that project in the first place,” says Jurd. “Wow, what a special musician!”
Further musical passions filter through into Jurd’s most recent release, Together, As One, written for her regular quartet, now renamed Dinosaur. A band all in their mid-20s consisting of Jurd, Elliot Galvin on Fender Rhodes and Hammond organ, Conor Chaplin on electric bass, and Corrie Dick on drums, Dinosaur can sound like a pioneering late-’60s Miles Davis jazz-rock group, a modern funk band fired up by Sly Stone and James Brown, an Afro-Celt sound clash, even psychedelic ’70s prog-rockers such as Soft Machine or King Crimson. Or, as Jurd playfully puts it herself: “[Dinosaur] was my fantasy… a skronky, extrovert, trumpet-led rock band.”
And yet, of course, Dinosaur really sound like none of the above. As with many younger jazz players and bands, Jurd soaks in influences from across and beyond genres — her interests, for example, range freely from Bartók to Chet Baker, Gorillaz to Steve Reich — and skilfully fashions them into something wholly surprising and new. She is a model musician for our multifarious times.
“I’m into music that sounds quite bright, that’s instinctive, immediate, and communicates very directly,” she says. “But I also like to sprinkle my compositions with some sharpness and grit, dissonance that turns them into something a bit different and distinctive.
“Not that I’m massively punk-esque in myself,” she adds, laughing. “But I definitely hope I don’t grow out of that kind of youthful rebellion.”
Dinosaur tour February 21-28, with dates including Pavilion, Dún Laoghaire, Feb 25; and Triskel, Cork, Tuesday, Feb 28; See musicnetwork.ie
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