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Studio Jazz presents

Nishla Smith – The Beast

Fri 17 May 2024

Nishla Smith - songs, vocals, Charlotte Keeffe - trumpet, flugel, Helena Kay - sax, flute, Tom Harris - piano, Misha Mullov-Abbado - upright bass, Sarah Heneghan - drums

Nishla is one of the brightest singers and artists on the UK scene whose debut album, ‘Friends With Monsters’, saw a Ronnie Scott’s launch with Downbeat USA raving “…Smith’s singing is an entrancing beauty’ with ‘the trump cards … her lyrics and melodies.” Born out of a songwriting hiatus, and imagined to mirror her complicated relationship with music-making, and threadbare mental health over the last eighteen months, this is Nishla’s return to the art of the song. Alongside the creation of the music, Nishla  devised and directed three story-driven music videos to reflect the album’s nocturnal theme; and commissioned eleven pieces of original artwork from local artists.

Her band / project THE BEAST is an explosion of musical and narrative ideas, told through song and performed by a stunning combination of brilliant young musicians, all of whom are exciting, boundary-pushing artists in their own rights. The music draws from Nishla’s roots in the textures and musical language of jazz; but incorporates ideas from soul, pop and sound design. A piano-driven rhythmical through-line creates the bedrock for virtuosic improvisation and lush, layered textures. Nishla and her collaborators are currently making an album of this new music, with producer Chris Hyson (Snowpoet, Freida Touray) thanks to the generous support of Help Musicians.

Nishla is driven by a desire to tell stories. She works across disciplines, frequently collaborating with dancers and artists. She is one-third of theatre collective Ulita, with whom she recently finished a two-week run of her original stage show ‘What Happened to Agnes;’ at Edinburgh Fringe. Last year, Nishla also played a bird in Atri Banerjee’s lauded production of ‘Kes’, for which she won a UK Theatre Award for ‘Best Supporting Performer.’ In summer 2022, she joined Serious Music’s prestigious Take Five programme, which culminated in a performance at the Southbank Centre for London Jazz Festival. Later in the year, she was awarded a development award through the Peter Whittingham Jazz Awards, to support her upcoming album.

Don’t miss this captivating evening of ethereal, beautiful music.

All the while, Smith circles, the embodiment of the kestrel... She becomes only more ethereal as she sings dreamy renditions of The Girl from Ipanema and It Might as Well Be Spring. Her voice is exquisite, a symbol of unreachable beauty

The Guardian (Kes Review)

Nishla Smith's haunting, ethereal, voice is used sparsely. But the brevity and beauty of her singing interludes showers hope...

Evening Manchester News (Kes Review)

From the title track’s metaphorical flights of fancy and the heart-melting delicacy of ‘Julian’, to the uplifting, instantly memorable ‘Up’, Smith’s meticulously observed songs compel the attention

Jazzwise (Friends With Monsters Review)