How Jasmine Myra overcame self-doubt for her new record of delicate Spiritual Jazz

Text Ben Lee
Foto: © Sophie Jouvenaar (Gondwana)
On her sophomore album, Jasmine Myra sounds composed and self-assured.
This impression wasn’t self-evident from the start, but the the result of a longer process that moved the musician past her imposter syndrome.

Whilst chatting to rising jazz artist Jasmine Myra over a Zoom call, there’s a print by Yayoi Kusama titled ‘Tokyo 1998’ hung up behind her. It’s not one of Kusama’s polka dot pieces, but one with thick, curved lines flowing around each other.

It’s fitting Jasmine owns this print as the minimalism of the piece resembles the sound of her music, echoing something that’s been beautifully crafted but with simplicity at the heart of the design.

Keeping things simple is the driving concept for saxophonist and composer Jasmine’s second album »Rising«, a continuation from her debut LP »Horizons« Using the harp, clarinets, flutes, and a strings section, both records offer moods that elevate you into a soft glow of spiritual jazz.

She’s curated a distinct sound that fits superbly into the discography of Gondwana Records, the Manchester-based label in the UK run by trumpeter Matthew Halsall. They strive to platform northern England talent like Jasmine who reflect serenity in their music.

»I want to shift into self-love, self-possession and all those things that can build on top of that foundation.«

Jasmine Myra

Accomplishing this ethereal sound has come from Jasmine’s time living in Leeds up until eighteen months ago. She studied at Leeds College of Music (now Leeds Conservatoire) where she became embedded in the thriving, youth-driven jazz scene – a common pathway for artists to hone their craft before breaking into the UK jazz scene like Nubiyan Twist and TC & The Groove Family have done over the years.

Considering her »experience of hip-hop influenced jazz« in the Leeds scene, Jasmine played in the group Têtes de Pois as well as releasing her own EP »Bring To The Light« in 2019 that replicated this sound.

Jasmine Myra © Sophie Jouvenaar (Gondwana)

To give oneself the right advices

Following on from this release, the impact of the covid-19 lockdowns in the UK not only gave Jasmine time to write a cohesive collection of songs but also have been the central motif for her first two albums.

»Much like my first album, ›Rising‹ is a reflection of a period of my life«, Jasmine says. »It is a continuation from ›Horizons‹, which was all about my experience during lockdown, and overcoming my struggles with mental health.«

»Rising« moves onto the next stage of dealing with these issues for Jasmine: »I want to shift into self-love, self-possession and all those things that can build on top of that foundation. When I was about to start writing ›Rising‹, I did feel I was gaining confidence as an artist. I’d found my footing with it and a lot of the writing was very similar to ›Horizons‹ but I felt more confident in what I was doing.«

Understanding how this confidence has developed is intriguing when learning about her writing process, as she often battles with feelings of imposter syndrome.

»My writing process is completely on my own«, Jasmine says. »It’s just my own little world that I can escape to. But when I sit down, I just try and trick myself into believing that there is zero pressure and what I’m writing probably won’t even get used. That’s when I’m able to write the best stuff. That was a nice way to relieve all the impostor syndrome thoughts that were going through my head [because] releasing your own music, there’s no one there to tell you it’s right or wrong.«

»Instead of envisioning things that can go wrong, I’ve been trying to imagine the thing I want to happen is 100% going to work out.«

Jasmine Myra

The process works fantastically though, and »Knowingness« on the new album reflects this well with Jasmine’s unique sound; the rhythm section gradually elevates the soft, trickling soundscape into an uplifting, rich tapestry where the bass clarinet and harp wrap around Jasmine’s saxophone melody.

»I really love ›Knowingness‹ and how it has turned out«, she adds. »It’s about trying to stop worrying about the future as much because I’m a quite anxious person. Instead of envisioning things that can go wrong, I’ve been trying to imagine the thing I want to happen is 100% going to work out.«

Now residing in London, Jasmine has begun a UK tour before playing festivals and European dates over the summer. It’s the ideal time to perform an album like »Rising«, breathing these beautiful compositions into the warm, blazing evenings that mirror the album’s spiritual tranquillity.