Its a jazz ting, hip hop, reggae! is the byline for this internationally-touring band. Since their first outing in 1994 as Tomorrows Warriors, these young lions have blazed a trail through the British jazz circuit emerging, in late 1997, as J-Life and making history by becoming not only the first British band since 1983 to win the prestigious IJF European Young Jazz Artists 1997 award, but also the first ever group of black musicians both to reach the finals and win. Tomorrows Warriors presents ... J-Life reveals a band with attitude in the most positive sense, and confirms J-Life as Britains brightest crossover jazz stars. Their playing is tight, their compositions/arrangements innovative and strong, their live show great entertainment.
J-Life's debut album Tomorrow's Warriors
won them two Perrier Jazz awards. One of these was for the vocals of Julie Dexter, a young singer who obviously owes much of her style to Abbey Lincoln. This is probably why two of the covers featured include Lincoln's composition "The Music Is Magic" and "Afro-Blue", on which Lincoln was the first to put vocals. If Dexter hasn't quite got Lincoln's passion quite yet (reference should be made to the original "Afro-Blue" on the album Abbey Is Blue
) then that is not to say that Dexter does not have a sweet soulful voice. Throughout the album her vocals stand out, especially so on a wonderfully sparse rendition of "Baubles, Bangles & Beads", which has only Darren Taylor's double bass as backing. The sound is generally redolent of midnight jazz, with the occasional improvised solo and a touch of funk, but always with a polished execution. This is British jazz that suggests much more is to come. --Phil Brett