Guest Playlist: Vertaal

In the build-up to the release on vinyl of their expanded previously released debut mixtape, Vertaal drop by for a guest playlist.

Vertaal is made up of drummer Ajit Gill and multi-instrumentalist Theo Howarth.

Last year the London-based nu-jazz duo released their ‘Paradigm Shifting’ digital mixtape, gaining praise from the likes of BBC Introducing, Jazz FM, WorldWide FM, and Soho Radio, to name a few. Nominated by Jazz Revelations for ‘Best EP of 2020’, the album will be released tomorrow on limited edition double vinyl.


Completely remixed and partially re-recorded, the limited edition numbered coloured double LP comes with six additional tracks and a further six musical ‘skits’ recorded separately by all the contributing musicians during the lockdown.

Covering a wide range of artists from Earth Wind And Fire to Richard Spaven, we are excited to share their influences playlist with you.

Get cosy and enjoy the music as Theo and Ajit take us through the tracks. So, without further ado, over to you guys…


Ajit: Nate Smith – Small Moves

The sound of this tune! Nate Smith has seriously influenced my drum sound and the way he makes odd time feel so natural. I introduced Theo to Nate Smith and the Kinfolk project was something we spent many evenings listening to.

Theo: J Dilla – Waves

This just puts me in a place… Dillas’ tonal choice really shaped me and my pursuit for textures in Paradigm Shifting. Informing some of the more experimental and conceptual tracks, like Dilla5, and some of our skits on our LP.

Ajit: Chris Dave – Destiny In Stereo

Really showed me how time can be manipulated to create different feelings and emotions. Serious groove player, creative ways of using the drum kit. Some of my early Hip Hop influences in there too. Bringing programmed beats to acoustic set and effects. A unique drum sound and command over time. I try to approach each Vertaal session with the most creative mindset, channelling my inner Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave.

Theo: Portico Quartet – Knee-Deep in The North Sea

This band gives me crazy nostalgia – I grew up with my parents playing Porticos’ first couple records in the house. It subconsciously shaped my musical tastes and as I grew up – I started revisiting these artists and discovering their place in the U.K jazz scene at the birth of Vertaal. This resulted in me informing my folks of the newer records they hadn’t heard. co-education!… I really admire their growth as a band whilst maintaining a solid identity unique to them.

Ajit: Richard Spaven  – Law

Most influential drummer, taking electronic DnB and making it happen on an acoustic instrument. Manipulation of time and feel incorporated into deep, intricate grooves. This tune, in particular, inspired the DnB drop in Paradigm Shifting.

Theo: Bonobo -1009

Bonobo is one of the reasons I started producing music and digging into sampling/sound design. Going into Vertaal, foreign to most of the current Jazz scene, I was drawing a lot of inspiration tonally from him and from his live band set-up.

Theo & Ajit: Theo Crocker – This Could Be

Theo: Obviously, we share the same name, and I hope he’s as stoked over that as I am… Escape Velocity hit Ajit and me hard when it dropped. Sensational groove and melody.

Ajit: Think we had it on repeat for a whole year. Every track on the album is killer.

Ajit: Robert Glasper – Afro Blue

I remember walking to uni in the early hours, West London, spinning black radio on repeat, winter mornings, day in, day out; my hair freezing in the cold air on the walk to go practice! Then Theo and I would meet in the evening to rehearse and jam some of these tunes.

Theo: Earth, Wind and Fire – Can’t Let Go

This definitely influenced Paradigm Shifting, despite maybe not having the most obvious ties – This has it all. Ajit and I met through disco – we owe our friendship to it and ‘Can’t Let Go’ of that. ‘We Are Family.

Ajit: Photek – The Hidden Camera

Broken beat, DnB, displaced deep grooves, delicate, intricate details within a pattern. Spaven was my route into Photek, who covered this tune.

Theo: Mahavishnu Orchestra – You Know, You Know

One of my favourite tunes of all time. Definitely still informs how I want to write music to this day – contrasts of space and intensity; it’s a real journey and has the unsettling feeling of comforting you whilst also feeling right on the edge of your seat.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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