Who'd have thought we'd be halfway through 2017 with a full blown jazz revival on our hands? Jacob Allen, aka Puma Blue, might be the least out-and-out jazz of all the jazzmen and women coming out of south London at the moment (see Binker & Moses, Yussel Kamaal, United Vibrations and Ezra Collective among others), but he sure knows his way around the cool end of the genre. Combining J Dilla grooves with laconic vocals, he creates strangely haunting mood pieces of nightmarish audio noir. His music's Lynchian; not in a "stick a bit of reverb on the vocals and hope for the best" way, but in a way that you could actually hear it in a David Lynch film. It's dark and sexy, the sound of London on those nights when everything feels a certain shade of (puma) blue. He's launching his debut EP Swum Baby this Thursday 8 June at Bermondsey Social Club and, as if by jazz-infused magic, here's a chat to see what it's all about.
Hello Puma Blue. What on earth is this jazz revival all about? Why's everyone into jazz all of a sudden?
Personally I grew up listening to jazz. It's always been there in the tones I'm drawn to. But I dunno. I feel with what artists like Thundercat or Kendrick have been doing, it's been coming into a new context for a while now.
We described you as being a bit like Chet Baker the other day. Do you like Chet Baker or were we just naming jazz musicians off the top of our heads?
I appreciate the compliment -- he was a cool guy -- but I'm more into singers like Billie Holiday and Julie London. If you feel the Chet thing though, that's fine with me!
Who else do you like then?
I've always tried to take in as much as I can. At the moment BadBadNotGood and Show Me the Body's mixtape. But Jeff Buckley, Dilla and D'Angelo have been really important to me. A lot of hip hop, Elliott Smith, Radiohead, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, DJ Harrison, John Frusciante, Donny Hathaway.
How about kindred spirits from the scene? Why is south London such an exciting place to be making music at the moment?
A friend of mine, another Jacob actually, has a drunken surf music project called Jerkcurb that I love. I collaborate a lot with my mate Luke as well who writes under the name Lucy Lu. There are so many people making mad music in south east London and dedicating themselves to it. I feel like everyone's in each other's bands, just doing it for the love of it and encouraging each other, you know? Oh, also my man Maxwell Owin, he's a wizard.
Are you any good live? You sold out your EP launch pretty quickly.
Yeah, it was crazy. I honestly didn't think I would be in a day. I love playing live shows, I get to express the heavier side to my music and my band are some of my closest friends and best musicians I know. We work hard for shows and I just want to keep developing.
Where's that developing going to take you?
I'm releasing my debut EP Swum Baby on 14 June, so just really looking forward to putting that out. Been sitting on these tunes for a while. Playing a few festivals over the summer including Montreal Jazz Festival in July which I'm gassed about. Then it's back to writing.
Finally, have you watched the new series of Twin Peaks and were you a bit miffed not to be asked to contribute to the soundtrack?
Nah, I don't have a TV but I'm bare excited to see it. No one knows who I am, so I wasn't that upset.
Puma Blue launches his Swum Baby EP this Thursday (8 June) at Bermondsey Social Club. He's also playing Montreal Jazz Festival this year because, well, of course he is.
Text Matthew Whitehouse
Photography Julia Grzeszczak