As Rolling Stone noted in a feature on Theon Cross, the tuba was a reliable bass instrument in jazz before the swing era, but bebop had scant place for it, and few tuba players made much headway as bandleaders.
Cross is changing that all but singlehandedly. While playing in Sons of Kemet, the center of the internationally watched London jazz renaissance of recent years, he also made his name as a bandleader with Fyah in 2019. With a core trio of Cross and fellow London jazz stars Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, whose albums he has played on in turn, the brass bassist and soloist sweeps up Dixieland and hip-hop, soca and free jazz, with commanding power and preternatural artistry.
“The disruptive slice of the London jazz scene has produced an abundance of four-going-on-five-star albums, but even among such company Fyah stands out,” said All About Jazz. “It is a work of majestic proportions … Hear it and believe.” Wait until they hear what Cross is bringing to Big Ears: a project called Intra-I, due out as an album in the fall of 2021, in which he uses his tuba and an MPC to layer a full band’s worth of sound by himself, completing his rapid evolution from it-player to bandleader to ambitious solo artist.