Mix It Up: Moses Boyd
Portrait from Fantastic Man issue 28
Photography by Bruno Staub
Styling by Max Clark
Moses Boyd is the 28-year-old band leader, drummer and two-time MOBO award winner from London who has done so much in establishing the now booming jazz scene in his hometown. Here he selects a mixtape exclusively for Browns that is required listening for these times, titled Resistance, Beauty and Introspection. As Moses says:
“When I was asked to make this mixtape I started reflecting on some of the things I have been listening to heavily over recent weeks and I realised that unintentionally, but unsurprisingly, there was a bit of a clear theme emerging. This is music that I find in tune with all that’s going on right now. These are songs that go between protest music, radical music and more introspective moments. All are beautiful to listen to.”
B Movie by Gil Scott Heron
One of my favourite artists. An old drum teacher of mine used to play for Gil Scott Heron so that’s how I got into his music. He’s always really good at narrating what was going on at the time. In this song he’s talking about the Reagan era and how America gave up its manufacturing rights, it moved from being a producer to a consumer. As well as just the theatrics that go on in politics. He compares it to being a B Movie, no longer A-list. I think it’s very poignant and timely for exactly what we’re going through; Britain is talking about controlling its borders, the special relationship with America, leaving the EU and it has proven itself incapable.
Til I’m Laid To Rest by Buju Banton
Part resistance music, part healing music and part beauty. This is definitely a more spiritual song for me. The album was written when Banton started adopting Rastafari philosophies, looking to Africa, looking to people like Marcus Garvey and the movement away from the west. That’s what he’s talking about, if you listen to the lyrics, “Til they lay me to rest, always be depressed, there’s no life in the west, I know the east is the best.”
Rebuild A Nation by Damon Locks
This is a newer release, I first heard it when I was at a club Gilles Peterson was playing in New York in January for Winter Jazzfest. I always love that moment with Gilles and other DJs where they use what you might call a palette cleanser. You might be in a broken beat jungle moment and then all of a sudden you get a song that completely stops everyone in their tracks. Gilles used this song and it’s very raw and simple. It’s just drums and vocals. It’s got a poignant message and I’ve been listening to it constantly since I heard it in that space. It really unified everybody, there was clapping, singing, it was almost like church. The whole record is great as well but this track in particular.
Dreaming by Sun Ra
I love how raw this track is. There’s not much to the production. It’s got this rumba thing going on, vocals, conga, claves and a kind of doo-wop barbershop style singing. Lyrically it’s just really beautiful, and with all that’s been going on you have to find moments of joy, things that bring beauty, in music, in art, anything. If I played it to someone that didn’t really know much about Sun Ra, they wouldn’t expect it to be a Sun Ra song. I really like that about any artist that can give you a curveball. Someone who can say, “This is also me. I’m multifaceted. I can give you protest, I can give you complex, I can give you introspective, I can give you beauty, I can give you fun.”
Mo Juba Olorun by Kevin Haynes
This is by one of my mentors, Kevin Haynes. It’s an old record. I think he did it in the early 2000s but it wasn’t that readily available, I think you had to buy it from him. When I first got introduced to him and started playing in his band, he just handed me this CD so I’ve been listening to it for a long time but it’s not been readily available to the wider public. I'm glad it’s now been reissued by Jazz re:freshed. Kevin’s a very unique artist and person; a percussionist, saxophone player and spiritual leader who combines the jazz world with the Yoruba spirituality. This track has a whole Coltrane element with batá percussion and Yoruba folkloric singing in such a way that’s just really beautiful. It’s something I put on in the morning and play in the house to freshen the air.
Wailing Wall by Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill is one of my favourite artists and this song and the album it’s on is particularly interesting just for the configuration of musicians alone. You’ve got Roy Haynes on drums, you’ve got two bass players, piano. It’s quite an odd set up. But texturally and sonically it’s really, to me it’s really beautiful.
Heart Is Breaking by Ty
This is a bit of a sad one. Rest in peace Ty. We sadly lost him to Covid and this was the first song of his that I heard. This was over 10 years ago and I just really loved it. It’s still my favourite song of his and as the years went by got to know him a little bit and was able to get him on my show when I was at 1Xtra, so it was a nice full circle getting to know him. I think more people need to understand his music.
Ghost House by Beverly Glenn-Copeland
His voice is so unique, operatic and emotive. It’s quite folky but it also has this jazzy quality underneath it. A lot of his music, Keyboard Fantasies, this album, they always make me feel good when I put them on. I think that’s important in music, to be able to just get away and let it almost just purify your head for a minute.
Let The Rain Fall On Me by Leon Thomas
Lately I’ve been really into textures and tones and singers’ voices that may not be technically the best but are really emotive. I don’t know if this is an original song or a cover but I think it’s amazing. Leon is known for his yodelling style but as a singer he’s great. It’s an odd one because by the title it sounds really sad but its got this cleansing quality to it. I guess maybe that’s the nature of rain. You can see it as sad, or cleansing, or joyous. I love the rain.
Empty by Janet Jackson
I'm a big fan of Janet Jackson so I’ve been listening to this album a lot in lockdown. Namely because of the production by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, but also to just check the artistry of Janet. This tune is so interesting because it reminds me of a bit footwork, juke, it’s ahead of its time. I find it really fascinating. It’s so jittery, so skittish.
Harvest by Charles Lloyd
Seeing Charles Lloyd was one of the most poignant gigs that I’ve been to. I felt something happened to me physically. Something inside just changed just by the power and beauty of the music. I’ve gone to see Charles Lloyd various times since, and he’s always got this aura. I’d urge anyone to check his songbook and, when we can go to concerts again, to go and see him. But this particular track always stood out to me whenever I’ve seen him play. It’s playful, it’s fun, it’s very melodic; it reminds me of the West Indies.
Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear
This one doesn’t really need loads of explanation! Just sit and listen to it.
Bra by Cymande
A joyful tune. Cymande are one of my favourite bands. What I love about this song is the mix, the instrumentation, the arrangement, the writing; everything is just so good. Every time I’ve heard it in a rave or in a club, it’s so powerful.
No Bullshit by SAULT
I’m a big fan of Cleo Sol and Inflo and the other artists that are involved in this. I love the fact that it’s primarily a faceless project. It’s drawing from the disco funk era but revamped in a way that’s very fresh and very poignant. And the title of this song, No Bullshit, again doesn’t need much explanation as to why I’ve been listening to it recently.
Chambers Of Tain by Wynton Marsalis
This was written by the drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. It’s a ferocious, energetic, unapologetic piece of black music. The ensemble on this entire album were like the supergroup of the time in the jazz world: Branford Marsalis, Wynton, Kenny Kirkland. It’s hot, it’s fiery but for me it’s particularly great that it was written by a drummer. These are the sort of tracks I’d seek out back in the day. It wasn’t a common thing for a drummer to be in the forefront, to write songs and lead bands. Watts is one of the forerunners of that, so you have to hail him up.
You can also listen to this playlist on Spotify, just search for Browns Fashion to discover more music to enjoy.
Interview by Eliot Haworth