Empirical: Exploring ways to connect jazz to new audiences



UK jazz band Empirical are doing some revolutionary things to push jazz to new audiences, ones whom may never have had a persuasion towards the musical genre before.

Known for their risk-taking creatively and strong live performances, Empirical have taken to the pop-up phenomenon to introduce their sounds to new audiences in London, by turning a retail unit in Old Street Underground Station into a live jazz lounge.

Such a great idea, the MOBO award-winning band used the pop-up live lounge as a way to showcase their trailblazing sounds to an assorted mix of people including commuters, dwellers, workers and night outers by pitching up in the central London underground station.

The band hosted live gigs – with early-morning, lunchtime and evening performances, workshops and jam sessions – during the week-long residency in February. All events were free.

Having formed in 2007, Empirical have established themselves as a quintet with vibist Lewis Wright, saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Shaney Forbes.

Bassist Tom Farmer told theartsdesk.com: “Jazz is in a weird place at the moment. Audiences are dwindling in the usual places so we felt we’ve got to try and do something to reconnect with people. On our gigs we’ve been coming in and out of the audience and getting people to clap rhythms. We’re trying to explain what we’re doing – to connect everyone together, rather than it being “us” and “them”.”

The residency set out to capture the spirit of an era from the 1960s when bands often played several sets a day over many weeks. Working in this way, Empirical said it gives the band intense practice whilst allowing the audience to witness their creative process as they develop new material.

The pop-up lounge is not the first time the band have been experimental with their “connections”. Last year the band held a week long residency at legendary London-based bookstore, Foyles. Adopting a new and radically open approach to developing the music for their forthcoming album, ‘Connection’, Empirical used the Foyles experience to get audiences to directly contribute to the making of the album.

Empirical’s fifth album, ‘Connection’, due out on 18 March on Cuneiform Records, was recorded after the residency at Foyles, giving the four-piece band the opportunity to finesse the material in front of a live audience.

While previous albums have featured several guests, Connection focuses on the core quartet delivering a dynamic set of originals that largely explores how the band musically connect with one another and with its audience. At the end of each performance at the Foyles residency, the band invited audiences to discuss the music and give their feedback, therefore influencing the final product.

Empirical are aiming to take the pop-up Jazz lounge concept across major cities in the UK in the coming year, in their efforts to open jazz up to wider audiences. You will be blessed to catch this phenomenal and inspiring band in action.


Connection is released on 18 March on Cuneiform Records


Rosalyn Medea is a journalist, writer, spiritual life coach, intuitive reader and all-round creative warrior

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3 thoughts on “Empirical: Exploring ways to connect jazz to new audiences

      1. Yes it was. Saw them often as they played often on the South Bank regularly – as part of Tomorrow’s Warriors or under the leadership of the late Abram Wilson.