July 16, 2024 marks the 40th birthday of Diamond Life, the debut album by Sade. Still a fantastic album, back then one of the highlights of the British New Jazz scene. This playlist is a tribute to Diamond Life and that scene. Thanks to Gijsbert Kamer for his suggestions for this playlist.

Liner notes:

We’re at the end of the 1970s, punk’s fury has winded down and musicians in the UK (and beyond) are looking for new ways, new influences, new rhythms. Post-punk, as this period’s called, brought us great bass-heavy music (compiled in this massive playlist) with spats of funk, dub reggae, West-African rhythms and surely, jazz.

This article highlights the different directions they went looking. There were synths, there was punk-jazz, with bands like Blurt and James White & the Blacks. Others turned to latin, like  Blue Rondo a la Turk, Jazz Defektors and Matt Bianco. They paved the way for wat became the ‘New Jazz’ scene in the early 1980s.  A very versatile scene; Animal Nightlife (sadly, their best work isn’t on Spotify), Swamp Children and French Impressionists are in a long list of ‘New Jazz’ artists in this overview.

Some of them scored big hits, like Everything But the Girl, The Style Council and, of course, the brightest shining gem: Sade. Her debut album Diamond Life, released in July of 1984 still stands as a unscratched masterpiece with fantastic vocals, cool jazzy music and a high production value.

Diamond Life’s 40th anniversary sparked this playlist, that I made with help of De Volkskrant’s Gijsbert Kamer. Who introduced me to the lovely Weekend, and made me choose another Style Council song (all good). It features bands from the New Jazz period, roughly from 1981 to 1985, with classics (Working Week!), obscure faves (A Craze!) and odd ones out (Madness!).  We could argue about the sustainability of some tracks, but all’n all the atmosphere is mostly sultry and swingin’.

Light’m up, ‘cause this was the time when smoking was still considered cool and everybody dressed to the nines. When the Blue Note and Impulse artwork was a big inspiration for album covers (see Joe Jackson’s Body and Soul, for instance). And when Elvis Costello could team up with Daryl Hall (though you barely hear him) for a track that fits in this playlist very nicely.

Guuzbourg, at your service.