Multi-instrumentalist and producer Emma-Jean Thackray is set to release her first full-length album Yellow
on Friday 23rd July. Having released smaller projects over the past few years, Thackeray is starting to become a household name in the UK jazz scene. Trumpeter, beat-maker, singer, composer, DJ and more, Thackray’s sound is often crafted solely by her. However, she is also known for collaborations with many other musicians, and this album is no exception – featuring an amazing array of musical friends, Yellow provides the listener with a sense of much-needed togetherness. Having only listened to the album’s singles before its release, featuring infectious dance grooves, moving lyrics, soulful vocals, and beautiful jazz harmony, we cannot wait for this debut!
‘featuring an amazing array of musical friends, Yellow provides the listener with a sense of much-needed togetherness.’
‘Say Something’ immediately challenges our expectations of jazz as a genre, opening with echoing vocals, electronics, and a drum groove which creates a real sense of excitement and anticipation. Thackray’s music has been described as ‘a dancefloor-angled take on jazz’ which beautifully acknowledges her music as the blend of genres it is. As the track adds layer by layer of musical ideas, this sense of anticipation increases, following a classic dance track structure – yet the drum fills and harmonic choices break these expectations at the same time. This is definitely a feel-good, summer track. The synth solo brings a wealth of interesting musical choices, leading us on to the peak of the song. As the vocalists sing ‘don’t just be, say something’, we as listeners are overwhelmed with emotional musicality and a really important message of empowerment. The hand clapping and vocals which lead us out of the song reinforce the real soul and beauty behind this message.
‘we as listeners are overwhelmed with emotional musicality and a really important message of empowerment.’
Providing a contrast, ‘Spectre’ opens with beautiful solo vocals which again reveal Thackray’s soulful jazz roots. The melody is really special on this track, and the slow accompanying groove really allows it to breathe. Thackray proves once again that she is a master at building a groove into an emotional and musical peak, creating anticipation and ultimately catharsis. The string arrangements on this piece are beautiful, adding a dramatic layer to the lyrics – ‘there’s a spectre in my house; he walks right through me’. The repetitiveness of the lyrics allows the listener to follow and engage with the music in a way similar to dance tracks – but this music is on an entirely new level. The backing vocals and harmonic choices reinforce the tenderness of this track as Thackray really pushes the vocals at the song’s close. Windchimes can be heard as the piece finishes, leaving us in a moment of reflection.
‘The melody is really special on this track, and the slow accompanying groove really allows it to breathe.’
The album’s final single, ‘Our People’, is a complete bop. Immediately the drum groove arrests us as listeners, followed by horns and an incredible bass line. The addition of other percussion and drums also helps to create this infectious groove which makes you want to get up and dance. The refrain ‘we are all our people, we’re from the same’, and the spoken word that comes along with the vocals, really reinforce the togetherness which Thackray has been promoting so far in the album. The piano solo on this track is really special, matching the good vibes and upbeat feel of the song perfectly. As the piece moves into a breakdown/vamp section, the drum fills and adlibs add a sense of individuality whilst maintaining the musical collectivity at the same time. Ambient electronic wave-like sounds bring the piece to a close, again giving the listener time to reflect and let the message sink in.
‘The album’s final single, ‘Our People’, is a complete bop.’
Yellow is set to be a really incredible album, featuring danceable grooves alongside profound and important messages. Thackray’s emphasis upon togetherness and empowerment is exactly what the jazz scene needs, especially as a female musician. The three singles which Thackray has already released are set to become classics on the UK jazz scene – this new jazz sound is so compelling, and provides a new scope for the genre. Thackray’s vocals and ear are extremely soulful, and her collaborative approach is inspiring – we can’t wait to hear the full debut.
‘Thackray’s emphasis upon togetherness and empowerment is exactly what the jazz scene needs, especially as a female musician.’