It’s all about the here and ‘the now’ for jazz musician Jay Phelps. Phelps, the highly regarded Canadian-raised, UK-based trumpeter, released his latest record, The Now, last month, an all-encompassing recording that is meant to transcend different generations of fans and listeners. An artist himself who has shifted between different generations over his 20 years career, Phelps seeks to create a communal feeling with this new album, making jazz fun and relatable no matter what age you are. It features several collaborators, people that Phelps has a lot of respect for and has been wanting to work with, such as David Mrakpor (Blue Lab Beats), Tom Ford (Chris Dave, Reuben James) and Nicola Guida (Secret Night Gang).

The Now is Phelps’ seventh studio album, and it has been long awaited, with the recording process taking place about one-and-a-half years ago. The songs do a lot of maneuvering, from the underground UK jazz club scene to the House music of Detroit and more progressive sound typical of Los Angeles. The Now really helps illustrate why Phelps is considered such an innovator and connects generational force within the music that he does.

Joining us today is Phelps for a special track-by-track rundown of The Now, in which he touches on the origins behind each track, what inspired their composition, and what they mean to him as an artist and a songwriter.

1. “Finding Centaurii”

Jay Phelps: “I was looking out my window one night, and I happened to see more than a handful of planes flying into the distance, and I imagined them as spaceships trying to get to the next star system, which is called Alpha Centauri. Creating a rhythmical pattern with the number of planes I saw, the melody to this song started forming in my head, so I quickly grabbed my trumpet, and the first single from the album came out soon after.

“I am obsessed with space and news about the ongoings within our universe, which is why I wanted to create a soundtrack for a space endeavour to find a fictional character who might be sending out signals to help us find them. Just some fictional fun.”

2. “Through The Clouds (feat. Simon Jnr)”

“It was the beginning of lockdown, and us self-employed folks in England were able to claim some support from the government; it was called the furlough scheme. The first time I called, I was on the phone for an hour and a half and on hold for most of the time, with one song playing round and round. I never caught the name of the song, but I started to play along to it with my trumpet and began forming a whole other song from the inspiration.

“There’s a lot you can do musically speaking in an hour and a half, so I got my keyboard and started laying down some chords and put a beat behind what would become the second single released. The intro sample is actually a re-creation of what I heard that fateful day while on hold.

“After we laid it down in the studio, I sent it over to the very talented, Simon JNR, who then laid down his magic on the lyrical front. A super COVID-inspired collaboration. Oops, I said the C word!”

Jay Phelps ‘The Now’ album artwork
Jay Phelps ‘The Now’ album artwork

3. “Liquid Living”

“The most left-field song on the album and written well before 2020, ‘Liquid Living’ was inspired by my own experiences of an ever-changing life as a musician today. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, I moved to London with my mother, but left the nest early (at 17). I moved around London over 25 times (due to many circumstances). I can safely say, I have seen all permutations of what this city has to offer, from the highs to the lows. ‘Liquid Living’ is a musical snapshot of my movements in and around London, England and performed by a band worthy of England’s cosmopolitan outlook.”

4. “The Malleables”

“Named because of the band’s ability to bend and contort to every feeling and groove that is occurring at that moment. Needless to say, this was the jam track at the end of the studio session. We had ten minutes left and I told Michael our engineer to just keep the tape running. I looked at Jack, our drummer, and said, ‘Give me something, man,’ and he then came up with this incredible groove, which set us all up.

“After hearing what we recorded, I then came up with a whole scenario of an avengers crew called ‘The Malleables.’ This song, the third single, which was picked as Gilles Peterson’s favourite from the album, comes with a music video, which features a young superstar Lonnee Archibong. It’s bonkers and slick at the same time; the video was shot and edited by my good friend Muphovi.”

5. “Sanctuary”

“London music contemporary of mine Kat Deal came up with this incredible melody, which was originally an Instagram post of hers. I transcribed it right away and started to do my own thing with it, which then became an instrumental version of her song, which was never officially released. This is the only cover on the album and for some reason to me, it always sounded like a beautiful traditional Japanese melody, I just happen to add some four to the floor to it!”

6. “The Now”

“The title and closing track of the album and probably the most obnoxiously crazy, ‘The Now. ‘Be in the now’ is a mantra that a lot of people use today to realize their full potential within the moment. It is certainly a phrase my mother has been saying to me for many years, and we should all utilize it in our own way.

“I wanted to name this track and the album ‘The Now’ because literally that’s all we’ve got, and I personally forget it from time to time. It’s a reminder to myself and to others that the time to make a change, make a statement, or even just accept myself for me is NOW!”


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