Indispensable Feature Story: Tomorrow's Warriors
The London jazz scene has seen a remarkable renaissance over the past couple of decades. Gifted artists, melding traditional jazz stylings with influences from around the globe, have infused new life into the genre. Many of the musicians at the forefront of this movement are alumni of Tomorrow’s Warriors.
Founded in 1991 by Janine Irons and Gary Crosby, Tomorrow’s Warriors is an educational and artist development program seeking to “inspire, foster and grow a vibrant community of artists, audiences and leaders who together will transform the lives of future generations by increasing opportunity, diversity and excellence in and through jazz.” The program has been wildly successful. Gilles Peterson (BBC radio personality and founder of Brownswood Recordings) has said, “Can’t overstate the impact that Tomorrow’s Warriors has had on the current music scene in London.”
Some of the biggest names on the scene today, Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming), Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd and Binker Golding (Binker & Moses), Ezra Collective’s Joe Armon-Jones and Femi Koleoso, Cassie Kinoshi (SEED Ensemble, Kokoroko Afrobeat Collective), Theon Cross (Sons of Kemet) and many others were one-time Warriors.
Since its inception in 1991, the Tomorrow’s Warriors program has successfully launched the careers of these artists and transformed the jazz scene altogether. Many have incorporated traditions of the African diaspora in new and innovative ways; others have merged jazz with hip-hop and techno to create truly distinctive music.
The founders have musical backgrounds as well. Janine Irons was a student of classical piano, a vocalist in a funk band, and a photographer as well. When on assignment shooting a jazz show, she met double bassist Gary Crosby.
Crosby founded the Jazz Warriors in the ‘80s and even then was supporting upcoming artists, including Courtney Pine, Cleveland Watkiss, Orphy Robinson, and others. He’s won many awards with his various ensembles (Nu Troop, Jazz Jamaica All Stars) and for his educational work.
Through workshops, jam sessions, and showcases, Tomorrow’s Warriors has been able to promote its roster of young talent, partnering with arts organizations, festivals, producers, and venues. The founders have created ensembles featuring rising stars as well, including the Nu Civilisation Orchestra (with pianist/composer Peter Edwards as Musical Director), Tomorrow's Warriors' Female Collective, StringTing, and a youth orchestra.
Tomorrow’s Warriors celebrated its 30th anniversary in December with A Great Day in London (a nod to the famous 1958 gathering of 57 jazz musicians in Harlem, New York, photographed by Art Kane, and the subject of a 1994 Oscar-winning documentary of the same name.). The event featured many of the most prominent alumni, which co-founder Gary Crosby proclaimed, “is a fitting headline to our 30th anniversary year celebrations, a glorious moment in our collective musical history that shines a light on the epic journeys of Warriors musicians. It will be magical to bring our Warriors family together.”
Support the next generation of Tomorrow’s Warriors here.
"Tomorrow's Warriors on BBC One's 'Inside Out'"
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