28 September 2021: celebrating British jazz

The release of the wonderful new compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972) – which is being followed by the vinyl release of seminal albums by several featured artists – provided the inspiration to produce a programme of all British jazz. It’s an exciting mixture of music with a range of styles demonstrating that British jazz has always had endless invention, world class musicians and distinctive voices of its own.

  1.   Mike Westbrook – Collective Improvisation from Metropolis

We like to start the show with a piece of music that is dramatic, powerful and makes you pay attention. This week is no exception – in fact it is a shining example. Pianist and composer Mike Westbrook wrote Metropolisa jazz interpretation of a day in the life of the city of London, during 1968-69. Over the years, the piece has been played in various configurations from four to twenty-five musicians. This track is from the twenty-five musicians version, written with an Arts Council bursary and first performed at the Mermaid Theatre, London, 18 May, 1969. The opening track on this  album (simply, Side 1, Track 1), is a collective improvisation and a mighty impressive one. It includes Malcolm Griffiths and Paul Rutherford on trumpets, Mike Osborne and Ray Warleigh on alto saxes, Harry Miller on bass, John Marshall on drums, Mike Westbrook on piano, with solos from Alan Skidmore on tenor (who appeared as bandleader in our last Cosmic Jazz show) and Dave Holdsworth on trumpet.

2The Joe Harriott & Amancio D’Silva Quartet – Jaipur from Hum Dono/Impressed 

The occasion of this all-British show is the release of Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain 1965-72, but Tony Higgins (who compiled and wrote the invaluable sleeve notes for this release) has been involved in other British jazz re-release compilations with DJ and label owner Gilles Peterson. Two releases emerged from this collaboration – Impressed and Impressed 2 – and we featured tracks from both on this show. Each are testament to the long-established diversity in terms of heritage and nationality on the British jazz scenes. Tenor sax player Joe Harriott was born in Kingston, Jamaica and became one of the most original and powerful jazz musicians of the post-war era in Britain. Guitarist Amancio D’Silva was born in Goa and was at one time employed by the Maharajah of Jaipur. Both Harriott and D’Silva recorded albums under their own names. You’ll also hear Dave Green on bass, Bryan Spring on drums, Ian Carr on trumpet and Norma Winstone MBE (born in Bow, East London) who provides her trademark wordless vocals. Winstone recently celebrated her 80th birthday (23 September) and remains a tireless performer on the jazz scene. Hum Dono (recorded in 1969 and re-released in 2015 ) was actually her first recording and is well worth seeking out. With her then-husband pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, she performed and recorded three albums for the ECM label as a member of the trio Azimuth (no relation to the Brazilian trio with a similar name). These were issued as a 3CD box set  in 1994 and are an excellent introduction to Winstone’s vocal prowess. Her own 1987 album Somewhere Called Home, also on ECM, has often been called a classic – the AllMusic review notes “It’s not only a watermark of Winstone’s career but, in the long line of modern vocal outings released since the romantic vocal tradition of Fitzgerald and Vaughan ended with free jazz and fusion, the disc stands out as one most original yet idyllic of vocal jazz recordings… A must for fans looking for something as cozy as a golden age chanteuse, but without all the gymnastic scatting and carbon copy ways of many a contemporary jazz singer.” 

3The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Prayer from Dusk Fire    

There are several musicians in this first section of the show that Derek has seen live over the years. They include Mike Westbrook – with on one occasion Norma Winstone, Tubby Hayes and Harry Beckett – but the first (and the one that got him into jazz) was probably the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet. Tenor/soprano saxophonist/clarinettist Don Rendell and trumpet/flugelhorn player Ian Carr led an inventive quintet that developed a unique and distinctive British sound that was very definitely not re-working US jazz. Dave Green was on bass (as he was on Jaipur above), Trevor Tompkins on drums and  the ever-creative Michael Garrick on piano. Prayer was, in fact, a Garrick composition and reflected his spiritual interests – indeed, Derek saw him perform once on the organ of Norwich Cathedral where he played music from his album Jazz Praises, originally recorded at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Prayer is a superb choice from this album: Garrick’s composition and his piano contributions are stunning and Rendell’s clarinet playing has immense presence. This is one of our favourite albums from this quintet and we’ll continue to sing its praises: it’s available on a single CD with the earlier Shades of Blue record and – if you can find it – on a superb vinyl pressing from Jazzman Records, who located and acquired the original analogue master tapes from the Universal vaults, created masters at Abbey Road Studios and produced audiophile quality pressings which sound superb.

4. Tubby Hayes and The Paul Gonsalves All Stars – Don’t Fall Off The Bridge from Change of Setting/Impressed 2   

To hear saxophonist Tubby Hayes live was a truly memorable event. Derek remembers a performance on a warm summer’s evening to a packed crowd at the Bull’s Head, Barnes Bridge sometime in the late 1960s. From 1957 to 1959, Hayes joined Ronnie Scott in co-leading a quintet, the Jazz Couriers – one of the most fondly remembered British jazz groups. Unusually for the time, Hayes also played in the US, performing at the Half Note in New York, the Boston Jazz Workshop and Shelly Manne’s Manne-hole in Los Angeles. Back in London, Hayes formed his own big band, working in television, film and radio, and even having his own television series (1961–1962, and 1963) but by the mid-1960s it was harder for British jazz musicians to make a living as touring jazzmen. Hayes was also compromised by his own lifestyle, with a combination of relationship, alcohol and narcotic issues which, by the end of the 1960s, had begun to publicly affect his career. With heart problems complicating his situation, it was perhaps not unexpected that Hayes died at the age of 38 during a second heart operation. Almost all of his records have now been reissued on CD and there’s an excellent CD box set available of the Fontana records. Saxophonist Simon Spillett is a notable Hayes scholar and has published a very readable biography, The Long Shadow of the Little Giant and in 2015 a DVD documentary Tubby Hayes: A Man in Hurry appeared – see the trailer here. Our choice of tune can be found on the Impressed 2 compilation and originally appeared on Hayes’ 1967 album Change of Setting. US sax player Paul Gonsalves was a member of Duke Ellington’s band but the remainder of his All-Stars on this record were British and included Tony Coe on alto and Ronnie Scott on tenor. Again, this album was recorded at the celebrated Lansdowne Studios in London and the track title refers to the middle passage (or bridge) of this modal tune.

5Harry Beckett – Third Road from Flare Up/Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain  (1965-1972)

Trumpeter Harry Beckett was another Caribbean musician active in the UK: a Barbadian born in 1935 who moved to the UK in his late teens and played (uncredited) trumpet in the 1962 British film noir All Night Long along with other contemporary luminaries of the London jazz scene (including Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck who were in the country at the time). Watch the film (here’s the original trailer – a London-centred take on Shakespeare’s Othello – and you’ll see Tubby Hayes in there too… On CJ, we have previously played Harry Beckett’s emotional, warm and calming duet with Mike Westbrook at the end of the Metropolis record featured above (Metropolis IX). The tune draws comparisons with Stan Tracy/Bobby Wellins’ Starless and Bible Black: both are essential pieces of music that you will play time and time again. In a long career, Beckett played with many of the top names in British jazz including John Surman, Mike Gibbs, Stan Tracey and more besides. One of his final records was a dub-centred experiment with Adrian Sherwood from On-U Sounds – this is Something Special. Third Road appeared on Flare Up, Beckett’s debut album and takes some inspiration from the second great Miles Davis quintet but is both funkier and freer. The group is something of an all-star set up with a triple-sax front line is comprised of John Surman, Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore. Frank Ricotti is on vibes and an uncredited John Taylor appears on Fender Rhodes. The record was reissued by Jazzprint in 2005, and contains excellent liner notes by noted British jazz writer Richard Williams – whose thebluemoment blog is always good reading. Flare Up is pretty much essential listening for anyone interested in British jazz from this  most creative period. Third Road and three other tunes were written and arranged by Graham Collier, another undersung British jazz pioneer.

6Jazz Jamaica – War from Motorcity Roots

In 1991, and inspired by the rhythms of traditional Jamaican music, Gary Crosby – one of Britain’s leading jazz bass players – gathered a group of musicians to play a fusion of mento, ska, reggae and jazz alongside Jamaican folksongs. The result was Jazz Jamaica. As the nephew of veteran Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin, it was perhaps not surprising that Crosby should move in this direction. With an expanded line up that included guest soloists, including Andy Sheppard, Soweto Kinch and Alex Wilson, Jazz Jamaican morphed into the Jazz Jamaica All Stars, a 20-piece band featuring vocals, five saxophones, four trumpets, and four trombones with a rhythm section of double bass, piano, drums, guitar and percussion. Motorcity Roots – a reworking of classic Motown songs was released in 2005 – we chose Edwin Starr’s powerful War.

7Emma-Jean Thackray – Our People from Yellow  

We are loving this outstanding new release from British trumpeter Emma-Jean Thackray and featured another track this week. The sources of inspiration on this eclectic record are hugely diverse but there’s one that might go unnoticed: as a teenager in Yorkshire, Thackray was the principal trumpeter in her local brass band and the use of brass here, with a sousaphone joining the trombone, trumpet, and saxophone, seems to hark back to that tradition – itself something of a reflection of New Orleans brass too.  This sits very happily alongside the more ‘cosmic’ hippieish influences on this (literally) delightful record. With choral hooks like “To listen is to know and to know is to love”, “The sun it grows us… The sun is life” and “We are all our people… We are one and the same” you’ll come away from this record feeling challenged, rewarded and – hopefully – at peace.

8Laura Jurd – Jumping In from Stepping Back, Jumping In

Another UK trumpeter, Mercury-prize nominated Laura Jurd, works in a dazzling array of contexts including Dinosaur, her experimental jazz quartet which uses electronica, Celtic folk, world music influences in a successful a neo-fusion mash-up. Jurd seems to constantly push against the constraints of whatever lineup she works in. She emerged through the ranks of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra but also featured in the atmospheric post-rock outfit Blue-Eyed Hawk, played the Miles Davis role in a reimagining of Sketches of Spain, added a string quartet to a jazz trio and with Stepping Back, Jumping In moves from a kind of edgy minimalism to a Bartok-flavoured mid-European folk. But other influences are thrown in too – British-Iranian composer Soosan Lolavar plays the santoor (a kind of hammered dulcimer) and our opening track choice features guitarist Rob Luft on banjo. Another track, Companion Species, is an extraordinary nine minute piece written by the Norwegian Ansja Lauvdal and Heida K Jóhannesdóttir Mobeck, where the collision of styles is described by Guardian reviewer John Lewis as “something that resembles the Art Ensemble of Chicago entering Afrobeat territory”. The result of all this is a somewhat schizophrenic record that doesn’t entirely work – but you can’t knock the endless invention.

9Camilla George Quartet – Mami Wati Returns/Usoro from Isang  

At this stage of the programme we featured British artists that Derek has heard more recently. He saw Camilla George and Sarah Tandy playing together as part of the Camilla George Quintet at the start of August at Snape Maltings in Suffolk. They are both on this tune along with Femi Koleoso on drums and  Daniel Casimir on bass – who also appeared at Snape. Mami Wati Returns/Usoro continues the tradition in British jazz of drawing upon the diverse heritages of the players. On the album Isang, George references both the land of her birth (Nigeria) and the Grenadian side of her family background along with references to West African folktales – Mami Wati is an African water spirit who appears in the shape of a mermaid. Interestingly, George has performed in Jazz Jamaica – reflecting a recurrent theme in this programme that there has always been close links among the different generations of British jazz musicians.

10. Sarah Tandy – Snake In The Grass from Infection In The Sentence

One of the best of the new crop of British musicians is keyboardist Sarah Tandy, whose invention is always a joy to behold. The music simply flow out of her and she makes it all look so relaxed, easy, and almost nonchalant. On Cosmic Jazz we loved her album Infection in the Sentence and it’s always worth featuring another tune from this highly recommended record – this time Snake in the Grass. As we’ve indicated before, there are plans for a follow-up release – perhaps by the end of the year – but until then check out her 2019 release, available here on Bandcamp.

11. Binker Golding – Fluorescent Black from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers      

Which brings us finally to another fine British musician who Neil has seen performing in London – saxophonist Binker Golding who is linked to Gary Crosby through his Tomorrow’s Warriors programme – indeed, he’s now the Musical Director of the Tomorrow’s Warriors Youth Orchestra. As a prolific sideman Golding has performed with an impressive array of cross-generational jazz talent including  vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Moses Boyd’s Exodus and Maisha – all of whom have featured previously on Cosmic Jazz. Parallel to his other musical activities, Golding also leads a long running quartet featuring the talents of three more rising stars of the London jazz scene, pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones. These three regularly work together as a unit and also form part of saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s highly regarded quartet. Abstractions… represents Golding’s much anticipated début in the classic saxophone led quartet format. The album was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London and mixed in New York by the celebrated recording engineer James Farber, who has worked with such giants of the music as saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker and pianist Brad Mehldau. Golding says “It’s about experiences I had throughout my teenage years and twenties. It’s about remembering, forgetting, thinking you’ve forgotten and remembering again. It’s about people and friends that you’ll never see again and times that you can’t go back to, so you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future”. In this wholly acoustic quartet format Golding’s playing has been compared to that of saxophone greats such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane – and, yes, there’s something re-assuringly conventional about Golding’s sound here, particularly when compared to his more abstract, freely structured recordings with Moses Boyd. The writing is firmly within the jazz tradition and the result is is more like a conventional Blue Note record from the 1960s – but this is clearly a deliberate intention on Golding’s part. Fluorescent Black is the closing tune and – fittingly – features Golding at his most Coltrane-like as he stretches out on tenor around an infectious riff based theme. It’s an impressive album and one well worth hearing – especially on vinyl. You can get it directly from his Bandcamp site here. The black wax version is still available, including in a rather nice gatefold Japanese edition shipped in limited quantities to the US and UK.

12 September 2021: starting out/stripped back/early gems/late vintage

The show this week starts with some tunes where the music is stripped back to essentials, moves on  to contemporary British sounds and then later includes some classic British jazz. There’s a slot for one of Miles Davis’ last recordings from a live concert in Vienne, France and we end with an interesting Cuban/US musical merger.

 1.  Samara Joy – Stardust from Samara Joy    

Eighteen year old US vocalist Samara Joy has her debut album released on the London-based indie label Whirlwind Records. The Bronx-born singer graduated this year from Purchase College in New York State but – more importantly for us – won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal competition for 2019. Previous winners have included Cosmic Jazz favourite Jazzmeia Horn so it made good sense to check out Samara Joy. That win opened the jazz door for Joy and she recorded her self-titled album earlier this year with guitarist Pasquale Grasso, double  bass player Ari Roland and drummer Kenny Washington. They provide intricate but delicate and subtle backing on this album of classics from the American songbook and this trio alongside the emotional power of Samara Joy’s voice provide interesting interpretations – as can be heard on the Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish standard Stardust, recorded by Nat King Cole and a host of others. It’s a difficult tune to play or sing but among Neil’s favourite versions would be this superb one from John Coltrane and Willie Nelson’s 1978 take that demonstrated he was much more than just a country singer. Joy gives this classic tune a kind of candid simplicity that feels like the jazz equivalent of bedroom folk – a young woman reflecting on her future life. It’s an affecting combination and, whilst the record has few surprises, this is an engaging debut from a singer with huge promise.

2.  Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light Til Dawn from Blue Light Til Dawn

The gentle use of electric instrumentation on Samara Joy prompted the selection of a tune from an album where the vocalist made minimal use of electric sounds – namely Cassandra Wilson’s superb Blue Note debut Blue Light Til Dawn. Released back in 1993 this album has truly stood the test of time, still sounding cool and contemporary. In 2014 Blue Note re-released the record to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Wilson’s European tour based on the album, with three additional live recordings. The album has a strong blues element with two Robert Johnson tunes, classic soul from Ann Peebles tune and two sublime takes on Joni Mitchell’s Black Crow and Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. The album also has three of Cassandra Wilson’s own compositions, including the title track we featured on the show.

3.   William Parker – Happiness from Painter’s Winter   

Bass player William Parker is a jazz man of the moment. There seems to be a stream of releases from him of which Painters Winter is one of the most recent. William Parker plays trombonium and shakuhachi as well as bass, Daniel Carter is on trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and flute and Hamid Drake on drums – a trio who first played together in the early 1970s and have kept in touch. The music takes the show further along in an acoustic vein, but the music  sound heavy, deep and intensive. William Parker describes the journey in his sleeve notes Daniel Carter, Hamid Drake and William Parker are on the road called ‘Happiness’ looking for rare flowers. Flowers without preset chords yet changing moods tempos and colors according to the story they are telling.

4.  Emma-Jean Thackray – Venus from Yellow   

Meanwhile, Emma-Jean Thackray is a jazz trumpeter of the moment and Yellow is her first full length release. Initial reviews suggested a mix of Sun Ra, Flying Lotus, Funkadelic and Alice Coltrane but on listening this is simply an album that works. Thackray may have said that she approached the record “by trying to simulate a life-changing psychedelic experience” – which explains something of the overall sound of this great new record – but mixing disco and New Orleans brass, soaring string arrangements and a vocal choir has resulted in an album that easily earns our recommendation. For an insight into Thackray’s thinking about Yellow, check out her recent interview with New York’s Jazz Vinyl Lover Ken Micallef.

5.  GoGo Penguin – Signal in the Noise from GoGo Penguin    

We’ve championed GoGo Penguin since their first record Fanfares which appeared in 2012, and the self-titled GoGo Penguin is their fifth full length album. Emerging from Manchester, this trio – pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner – are located in that hinterland between EST, Aphex Twin and Phillip Glass – minimalism, trip hop, electronica and, of course, jazz. In 2015 they signed to Blue Note with the powerful A Humdrum Star appearing in 2018. It was at this time Neil saw the trio at the Singapore Jazz Festival (see photo) and was hugely impressed by their performance. Now in their mid-30s, GoGo Penguin make crisp, confident trio music that’s beautifully recorded – especially Nick Blacka’s bass on tracks like Atomised – here in an excellent live version – and also one of the tracks that was remixed on a follow up release, GGP/RMX.

6.  Bernard Maseli Septet – Jerks at the Audience from Good Vibes of Milian 

Jerzy Milian played vibraphone in Krzysztof Komeda’s band in the late 1950s before becoming a composer, arranger, leader and conductor of numerous bands and orchestras in Poland. He was a long-time leader of the Polish Radio and Television Entertainment Orchestra in Katowice writing pop music, jazz and ballet, film, symphonic and opera scores. Remarkably, in the 1980s the night-time UK BBC2 test pattern – which was accompanied by background music – included pieces by Jerzy Milian and this led to the formation of a cult group of fans who would gather together to play their off-screen recordings of the music.  For this tribute to Milian’s compositions, four Polish vibraphonists got together and recorded Good Vibes of Milian live at a Polish music festival in  2017. The band was led by Bernard Maseli on vibes and marimba accompanied by vibists Bartosz Pieszka, Dominik Bukowski and Karol Szymanowski with Bogusław Kaczmar on piano, Michał Kapczuk on double bass and Marcin Jahr on drums. The album is available here on Bandcamp. For more music from Jerzy Milian himself, you could start with the rare album Ashkabad Girl which was re-released in 2003 on Obuh Records. There were only 350 hand numbered copies, so good luck finding one –  but check out this original version of Mloty na widwni (Jerks at the Audience) for a taste of Milian’s music. If you like this (and Neil does!) there’s a mint copy on Discogs for £300…

7.  Miles Davis – Human Nature from Merci Miles! Live at Vienne   

In July 1991, just two months before he died, Miles Davis played an electrifying set at one of his favourite live venues in Vienne, south eastern France and now – 30 years later – this previously unreleased performance has been released as Merci, Miles! Live At Vienne in a 2CD/2LP set. There are two compositions by Prince (Jailbait and Penetration) but far more interesting is this extended take on Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, first recorded by Miles on his You’re Under Arrest album from 1985. Human Nature and Cyndi Lauper’s Time after Time were to become concert staples in these last years and this version of the Steve Porcaro tune features an extended, impassioned alto sax solo from Kenny Garrett. Musically, Davis had cut down his touring band to just five musicians: gone were the multiple keyboardists, guitarists, and percussionists. The result is that the band members play less, but they play tighter. This almost final take on Human Nature is stretched out to 18 minutes but there’s no flab here. Indeed, Davis something of a revelation: his Harmon mute playing is full of flexibility and style, with those famous silences separating the short phrases that bring the band down to a whisper. There are echoes of the flamenco sounds of Sketches of Spain and Siesta, some classic bebop lines and those childlike melodies that first surfaced in Jean Pierre. Garrett gives it everything (as was typical of the live London performances that Neil witnessed at this time) and at the end of Garret’s screaming solo there’s no restatement fo the melody – indeed, Davis is already into the chords of Time After Time. It’s a great performance. [Thanks to writer Allan Mitchie for some inspiration here.]

8.  The Alan Skidmore Quintet – Old San Juan from Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain   

Alan Skidmore may be the UK’s homegrown John Coltrane. Indeed, he’s recorded five albums of largely Coltrane music, including an excellent live album at one of our favourite small venues, the Fleece pub in the Suffolk village of Boxford, called Impressions of John Coltrane (on ITM Records). Along with the others – Tribute to ‘Trane (on Miles Music), After the Rain (also Miles Music), Berlin (on ITM) and Naima (also ITM) – this live recording is well worth seeking out. We’ve featured tracks from this album previously on Cosmic Jazz (see our Coltrane tribute show on 19 July 2017) and here’s Skidmore’s take on Impressions from that superb live album. As a teenager Skidmore witnessed at first hand the 1961 appearance of the John Coltrane Quintet at the legendary Walthamstow Granada Theatre concert – even gaining access to the green room after the show and sitting just feet away from Coltrane himself. This was a really significant performance, recorded just a week after Coltrane’s celebrated appearance at the Village Vanguard. His quintet of the time included Eric Dolphy as well as McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones. There’s an excellent personal reminiscence of saxophonist Evan Parker’s teenage visit to the show here on the London Jazz News blog.  An occasional drummer himself, Skidmore has worked with both of Coltrane’s regular 1960s kitmen – Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali – and has performed with a host of British jazz artists including Alexis Korner (1964), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (1964), Ronnie Scott (1965), Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1970), Mike Westbrook (1970-71), Mike Gibbs (1970-71), and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath (1971). In 1969, he formed his own quintet with Kenny Wheeler, Tony Oxley, John Taylor and Harry Miller), with which he won the best soloist and best band awards at the Montreux International Jazz Festival and gained a scholarship to Berklee College Of Music. In 1973, he co-founded S.O.S., probably one of the first all-saxophone bands, with Mike Osborne and John Surman. He has subsequently formed various small groups of his own, including El Skid (co-led with Elton Dean), SOH (with Ali Haurand and Tony Oxley), and Tenor Tonic (with Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers and Tony Levin), and has worked with the George Gruntz Concert Band, the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, Stan Tracey, Mose Allison, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame again, and with the West German Radio Band. In the 1970s and beyond, Skidmore increasingly worked in Europe where – as he acknowledged – jazz was properly supported: “They’ve got this thing in Germany and other European countries where you turn up to do a gig and, nine times out of ten, it’s recorded by local or national radio… Jazz musicians in Germany are well treated. Your music is art.” Without doubt, Skidmore is one of the finest saxophonists the UK has produced and Tony Higgins’ superb new compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain recognises this through the selection of an inspirational track from the album Once Upon a Time (1970). The comprehensive booklet that accompanies this essential 2LP/2CD set makes clear the excellence of this performance: As Skidmore told Alyn Shipton “If you listen to it today, it’s a fresh as paint. It sounds like it was recorded last week.” (Jazz Library, BBC R3 – March 2012). The extended John Warren composition Old San Juan comes from that 1970s quintet with Wheeler, Oxley, Taylor and Warren and is a fine example of Skidmore’s superb tenor playing. Again – if you can find it – the album is a total recommendation, but this new 2021 compilation from Tony Higgins (follow him on Twitter @TheJazzDad) is a a real gem: buy on vinyl to get two superbly remastered discs (from Gearbox Records in London) and Higgins’ comprehensive 20,000 word essay – check out the album trailer here. It’s worth noting here that Tony Higgins was also responsible for the excellent annotations that accompanied the two editions of the Impressed collection that Gilles Peterson curated for Universal. They’re still available on either CD or vinyl. Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain is an essential compilation and will be supplemented by an upcoming reissue programme of British jazz albums with all vinyl pressed at Gearbox in London. Don’t miss out on this collection though – it’s a truly superb assemblage of British jazz talent.

9.  Dick Morrissey Quartet – Storm Warning from Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain

Our second choice from this new compilation is a hard bop bossa workout from tenor saxophonist Dick Morrissey’s 1960s quartet. Morrissey emerged in the early 1960s in the wake of Tubby Hayes, Britain’s pre-eminent sax player at the time. Morrissey made his name as a hard bop player, appearing regularly at the Marquee Club from 1960 and, with his quartet, made regular appearances at the celebrated Bull’s Head in Barnes. In the 1970s, Morrissey met up with Glaswegian guitarist Jim Mullen and the pair went on to form a partnership that lasted over 16 years with Morrissey-Mullen becoming Britain’s foremost jazz-fusion band. Morrissey was a session saxophonist for many pop artists too, and his is the saxophone solo you hear on the Vangelis theme from the film Blade Runner. He died in 2000, with Steve Voce writing in The Independent newspaper that Morrissey had the “… ability to get through to an audience. He was one of the great communicators of jazz and… able to communicate with his listeners and quickly to establish a bond with them… Like Charlie Parker before him, he was somehow able to lift audiences that knew little or nothing about his music”.

10. Orquesta Akokan – 16 Rayos from 16 Rayos  

Orquesta Akokan are a Grammy nominated Cuban/New York based ensemble – and this album is the result of a dialogue between artists living in the United States and Cuba. 16 Rayos was recorded at the legendary Egrem Studios in Havana and will be released in October on Daptone Records. The band is the brainchild of its three leaders – lead vocalist and composer José ‘Pepito’ Gómez, Chulo Record’s Jacob Plasse and arranger Michael Eckroth, with each bringing their experience working with Latin powerhouses to the table. Following the success of their debut album, Orquesta Akokán returned to Cuba, drawing inspiration from folklore and religious tradition to stretch the boundaries of mambo conventions. The second album expands their sound with the addition of strings and there’s a traditional Cuban feel merging the folkloric congo rhythm from Santiago de Cuba with the power of the mambo horns and some strong, forceful vocals. Drawing on the deep spiritual traditions rooted in West Africa but expressed  through Cuban music , this is real uplift for the soul and release for the body.  Akokan, by the way, is the Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean ‘from the heart’ – or simply ‘soul’. It’s a fitting way to end this show – look out for more deep Cosmic Jazz sounds soon.

23 August 2021: deep, intense and important music

Cosmic Jazz this time includes some deep, highly serious and at times heavy music before moving to some more restrained sounds but keeping that spiritual feel and ending, as ever, with some boundary-stretching music.

  1.  Eddie Harris – Free Speech from  Artist’s Choice the Eddie Harris Anthology/Free Speech   

The work of Chicago-born multi-instrumentalist, composer, activist and arranger Eddie Harris has had many admirers – and quite a few detractors too. Harris liked to experiment and try different things but his ventures into jazz-funk, rock – and even comedy – as well as his popularity with the young jazz-dancers back in the day,  were too much for many. He was also a best-selling jazz artist with Swiss Movement – the live recording of the performance he gave with Les McCann and apparently without any time to rehearse, at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival.  Deservedly one of the top-selling jazz records ever, Swiss Movement is two artists at an artistic peak – listen to the wonderful Compared to What in a rare piece of black and white video from the festival. Other Eddie Harris hits include the perennial favourite Listen Here and Freedom Jazz Dance, famously recorded by Miles Davis on the Miles Smiles album. The choice that impressively opens this show is the title tune from Harris’s Free Speech album of 1970: it is important music with an important message and Harris is playing both sax and trumpet. Do not listen to the detractors, listen to the music.

2.  William Parker – Raining on the Moon from Raining on the Moon    

The Village Voice named him “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time” and DownBeat has called him “one of the most adventurous and prolific bandleaders in jazz”. We are talking here of bass player, composer and bandleader William Parker. He has also published conversations  he has had with other musicians and thinkers on spiritualism, race and culture and written and published poetry. Parker has released recently a mighty 10-disc record called Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World and he’s now released two trio albums, one of which should be on the next show. Raining on the Moon was recorded in 2001 and features Leena Conquest with earthy, strident vocals amongst the shrieks of sound emerging from the alto sax of Rob Brown. The music sounds like free jazz yet it’s also very accessible. In its review of the record Pop Matters provided an apt comment: “he proves once and for all that any divisions between mainstream jazz and its more avantgarde brethren need only be drawn in the minds of myopic listeners”. We second that.

3.  Rudolph Johnson – The Second Coming from The Second Coming 

There are more Black Jazz Records re-releases from Real Gone Music due in October. One of them is the 1973 free jazz album The Second Coming from saxophonist Rudolph Johnson. If you think from what we have played so far that Black Jazz Records was just about jazz/funk and genre stretching jazz, think again. It is a fiery, explosive piece that continued and contributed to the Coltrane legacy . It was his second album for Black Jazz so in that way the title is appropriate but the title also has a spiritual/messianic meaning and this interpretation is definitely appropriate to the music. Recorded by  the label’s key producer Gene Russell, The Second Coming is a stronger album than Johnson’s first for the label and is  deserving of a much wider audience than it received first time round.

4.  Walter Bishop Jr. –  N’dugu’s Prayer from Keeper of My Soul   

Also re-released in October on Black Jazz Records is this gem from Walter Bishop Jr. – another tune with a messianic/spiritual quality to match both the title of the tune and the title of the album: a spirituality owed in part to Walter Bishop’s studies with yogi Parmahansa Yogananda. Flautist/sax player Hubert Laws has a big part to play in the album but this tune features the pounding calls of vibraphonist  Woody Murray. The bass player is Gerald Brown who three years later found himself auditioning for Marvin Gaye before appearing on Gaye’s 1977 record Live at the London Palladium. You can hear him here on Distant Lover. Like all these re-releases from Black Jazz, Keeper of My Soul is available on vinyl with limited editions of coloured vinyl, exclusive to indie record stores. The remastered sound is good too and is faithful to the well recorded originals – and the new liner notes by Pat Thomas are a useful bonus. Get your copies now before they disappear!

5.  Nubya Garcia – Pace from SOURCE     

Neil has long recognised the significance of the music of Nubya Garcia. Derek was not so certain, but after hearing her live on BBC Radio 3 (and then two days later on BBC 4 television) at the Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, he was mightily impressed. Not so long ago the Proms were the reserve of the finest in classical music but now jazz gets an airing. This concert was a good illustration of why this is needed. The music was contemporary, refreshing and original drawing on a range of influences starting with reggae beats and ending with cumbia inflections with much in between. The quartet line-up of Garcia on sax, Joe Armon-Jones on keyboards and piano, Daniel Casimir on bass and Sam Jones on drums was augmented from time to time with trumpet and a trio of vocalists. The combinations worked so well, provided surprise and interest and fitted seamlessly into the Albert Hall setting. The concert is available via BBC Sounds (audio) and iPlayer (video). Look out too for a remix version of her album SOURCE, also due in October. At the Royal Albert Hall, Garcia included the tune Pace which – as she explained – was composed pre-pandemic to remind her to slow down from the frantic and work-heavy pace of life. The production on this album is very much a step up from Garcia’s first EPs: recorded with producer Kwes, whose credits include Solange and Bobby Womack, Garcia is pushed into new territory that really demonstrates her diversity.  It all remains firmly rooted in jazz but there’s a range of other influences here too – from the afore-mentioned cumbia through to Ethio-jazz and more. The thing is, this all works and so SOURCE comes highly recommended. A new single has already emerged from the scheduled remix album – a Kaidi Tatham take on La cumbia me esta llamando (feat. La Perla) and it’s excellent. Check it out here.

6.  Mtume and the Umoja Ensemble – Baba Hengates from  Alkebu-Lan (Land of the Blacks)

Percussionist, songwriter, and producer James Mtume might be best known for his R&B/disco classic Juicy Fruit from 1983 but his career has encompassed pioneering acoustic and electric avant-garde jazz, quiet storm classics and post-disco club hits, as well as compositions for film and television. Mtume was raised by pianist James ‘Hen Gates’ Forman (hence the title of this tune) but he is the biological son of saxophonist, Jimmy Heath – see the CJ show from 29 February 2020. After moving to California, Mtume joined the Black nationalist group US Organization whose founder Maulana Karenga created the Kwanzaa national holiday. The group was founded on what Karenga called the seven principles of African Heritage which he summarised as a communitarian philosophy: Unity (Umoja), Self-Determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani).  Mtume made his recorded debut with something of a stellar lineup: the album Kawaida (1970) was credited to his uncle Albert Heath, but four of the five tracks were written by Mtume and the band included Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry and Buster Williams. Here’s Maulana from this recently re-released record. A move to New York saw Mtume credited on a slew of records by McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Lonnie Liston Smith and between 1971 and 1975 he performed and recorded with Miles Davis on landmark releases like On the Corner and the live in Japan records Agharta and Pangaea (the image above is with Miles in concert in 1973). Mtume was also recording with his own ensembles – which brings us back to Alkebu-Lan (recorded live at the East Club in downtown Brooklyn in 1972), and the studio-based follow up Rebirth Cycle (recorded in 1974 but released three years later).  Alkebu-Lan is claimed as the original name for the continent of Africa and this important record is full of references – both spoken and musical – to African-American origins. The Umoja Ensemble was fairly large with 15 players – and result in this live recording is thick and rather muddy – but the message of a spiritual freedom is clear. The music is an amalgam of different jazz genres – you can hear call and response chants, big band jazz, be-bop and free jazz all meshed together in a kind of organised chaos. This is music to immerse yourself into and emerge with an understanding of the way in which Black consciousness and jazz have intertwined over the years. For another take on Baba Hengates, try this excellent Buddy Terry version from his 1972 Pure Dynamite album for Bob Shad’s Mainstream label.

7.  Mark de Clive-Lowe – The Offering from Heritage I   

Heritage was was the first installment of a two-album set from pianist, composer and live remixer Mark de Clive-Lowe. With a Japanese and New Zealand background, these two records were the first time de Clive-Lowe had reflected his Japanese cultural roots in music, working in collaboration with his LA band – Josh Johnson, Teodross Avery, Brandon Eugene Owens, Brandon Combs and Carlos Niño from the Build An Ark collective. In addition to his own compositions, he interprets traditional Japanese folk songs, one on each album – with a delicate solo piano rendition of Akatombo on Heritage I. The material for both albums was recorded over three nights of live concerts at LA’s legendary Blue Whale jazz club in Little Tokyo with one follow up studio session where the live group sound is tweaked with  MdC-L’s arsenal of samplers, keyboards, drum machines and grand piano to create a personal take on both jazz and what Japan – and being Japanese – means to him. We think Heritage could well be de Clive-Lowe’s best work to date and recommend both records.

8.  Matt Carmichael – Where Will the River Flow from Where Will the River Flow    

Tenor saxophonist Matt Carmichael may be only just starting out in his career, but Where Will the River Flow is already a very assured debut. Just 21, Carmichael was a BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2020 and on this fine record he draws on Scottish folk traditions in a similar way to another of our favourite young musicians from Scotland, Fergus McCreadie. Indeed, McCreadie appears on WWtRF and it’s clear that he and Carmichael work well together – check out this live take on Spey and their fast flowing unison playing. As with McCreadie’s most recent album, Cairn on Edition Records, Carmichael’s original compositions are strong on melody – particularly noticeable on our choice, the title track which again features McCreadie and a torrent of tumbling runs on piano. Thanks once more to Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) for this introduction: Matt Carmichael is the real deal – an exciting talent and already an original voice.

9.  James Brandon Lewis – Fallen Flowers from Jesup Wagon  

We have been playing tunes from the James Brandon Lewis album Jesup Wagon, an record that celebrates and invokes the spirit of the artist, botanist, ecologist, aesthete, musician, teacher and seer Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943). “Many are the tears I have shed,” Carver wrote, “because I would break the roots or flowers of some of my pets while removing them from the ground.” When he could not preserve them, he drew them. The liner notes tell us that the track “Fallen Flowers compels us to submit to the beauty, complexity, vulnerability and unknowability of the natural world.” The tune ends with a poetic meditation on “life and death, on resilience in the face of colonial violence, on the regenerative and destructive qualities of water, on tears shed for fallen flowers.” It’s powerful, moving and evocative – and this is another recommended Cosmic Jazz new release.

10. Alfa Mist feat. Lex Amor – Mind the Gap from Bring Backs    

The tradition of the programme is to end with something that crosses boundaries and this week it comes via another 2021 release that we have featured on the show – namely Bring Backs from London-based self-taught musician/composer/producer Alfa Mist. Recorded in London with Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), Jamie Houghton (drums), and Johnny Woodham (trumpet), the album is stitched together as a suite, one composition rolling into the next. As with Nubya Garcia’s album, there’s a melange of different musical and cultural influences at work here, but this record emphasises the hip hop and rap influences of Alfa Mist’s youth as he discovered jazz through the samples used by his favourite producers. “There’s no access to jazz where I’m from,” he says. “There’s no way I would have come to it without finding those hip-hop records and wanting to understand them,” The tune Mind the Gap uses the the London Tube warning at certain stations to evoke the gaps and the struggles in life “we all rise and decline.” It features Lex Amor, a British rapper with Nigerian roots who has her own release, Government Tropicana which you can pick up here on her Bandcamp site.

Neil is listening to:

09 August 2021: mixing the jazz grooves

The show this week starts with music inspired by a live performance from Camilla George, through eclectic sounds from Edition Records, to a mix that includes a tribute to Jon Hassell, some funky jazz sounds and an ending in Ghana.

  1. Camilla George – Tappin the Land Turtle from The People Could Fly

Derek has at last seen some live music again. Snape Maltings, the concert venue founded by British composer Benjamin Britten, is running, in conjunction with Serious Music, free, daily, open-air performances  from early July through to the end of August, featuring first-rate musicians from across musical genres. The first show featured alto saxophone player Camilla George and her quintet. Excellent and joyous it was too, with musicians whose serious attention to the music was matched by their obvious enjoyment  in playing together. Except for a quieter duet between Camilla George and keyboard player Sarah Tandy, this was a set of driving music inspired by jazz, west African sounds and hip hop, all with a more electric sound than might have been expected – keyboards, electric bass, guitar and drums. In spite of the east coast wind blowing around the musicians and scattering their score sheets, the sounds came across loud and clear. Camilla George is currently working on a new album and we’ll bring you more news of that when we can. Tappin the Land Turtle from her album The People Could Fly on Ubuntu Music provides a soulful, spiritual uplift to the start of the show. The album is based on a book of African stories – after which the record is named – and this tale goes back to the days of slavery, incorporating several reminders of that era – the hunger, the separation of classes (the turtle and the eagle) and the dream of a life of plenty. In some versions of the story, the distinctive markings on Tappin’s shell are caused by whipping from a cowhide and so – as the liner notes tell us – These tales were created out of sorrow but have been passed on to us  with hearts that are full of love and hope. On vocals for this track is Cherise Adams-Burnett whom Derek will see on the same stage on 25 August. The People Could Fly is still available here on Bandcamp – it’s a Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

 2.  Sarah Tandy – Timelord from Infection in the Sentence 

On keys with Camilla George at Snape and on The People Could Fly album, is Sarah Tandy. It is always wonderful to see her perform, particularly this time as she had to spend some time away through illness. Tandy is just amazing: the music simply flow out of her and she makes it all look so relaxed, easy, and almost nonchalant. Yet sounds that are complex, inventive, funky and ever-surprising appear from the keyboards. To watch her play is something else. On Cosmic Jazz we loved her album Infection in the Sentence and this seemed an appropriate time to re-visit this highly recommended record, this time with Timelord, a measured, deep, funky groove.  Sarah told me at Snape that she has plans for a follow-up release – perhaps by the end of the year, at least. Again, we’ll keep you informed of any release but until then you should really investigate her 2019 release – again, available here on Bandcamp. And check out Sarah Tandy’s mesmerising playing here on this jazzre:freshed video recorded live in 2018.

3.  Binker Golding – I Forgot Santa Monica  from Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers

This sequence ends with a reference to the man on electric bass at Snape and the bass player on Tappin the Land Turtle, Daniel Casimir – a name you will find on many record credits from the current London jazz scene. Among the people he has performed with – as well as Camilla George – are Julian Joseph, Jason Rebello, Nubya Garcia, Lonnie Liston Smith and Ashley Henry. Casimir is a composer and bandleader but features here with tenor player Binker Golding on his album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers. Casimir’s acoustic bass opens I Forgot Santa Monica – the lead in track from an album which we regard as one of the finest to come out of the UK jazz scene in recent years. Binker Golding can be seen with Sarah Tandy on the video above and his album is also available directly from his Bandcamp site here. Note that vinyl is still available, including the gatefold Japanese edition shipped in limited quantities to the US and UK.

4.  Petter Eldh – Goods Yard feat. Richard Spaven from Projekt Drums Vol. 1   

Swedish producer Petter Eldh loves heavy beats and drums so he has compiled an album on Edition Records featuring some top-notch contemporary drummers. Projekt Drums Vol. 1 will be out in September, but on this show you can hear a tune featuring English drummer Richard Spaven, who got a CJ mention on our last blog as a musician on the Alfa Mist album Bring Backs. Spaven is London-based but has gone global in terms of the places he has played. Among the artists he has worked with are Jose James, Flying Lotus, Robert Mitchell, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Gregory Porter, Cinematic Orchestra and Kaidi Tatham. Jose James described him as One of the most unique artists in the world ….. He is the point where jazz meets the world – and Spaven performed kit duties on two of James’ albums including Blackmagic, from which we’ve selected the title track.

5. Slowly Rolling Camera – Lost Orbits from Where the Streets Lead    

And here’s a second new release from Edition Records, fast becoming one of Britain’s most successful new jazz labels with an enviable roster of international names. Where the Streets Lead is the new album from the UK’s Slowly Rolling Camera, and builds on their acclaimed 2018 release Juniper. Inspired by the colliding worlds of jazz, trip-hop, and cinematic soundscapes, SRC have further extended their soundscape with this new record . Recorded through 2020 , it includes an eight-piece string section and contributions from a range of impressive artists including Mark Lockheart, Jasper Høiby, Verneri Pohjola, Chris Potter and Sachal Vasandani, as well as the band’s regular guitarist Stuart McCallum. For the core group of Dave Stapleton, Deri Roberts and Elliot Bennett, it’s a unified take on the journey and the influences that have shaped them all individually and as a collective.

6.  Jon Hassell – Dreaming from Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1)  

Jon Hassell, the creator of what he called Fourth World music, died in June this year and Neil included a tribute with some some Youtube music at the end of the 26 June 2021 show. We’ve featured Jon Hassell’s unique processed trumpet sound before on Cosmic Jazz – way back in May 2008 we played In the City of Red Dust from his City: Works of Fiction album – and his beautifully titled Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street (ECM Records) was included in our 2010 Best of roundup. Appearing after a nine year gap since that ECM record, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1) turned out to be Hassell’s penultimate album: it didn’t expand his sonic world but there’s music here that confirm’s Hassell’s unique approach. Pretty much everything gets processed through effects pedals and computer so that you’re never quite sure what you’re hearing: the result is an impressionistic collage that blurs the listening experience. With Dreaming, the effect is of two tunes slowly gliding into each other. This may sound chaotic, but there’s a logical structure to Hassell’s music that defies detailed description. In this album and its successor, Hassell seems to be remixing his own heavily mixed past and the overall effect is hypnotic. If you’re not familiar with his work, this Guardian obituary should provide a good basic primer to his life, while this feature from the Vinyl Factory will do the same for his music. As we noted in June, Hassell was not a jazz artist but  his influence on musicians in many genres, including jazz, is profound.

7.  Lucien Johnson – Blue Rain from Wax///Wane   

Since we first played this track back in April this year, Lucien Johnson has gone on to win the 2021 Aeotearoa Jazz Composition award for Blue Rain, and we’ve continued to play tracks from his excellent Wax///Wane album. It’s difficult to judge at this halfway stage in the year, but this is likely to be one of Neil’s favourite albums of the year. The writing is consistently strong of course, but it’s more about the atmosphere that Johnson sets up. The music does indeed reflect the moon’s waxing and waning as it ebbs and flows (see the previous blog!) with light groove patterns augmented by vibraphone and harp. Over this,  Johnson’s sax is sometimes Coltrane-deep, sometimes growling like Pharoah Sanders. This is a mesmerising record and it’s thanks to Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) who also led us to the wonderful Fergus McCreadie. Lucien Johnson is actually from Wellington, New Zealand but spent much of his twenties living and working in and out of Paris, meeting and playing with musicians he knew from recordings including drumming legend and long-time Paris resident Sunny Murray, the late pianist Bobby Few and drummer John Betsch’s band.  Another drummer, Makoto Sato introduced Johnson to free jazz bass legend Alan Silva (of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler fame), and they formed a trio, going on to record the album Stinging Nettles. The current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion. We’ll continue to feature the album in upcoming shows. Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

8. The Stan Getz Quartet – Litha from Sweet Rain     

By general consensus, this is a Stan Getz great. With such a prolific recording career it might be difficult to know where to start – but this is a no-brainer. Released in the summer of 1967, Sweet Rain was Getz’s first big post bossa nova album and his partners here are all his juniors: pianist Chick Corea, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate  had honed their skills during  the era of 1960s rhythm-section freedom, and – as the AllMusic review notes – their continually stimulating interplay helps open things up for Getz to embark on some long, soulful explorations. The longer tracks, the choice of material (including two tunes from Chick Corea) and this interplay between the advanced rhythms and Getz’s lyrical passion make for an essential record. Every track is beautifully judged, from Litha, Corea’s opener, to the inclusion of his near-standard Windows, the delicate Jobim composition O Grande Amor, Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma and English big band composer Mike Gibb’s great title tune. This is a subtle, rewarding album that may not be one of Rudy Van Gelder’s best sounding recordings but there’s no doubting the standard of musicianship throughout. It’s a Cosmic Jazz recommended record for your jazz library.

9. Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove – One World Family from Kahil El’Zabar’s “Spirit Groove” feat David Murray    

Up next is Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar on another great quartet album from last year that features El’Zabar’s contemporary, tenor saxophonist David Murray ably supported here by Justin Dillard on piano. El’Zabar performs in various groups including his Ritual Trio and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. He was a member of the Bright Moments collective with Joseph Jarman and Steve Colson back in the day but he’s also worked as a more mainstream sideman with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley and Eddie Harris. The new Spirit Groove band features El’Zabar with Murray, young bassist Emma Dayhuff and Dillard on synth, organ and piano. El’Zabar takes up kalimba, drum kit, congas, shakers, vibes and even has a go at singing on this predominantly spiritual jazz release. Spirit Groove is actually on a new UK label, Spiritmuse, and on vinyl is beautifully produced. As always, your best source for this record is the Bandcamp website – you can find Spirit Groove here in all formats and download. Neil has the vinyl version which is both a good silent pressing and a two LP gatefold edition.

10. Cleveland Eaton – Hamburg 302 from Plenty Good Eaton  

We return to the Real Gone Music re-issues of the complete Black Jazz label with bassist Cleveland Eaton’s Plenty Good Eaton, released originally in 1975. This was to be Eaton’s only album for the label and, indeed, he was to release just a few more albums of his own after this. Prior to his arrival at Black Jazz, Eaton had been bass player for pianist Ramsey Lewis, appearing on 17 of his records, including classics like Wade in the Water, Dancing in the Street and Sun Goddess, one of his last appearances with Lewis. Listening to the title tracks of each (see links) will remind you of how much Eaton was a key part of the band’s sound. Drummer in the original Ramsey Lewis Trio was Maurice White who went on to found Earth, Wind and Fire and who was recruited back into Lewis’s band for the Sun Goddess album – and you can hear it! The superb sax solo on Sun Goddess is by Don Myrick – see this earlier CJ for more on Myrick. Plenty Good Eaton is  regarded as one of the gems of the Black Jazz catalogue and was recorded shortly after Eaton had left Ramsey Lewis in 1974. Then, starting in 1980, Eaton spent a dozen years with Count Basie’s band, and if you can imagine a blend of Lewis’s soul-funk with Basie’s hard-driving swing, you’ll understand what’s on the menu of Plenty Good Eaton – indeed, the album graphics present the credits and songs as if they were menu entries. This truly is fusion cuisine.

 11. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Village from Keeper of my Soul  

There are more re-releases forthcoming in October from Black Jazz Records – this time two more records from Rudolph Johnson and Walter Bishop Jr. This show features Bishop’s Soul Village – a tune he re-recorded on his Soul Village album from 1977 on Muse Records but which here appears on his Keeper of My Soul album from 1973.  This version includes Ronnie Laws on saxophone and flute, whose Pressure Sensitive album includes the much recorded Always There. This was Bishop’s second album for Black Jazz and was more ambitious and free than its predecessor Coral Keys. Keeper of My Soul is remastered and re-released for the first time on vinyl – and in both black and a special edition with black with orange streaks limited to 750 copies worldwide. As with other Black Jazz reissues, there are extensive inner sleeve notes by Pat Thomas. We’ll include the excellent Rudolph Johnson album in future shows.

12. Pat Thomas & the Kwashibu Area Band – Bubu from Obiaa  

A different Pat Thomas ends the show – a musician from Ghana who continues our CJ tradition of ending the show with music that draws upon jazz and jazzy sounds but is not strictly jazz. Thomas is one of the most celebrated of Ghanaian high-life musicians, a music that  frequently features an irresistible mix of horns and percussion to uplift the soul and keep the body moving. He’s has been described as ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’ and since 2015 he has recorded albums for the British label Strut Records and toured extensively in the UK and Europe. Derek caught the band at the Norwich Arts Centre a couple of years ago and remembers the evening as one of highly-charged, danceable music played with passion and skill with musicians crossing age ranges.

Neil adds: A note on why we promote Bandcamp

You’ll have noticed that we often provide artist or label links to the Bandcamp website and may wonder why. The answer is simple – if you buy from Bandcamp, an average of 83% of the price you pay reaches the artist or label (after payment processor fees). On Bandcamp Fridays each month, this rises to 93%.  Where the music we feature is not available on Bandcamp, we may direct you to another independent source – for example the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds or the local record stores that Derek and I buy from – including Soundclash Records in Norwich, Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds, Sounds of the Universe in London and The Jazz Loft, The Analog Vault and Choice Cuts in Singapore. Until legislation forces the majors like Amazon and Spotify to pay taxes and/or performers fairly we will continue to do this. Note that Amazon actually received a US$129 million tax refund in 2018 and Spotify pays artists around US$0.005 per stream… On the artists’ behalf, we thank you for supporting them to create their inspiring music.

26 July 2021: Latin classics, Miles live and new music from Europe

Cosmic Jazz this week begins and ends with contrasting Latin music, but sandwiched between is some contemporary European music, including new releases from the UK Edition and Brownswood labels. As if this wasn’t enough, there’s Miles and Bheki Mseleku live and more. Many contrasts, many styles, much to enjoy!

  1.  Ana Mazzotti – Agora Ou Nunca Mais from Ana Mazzotti

Ana Mazzotti was described as a “super-musician” by the legendary Brazilian artist Hermeto Pascoal. Born in 1950, in the southern Brazilian city of Caxias do Sul, she was a musical prodigy playing accordion by the age of five before moving to piano and conducting her local choir, but this promising career was cut short by premature death from cancer while still in her thirties. Mazzotti was also hampered by financial restraints and suffered from prejudice as a female songwriter in a fundamentally sexist society.  Luckily, her music has been re-released by the British label Far Out Records. Agora Ou Nunca provides a lively, easy body-swaying opening to the show. Co-written with Jose Roberto Bertrami from Azymuth with Romildo Santos on drums – her husband and the person who introduced Mazzotti to jazz. If you want to buy Mazzotti’s self-titled album it’s worth checking out which version you’ll go for: the two Far Out releases are essentially the same record, but in 1977 Mazzotti took her original 1974 debut album back to the studio, releasing the album with a new running order and new cover art to bid once more for commercial success. There are re-recorded vocals, and the bonus of some great new horn arrangements, together with a new track: the carnivalesque Eta, Samba Bom replacing Roberta Flack’s Feel Like Making Love. We think this version is the one to go for and you can find it here on the Far Out website.

2. James Brandon Lewis and the Red Lily Quintet – Arachis from Jesup Wagon

Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has released a mightily powerful record. It is powerful both in its music but also in its context. Arachis is his elegy to arachis hypogaea – the scientific name for the peanut. Lewis has studied the life and work of Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943), a man whose inventions and achievements were numerous, and whose travelling work on his Jesup Wagon assisted many Southern farmers, but someone who is most remembered for his contribution to finding many, many uses for peanuts. But Lewis wants to reclaim Carver into a wider context: in addition to being a botanist, educator and symbol of Black pride, Carver was an accomplished musician and painter. He insisted that art and science, as processes of discovery, were never in opposition. And he was a pioneer of sustainable agriculture, whose findings sometimes put him at odds with private industry. Our CJ choice for this show is Arachis, which tracks the journey of the peanut from slow beginnings to rising from the underground to blooming freely. Lewis first deployed bass legend William Parker on his breakthrough Divine Travels album and he’s back alongside Kirk Knuffke on cornet, Chris Hollman on cello and Chad Taylor on drums. With mbira (Taylor) and guimbri (Parker) added into the mix, this is earthy, percussive music that also includes some of the best, most melodic writing of Lewis’ career to date. And the Jesup Wagon? This was the name of the carriage that Carver drove across the South during his Tuskegee Institute years, conducting demonstrations for poor farmers on how to cultivate their land more sustainably.

3.  Alfa Mist – Coasting  from Bring Backs

Alfa Mist is a UK-based artist whose route to jazz has been via hip-hop. Described as an exploration of his upbringing through music, Bring Backs takes a sonic trip back to his beat-making past in east London, through the depth and musicality discovered composing and playing jazz. This journey is exemplified on Mist’s new fourth album Bring Backs, which follows a 2020 project with drummer Richard Spaven (see below) as 44th Move – their self-titled EP delving into the fertile space between the dance floor and headphone-based introspection – take a listen to Fly, for example. On Bring Backs, Alfa Mist is joined by a number of collaborators including Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), Jamie Houghton (drums), and Johnny Woodham (trumpet) who create a kind of suite with each composition rolling into the next and linked by sections of a Hilary Thomas poem expressing the realities of building community in a new country. Coasting, the tune selected for this show has a gentle. lilting, atmospheric, sonic feel with Alfa Mist’s electric piano weaving its way through the tune,  Woodham’s trumpet sounds optimistic and encouraging and Houghton provides firm, but restrained drumming.

4.  STR4TA – Aspects from Aspects

When was this recorded you might ask – 1981? Because this is pure Brit-funk – a wholly successful attempt to recreate the classic sounds of such bands as Light of the World, Incognito and Freeez. Aspects led the way – a first single that appeared at the end of 2020 and much played on Worldwide FM and other UK radio shows. So who’s behind the intriguingly -named STR4TA? The answer is DJ Gilles Peterson and Jean-Paul (Bluey) Maunick from Incognito. The album appeared in March 2021 and the recreation of that pioneering British sound is faultless. There’s some concessions to the spacey synth melodies of groups like Atmosfear and Hi-Tension but this album stands on its own as the essence of the era with a more contemporary twist. With the exception of some inane lyrics on a few tracks, this is a jazz dance must. For the session itself, Peterson and Maunick wanted to approach the music-making from the starting point that led to those early classic Brit-funk records like Freeez’s Southern Freeez or Atmosfear’s Dancing in Outer Space, capturing the raw energy and sound of the moment. Recalling his role in the process, Peterson says he was the one making sure things didn’t get too polished. “I was there at the back, telling them, no, leave it like that, cut it there, or just use that first take.” Also featured on the record are Francis Hylton on bass and Matt Cooper on both keyboards and drums.

5.  Miles Davis – Ife from Tokyo 1973 (Live)

Early to mid-1970s saw the most radical and creative period in Miles Davis’ career with the trumpeter drawing influence from the soul and funk groups of the time, including Sly and the Family Stone and George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic axis. Added to this, Miles was playing more rock oriented venues and opening for groups such as the Steve Miller Band, the Grateful Dead and Santana. The outcome was a slew of albums that showed the transformation of his music beyond even the radicalism of Bitches Brew (1970). On the Corner, released in 1972, exemplified this: on board were six percussionists (including Badal Roy on tabla) and Colin Walcott and Khalil Balakrishna on electric sitars. The resulting music was all over the place – and it’s meant to be. Michael Henderson’s bass keeps some kind of pulse but everything else weaves in and out of the mix. As if this wasn’t enough, producer Teo Macero deploys his cut and paste technique more savagely than on Bitches Brew, which is why this impenetrable and almost tuneless concoction of avant-garde classical, free jazz, African, Indian and acid funk bombed spectacularly, leading to decades in the wilderness. This from writer Paul Tingen, author of Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991 in his Guardian review of The Complete On the Corner Sessions from 2007.

So where does this leave us with our electric Miles choice on this edition of Cosmic Jazz? In the three years following the release of On the Corner, Davis took more steps in the same direction – but this time live. By June 1973 he had trimmed his band down to seven players, fronted it with guitarist Pete Cosey, who had spent time with noted blues performers as well as playing with Chicago jazz artists Phil Cohran and the Pharaohs. His fearsome guitar style is at the heart of these performances with this take on Ife, a tune which first appeared on the Big Fun compilation and was recorded just after the On the Corner sessions. In this live Tokyo version, Michael Henderson’s bass anchors the tune for nearly 20 minutes as Dave Liebman solos on soprano sax and flute while Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas mesh together on guitars. Al Foster on drums and Mtume on congas provide the beats and Davis cues them in from his electric organ. The percussion effects you hear throughout come from Cosey and Mtume and you either love or hate the outcome: Davis uses his wah-wah pedal almost continuously and the music is both focused and loose. To get a visual idea of this band live, this version of Ife from the same tour’s Vienna concert gives some idea of how ‘out there’ this music really is. There has been nothing like it since.

6.  Bheki Mseleku – Cosmic Dance from Beyond the Stars

We featured this posthumous release back in May and it’s time to check it out again. The late Bheki Mseleku was something of a phenomenon. An entirely self-taught pianist, saxophonist, guitarist and composer who grew up in Johannesburg, Mseleku moved to London in the late 1970s where, in 1987 – and cradling a tenor saxophone at his piano stool – he made his debut at Ronnie Scott’s club. His 1991 album Celebration was nominated for  Mercury Music Prize (but, of course, it didn’t win). Meditations and Timelessness appeared on major label Verve in subsequent years but by 2008 Mseleku was dead from diabetes at just 53. Now comes a newly-discovered solo piano recording, overseen by long time friend and supporter Eugene Skeef who had helped Mseleku return to London in 2003. Beyond The Stars is the result: a solo piano suite which condenses Mseleku’s vision of the diversity of South African musical forms into a statement in six parts. There are references to Mseleku’s Zulu heritage and the song forms of marabi, amahubo, maskanda and nguni create a kind of musical summary of his life.

7.  Tommy Smith – Song of the Martyrs from SOLOW

Neil owes this one to Scots music promoter Rob Adams who introduced Neil to this remarkable EP from Edinburgh-born saxophonist Tommy Smith. Recording his first album Giant Strides at the age of sixteen, Smith has gone on to carve an international jazz career recording with Blue Note and Scottish audiophile label Linn Records in the 1990s. He founded the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in the same decade and went on to record classical works and his own compositions with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and other large ensembles. In contrast, SOLOW is a very small scale work – an EP of solo tenor sax tunes directly inspired by experiencing psalm singing live on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides. The music which has a ‘call and response’ element is unique and powerful. In Gaelic unaccompanied psalm singing, a precentor leads with the first line, and from here the congregation responds, some faster than others, but with each one remains discernible. The form is influenced by the pibroch style of free ornamentation – improvisation, if you like – and reflects the ebb and flow of wind and waves. Neil has also experienced this music in the Free Presbyterian churches of the far north west of Scotland and it’s a remarkable sound. You can hear it here in an extract from a BBC programme on the Presbyterian tradition in Scotland and the EP can be found on Tommy Smith’s Bandcamp site where you’ll also find more of his music.

8.  Harold Budd –  Arabesque 3 from Avalon Sutra

That ebb and flow can be heard in Harold Budd’s music too. Budd, who died at 84 last year from Covid-19 complications was a minimalist composer who found inspiration in the music of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. He himself described his music as “so sweet and pretty and decorative that it would positively upset and revolt the avant-garde, whose ugly sounds had by now become a new orthodoxy.” It was a far cry from his start in music – playing drums in a regimental band alongside Albert Ayler – but Budd would go on to collaborate with Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins and others. His work is ostensibly secular but, through the use of his ‘soft pedal’ piano technique sounds rather beatific. 2005’s Avalon Sutra/As Long As I Can Hold My Breath is one of his best and Arabesque 3 (with sopranino saxophone by Jon Gibson) is a delight, with the sax breaking through Budd’s softly whispering piano. For more Budd listen to The Pearl, his collaboration with Eno and this track Late October.

9.  Daniel Herskedal – The Lighthouse on the Horizon from Harbour

Atmospheric is a term that has already been used above but it applies in an even stronger sense to the music of Norwegian composer and tuba and bass trumpet player Daniel Herskedal. His sixth album Harbour was released earlier this month on the British label Edition Records. It is beautifully lyrical, rhythmically charged music. The Norwegian landscape has been an important influence on Herskedal, and you can feel the landscape where this album was produced in his music. The album was recorded in December 2020 at Ocean Sound Recordings, perched on an island on the rugged Norwegian coastline.  The Lighthouse on the Horizon must have been a welcoming reassurance in this setting and at a time of year when the daylight hours in Norway are very short.

10. Petter Eldh feat. Erik Harland – Hawk Mountain from Projekt Drums Vol 1

“I’m obsessed with the drums” said Swedish producer and bassist Petter Eldh. He has been able to practise that obsession by making an album (Volume 1) with six diverse tracks that involve six different exciting drummers on the scene today. They are Richard Spaven (who can be found on one of the tracks on Alfa Mist’s album), Savannah Harris, Nate Wood, James Maddren, Gard Nilsson and on Hawk Mountain American drummer Eric Harland, whose credits include working with  Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland and Joshua Redman. The music is complex and tough and the arrangements include a total of sixteen instrumental collaborators comprising harpists, French horn, marimba players, keyboards and synths. This  music demands careful listening that will bring considerable rewards.

11. Kasia Pietrzko Trio – Passiac Avenue from Forthright Stories

The young 27 year old Polish pianist Kasia Pietrzko has become a regular on Cosmic Jazz and someone whose music we have liked to champion after coming across her through the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Her music is challenging, original and complex. Pietrzko studied jazz piano at the Krakow Music Academy and later in New York with, among others, Aaron Parks. She now has two albums released, Ephemeral Pleasures 2020 but Passiac Avenue can be found on her first album Forthright Stories, a title which almost sums up her approach to the music. Check her out on her Facebook page where you can find live solo and group performances.

12. The Awakening – Glory to the Sun from Mirage

More from Black Jazz Records to celebrate the re-release of the complete label catalogue from Real Gone Music. With only twenty records issued during the short life of the label, there’s a very high hit rate, with some essential jazz classics to look out for. This is one of them. The Awakening were the only group on the Black Jazz roster, and should have been heralded as one of the great bands in early 70s jazz. That they’re not is largely the result of the Black Jazz label’s distribution woes – if you can find an original copy of this record today you’ll be paying handsomely for it. Mirage was their second (1973) album and the last one they made together. The lineup is the same Chicago-based, AACM-centric musicians as on the first album, with the notable addition of bassist Rufus Reid on a couple of tracks. Spiritual jazz, free jazz, soul jazz, fusion jazz? It’s pretty much all represented here. This is the first vinyl re-release of this record – remastered at Sonic Vision and with new liner notes by Pat Thomas, it’s a keeper. Neil picked up his vinyl album from the excellent Analog Vault in Singapore but you may need to move fast for your own copy.  We say, music to inspire, to lift the spirits and to soothe mind, body and soul.

13. Jane Bunnett – Spirits of Havana from Spirits of Havana/Chamalonga Disc 1

The show ends with another artist that we keep turning back to – namely Jane Bunnett, Canadian soprano sax and flute player whose love of Cuban music has informed her playing over many years. Spirits of Havana was first released in 1992 and then reappeared as an expanded 25th anniversary CD in 2016. Bunnett and her husband, trumpet and flugelhorn Larry Cramer, travelled to Cuba in 1990 where they  assembled a collection of great Cuban musicians, including vocalist Merceditas Valdes and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The recorded outcome was a perfect, polished, precise feast of music that presents authentic Afro-Cuban, folk and jazz rhythms. This title tune has it all: blaring horns, tight percussion and crystal-clear vocals with spiritual choral responses. There is no feeling of the outsider going in and merging musical styles. This music feels and sounds natural and authentic. Bunnett brought together top musicians who simply gave their best. Highly recommended.

Neil is listening to…

It’s a Neil is listening to…  special for this Cosmic Jazz show with a chance for you to share the June Record Store Week edition of The Analog Vault’s Analog Club – tracks played and mixed by Leon and Nick from TAV.  This edition kicks off with a track from Khan’s Jamal’s 1984 Infinity album and doesn’t look back. Music also includes Gary Bartz, Cymande, the remarkable reissue EP from Ben Tankard and more treasures including a track from the new Brownswood South African compilation Indaba Is. For more from The Analog Vault, check out their 2020 top 20 – a jazz-heavy selection of great music.

10 July 2021: looking back – classic conscious and uptempo jazz

From time to time on Cosmic Jazz we present a show where we forget about new music and go back to dig out some classic tunes from across the jazz spectrum. This show takes a journey from tunes with conscious messages on to some uptempo jazz funk.

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind and Spirit

Cosmic Jazz regulars who click the Mixcloud tab will know there are a few records that we love to play again and again. But there is only one that Derek vows to play at least once every calendar year and – yes – it’s that time again. Black Renaissance was a band led by keyboard player Harry Whitaker – probably best known for his work with Roy Ayers (Whitaker played keys on We Live in Brooklyn). He was also Roberta Flack’s music director and he played piano on Gwen Guthrie’s classic Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent). Whitaker also played on recordings by – among others – Terumasa Hino, Norman Connors, Carmen Lundy, Phyllis Hyman, Gary Bartz and Mtume. His standing can be judged by the quality of the musicians he assembled for the Mind, Body and Spirit session – Woody Shaw, Azar Lawrence, Buster Williams, Billy Hart and the aforementioned Mtume. Here at Cosmic Jazz we think that you just HAVE to hear and own this record. It’s as essential (and influential) as Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme and Mingus Ah Um. Without it no jazz record collection would be complete. We have described in previous blogposts how amazing this 23 minute tune really is: it’s simply a wonderful piece of free, spontaneous and Afrocentric jazz, soul and rapping – before rap was known. In effect and reality, the whole piece was a jam session recorded in one take and – rather fittingly – on Martin Luther King day in 1976 and very, very difficult to find until released by Ubiquity Records in 2002. It is soulful, spiritual, modal, unpredictable and highly charged. There are instruments and voices, poetry and rap in the same year that rap supposedly started. The first rap record? You can listen and download the record here on Bandcamp, but look out for a vinyl repressing if you can.

2. Harold Land – Black Caucus from Choma (Burn)

The excellent Boplicity series (part of the Ace Group of reissues) has had a look into the Mainstream catalogue for some jazz which is – well – not always mainstream. And there’s no better example of this than the track we featured from Harold Land’s album Choma (Burn). It’s easy to think of Land as a straightahead small bandleader (check out the classic early album The Fox) but he’s definitely not on the featured Black Caucus where, with the help of extraordinary vibesman Bobby Hutcherson, the music fizzles and sparks with authority. Land is one of those undersung jazz saxophonists that deserves more attention. The band also featured Leon Ngudu Chancler who went on to provide the unique drum backbone on Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Another of Land’s Mainstream albums, the excellent A New Shade of Blue, was rereleased in 2018 on the WeWantSounds label and is well worth looking out for. Here’s the title track.

3. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color

It’s Joe Henderson’s tenor solo you can hear on the Horace Silver classic Song for My Father, but his recording career spans some forty years, appearing on over 30 albums on the Blue Note label alone.  Henderson never made a disappointing record and Black is the Color from 1972 is a good example of his later recordings with the Orrin Keepnews Milestone label.  Henderson used a lot of overdubbing on this record so we get to hear him on flute, alto flute, tenor and soprano and percussion in addition to the appearance of a synthesizer. Dave Holland, Airto Moreira and Jack DeJohnette were also on the sessions. Henderson went back to Blue Note where he recorded the superb two volume live set The State of the Tenor in 1985, essential recordings that are now part of the Tone Poets series. Here’s the beautiful Sam Rivers composition Beatrice.

4. Blue Mitchell – Mi Hermano from Soul Village/Martin Freeman & Eddie Pillar present Jazz on the Corner

We’re back with Mainstream now and one of the albums trumpeter Blue Mitchell recorded for the label in the 1970s. It made an appearance on the Jazz on the Corner collection from UK aficionados actor Martin Freeman and Acid Jazz label entrepreneur Eddie Pillar – itself an excellent collection of jazz cuts. There’s some great music here, including Kamasi Washington’s The Rhythm Changes. Soul Village (also often titled Blue Mitchell) was his first for the label and features his regular quintet at the time – tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, pianist Walter Bishop Jr, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Doug Sides. The title track is by Walter Bishop Jr. – and we’ve included his version on previous shows.

5. Byron Morris & Unity – Kitty Bey from Blow Thru Your Mind/Soul of a Nation: Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher

Now this is a really rare one. If you want an original copy of the 1974 album Blow Thru Your Mind which includes this track, then you need to head to Discogs with around £500! Fortunately you can find it on at least three compilations, included Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher – itself a reference to one of our favourite tunes by guitarist James Blood Ulmer. This is a two part compilation from the always reliable Soul Jazz label and was linked to the Soul of a Nation – Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in the UK in 2017 before travelling worldwide. The two Soul Jazz record sets that emerged from this included this second one.  The selection of music is an excellent introduction to this vibrant, creative period in American black music and includes tracks from The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Don Cherry, Funkadelic, Gil Scott-Heron and many more – including  lesser-known artists like Sarah Webster Fabio and the Har-You Percussion Group, all of whom were exploring new Afrocentric polyrhythmical styles of music – radical jazz, street funk and proto-rap – while at the same time taking on the Black Power and civil-rights inspired notions of self-definition, self respect and self-empowerment in their own lives.. You can also find an interesting take on Kitty Bey from Toshio Matsuura on LOVEPLAYDANCE, his album of substantially reworked covers.

6. Patrice Rushen – Jubilation from Prelusion/Before the Dawn

In case you did not realise it, Patrice Rushen has been and still is a serious jazz musician: you would have to be to appear on a Sonny Rollins album – The Way I Feel on Milestone Records, which includes the Rushen composition Shout It Out – or to have toured with Abbey Lincoln and performed with Herbie Hancock. Jubilation was originally released in 1975 on the Prestige album Before the Dawn, when Rushen was just twenty years old and has since been re-released on CD along with another of her jazz albums Prelusion. Jubilation has a Latin feel and provides a showcase for flute player Hubert Laws. Rushen was originally classically trained and among her many compositions have been symphonic works commissioned for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. There have also been scores for film and television. Rushen has been active in education at university level and also in schools with the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. In June 2021 she returned to performing live, appearing at the San Diego Jazz Festival.

7. Shirley Scott – Don’t Look Back from One for Me

This 1974 Strata-East record was re-released on Arc Records, Gilles Peterson’s new imprint. Shirley Scott is on organ and mellotron (a sure sign of the times!), with Harold Vick on tenor, Billy Higgins on drums and a lone appearance by drummer Jimmy Hopps on cowbell on one of the four tracks. Shirley Scott was a soul jazz organist who often featured on albums by her then husband Stanley Turrentine. One for Me was her sole outing for Strata-East and its great to have it back on vinyl through Arc – check it out in all formats on Bandcamp here. Shirley Scott is typically restrained, giving lots of space to Harold Vick who plays with real passion on this record. He recorded just a handful of albums as leader (including one for Blue Note called Steppin’ Out) but he’s appeared on several albums we rate highly here at Cosmic Jazz. Look out for the aforementioned Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys, The Almoravid from bassist Joe Chambers and Pharoah Sanders’ Live at the East. The latter is one of Sanders’ most inspired live recordings – here’s the magnificent Healing Song.

8. Irakere – Chékere Son from Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Vol. 1

The show normally ends by crossing musical borders and this week is no exception. The tune Chekere Son comes from Cuban band Irakere and can be found on a compilation put together by Kev Beadle, a British DJ who regarded this tune as one for serious dancers. Irakere was a band put together by pianist Chucho Valdes in 1973 – his son Chuchito took over the leadership in 1997. There were distinct Cuban sounds in their music but jazz was a major element too, as was the ability to encourage dancefloor moves. Chékere Son dates from 1976 and introduced a style of Cubanized bebop-flavoured lines, that departed from the style more typical in Cuban popular music of the time. It’s actually based on Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce – all the phrases are there, but not in the same order! Irakere were a large band and performed with a huge percussion section, including the remarkable  Anga Diaz, whom we have played on Cosmic Jazz previously. Along with Valdes, Diaz performed with trumpeter Roy Hargrove on the album Cristol Havana and released the innovative Echu Mingua album from World Circuit Records that includes this latin version of A Love Supreme.  Irakere also included musicians Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera,  who both became more widely known as leaders of their own bands after they defected to the United States and worked with US jazz musicians. Chucho Valdes (himself the son of celebrated pianist Bebo Valdes) went on to a successful jazz career, recording the excellent Live at the Village Vanguard for Blue Note in 2000. All three editions of Kev Beadle Presents… are recommended with hard to find musical treasures in each. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

26 June 2021: jazz legends and ambitious newcomers

Cosmic Jazz this time includes a tribute to Brazilian trombone player Raul de Souza whose latest album we featured recently. On top of that there is a mixture of jazz and jazzy sounds, many of them new but with some older tunes too. It’s that eclectic mix that regular listeners will now expect.

1. James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet – Jesup Wagon from Jesup Wagon

Jesup Wagon is the title tune of the album of the same name from tenor saxophonist James Brandon  Lewis and the Red Lily Quintet. It is an album inspired by the work of Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943), a man best known for developing three hundred ways to use peanuts but who in fact did so much more. He was an artist, a botanist, an ecologist, musician and teacher who foresaw the current planetary crisis. He also invented the ‘Jesup Wagon’ which was a “movable school” that Carver designed that carried products and equipment from his laboratory to bring knowledge and new techniques to poor Southern farmers. The tune opens with Lewis playing unaccompanied and you can imagine the sound ringing out to let the farmers know that the wagon has arrived. Such a brilliant sound for the start of the show. There will be more to come in future shows from this album, which features a quintet of fine musicians – Brandon Lewis on tenor saxophone, Kirk Knuffke on cornet, Chris Hoffman on cello and Chad Taylor on drums and mbira – plus the legendary bassist William Parker guesting on two tracks.

2. Raul de Souza – A Vontade Mesmo from A Vontade Mesmo/Focus on Bossa Nova

On the last show we featured new music from Brazilian trombonist Raul de Souza. Sadly, since then de Souza has died. It’s time for a tribute via music both old and new. A Vontade Mesmo is the title track from his 1964 album – his first as a leader, but one that was not initially released outside Brazil. With de Souza’s success in the 1970s the album eventually had an international release on CD. In 1964, the bossa nova explosion was in full swing but A Vontade Mesmo isn’t bossa in the sense that Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd interpreted it. It’s instrumental Brazilian jazz that doesn’t just blow cool – rather, there’s a lot of passionate heat in de Souza’s solos – listen to his take on Vinicius de Moraes’ Voce e Eu, for example. The Sao Paulo-based Sambalanco Trio are backing de Souza on this record: that’s the great Cesar Camargo Mariano on piano, Humberto Clayber on bass and another Brazilian legend – Airto Moreira – on drums. The record is well worth looking out for. Derek found the title tune on a BMG compilation Focus on Bossa Nova but the original album is available in CD format online – de Souza is credited as as Raulzinho on the album.

3. Raul de Souza Generations Band– Apesar de Voce from Plenitude

The  final album Raul de Souza recorded was Plenitude in 2020, featuring his Generations Band, so-called because it was recorded when de Souza was in his eighties and the youngest musician of the band was in his twenties. Keyboard player Alex Correa is from Brazil but the rest of the band is comprised of young musicians from Europe. By the time of his death de Souza was living in Paris. Apesar De Voce, is a tune written by a long time friend of de Souza, Chico Barque, and is arranged by Correa. It is a good illustration of how de Souza continued to effortlessly combine Brazilian and jazz sounds. Incidentally, the sleeve notes to the album include tributes from friends and musicians that de Souza had played with over the years – Sonny Rollins, Joao Bosco, Hermeto Pascoal, Joao Donato and Nils Landgren.

4. Slowly Rolling Camera – Lost Orbits from Where the Streets Lead

British label Edition Records have a new release from Slowly Rolling Camera called Where the Streets Lead. The tune Lost Orbits provides a contemplative, mysterious yet comforting  soundscape. SRC are a band inspired by the colliding worlds of  jazz, trip-hop and cinematic soundscapes – and this track illustrates that perfectly. It’s their second album following on from their 2018 release JuniperThe new album, recorded in 2020, is greater in scale than its predecessor and includes an eight-piece string section along with some top level guests, including saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Chris Potter and bass player from Phronesis Jasper Hoiby .

5. Daniel Herskedal – The Beaches of Lesbos from Harbour

Also on Edition Records and to be released in July 2021 is the beautiful album Harbour from Norwegian tuba and bass trumpet player Daniel Herskedal. It is his sixth album on the label. Again the word soundscapes comes to mind in the beautiful, lyrical sounds that evoke the space and wild openness of the Norwegian landscape, although The Beaches of Lesbos has a darker overtone. Herskedal’s inspiration comes from being close to the sea and taking shelter from the storms and wild elements. There is a sense of the starkness of the Norwegian landscape but also a sense of security and warmth – especially when you put it into the context of the location for the recording, Ocean Sound Recordings – a studio situated on an island on the rugged Norwegian coastline – just check out the location image below!

6. Anthony Joseph – Calling England Home from The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for their Lives

We wanted to play in full this track from the new Anthony Joseph album which was cut short on our last show. Joseph is an award winning Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician. He is the author of four poetry collections and three novels including the 2018 novel Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon detailing the life and times of Lord Kitchener – calypso performer, passenger on the Empire Windrush and writer and performer of London Is the Place for Me. He has has released seven critically acclaimed records, including the new The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives – the title a quote from fellow Trinidadian C L R James’ Black Jacobins, a play about the Haitian revolution. This is a cohesive, forward-looking jazz album that records both crushing oppression and real hope for change. Nowhere is this clearer than on Calling England Home, where Joseph recounts different stories of immigrants who arrived in England at different times. Each person, he says, had a difficult relationship with the idea that England was their home. The haunting instrumentation reflects this with saxophonists Jason Yarde, Colin Webster, and Shabaka Hutchings playing over the powerful rhythm section and Joseph manipulating his voice as he details the experiences of his characters – Black and been here since 1949I’ve lived here longer than home and How long do you have to live in a place/Before you can call it ‘home’? As well as an obvious link to Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite, Joseph calls up the spirit of Gil Scott Heron on tracks like Swing Praxis and The Gift and indeed Rod Youngs, the drummer on these tracks, collaborated with Gil Scott Heron on his excellent Spirits album – the title track an interpretation of Coltrane’s Spiritual, included here in the epic live version from the Village Vanguard.

7. World Saxophone Quartet – Little Samba from Revue

We’ve played music from some of the individual members of the WSQ on previous CJ shows, but this may be the first time we have featured the group itself. The original members were Julius Hemphill (alto and soprano saxophone, flute), Oliver Lake (alto and soprano saxophone), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone, alto clarinet), and David Murray (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet). The first three had worked together as members of the Black Artists’ Group in St Louis, Mississippi but in 1989 Hemphill left the group due to illness, with several saxophonists filling his chair in the years since. Hemphill died in 1995 after recording dozens of records, particularly for the Italian Black Saint label. His first release is the one to explore – the amazing Dogon AD from 1972. This is very much an African-centric record (as the title would suggest). Hemphill is joined by trumpeter Baikida Carroll, cellist Abdul Wadud and superb drummer Phillip Wilson and the remarkable title track is the place to start.  The WSQ principally recorded and performed as a saxophone quartet, usually with a lineup of two altos, tenor, and baritone (reflecting the composition of a classical string quartet) but were also joined later in their career by drummers, bassists, and other musicians. Revue is from 1982 and was also released on the Black Saint label. Check it out if you can.

8. D J Day – A Place To Go from Got to Get it Right EP/The Day Before

This track and the next form a considerable contrast to what has gone before on the show. DJ Day is Damien Beebe – a DJ, producer and musician from Palm Springs, California. He’s worked with a number of artists on the Stones Throw label and has also provide remixes for Quantic, People Under the Stairs – and Alice Russell (see below). His album The Day Before collects many of his single releases, including the infectious A Place to Go which also appeared on the the EP, Got To Get It Right. Eagle-eared listeners may spot the speeded-up sample from flautist Bobbi Humphrey’s Please Set Me at Ease from her 1975 album Fancy Dancer.

9. Quincy Jones – Birdland from Back on the Block

What can we say about the now 88 year old Quincy Jones? Record producer, musician, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer with a career spanning over 70 years in the entertainment industry. The 28 Grammy Awards don’t get close to his achievements and influences. He first came to prominence in the 1950s as a jazz arranger before composing scores for dozens of films and TV shows. His 1964 Soul Bossa Nova is a tune that’s almost impossible not to know – even if just from the title sequence from first Austin Powers film. And did you know that Rahsaan Roland Kirk was the flautist on that tune? Jones went on to record numerous albums that remain classics: his 1970s collection alone includes Gula Matari (1971), Smackwater Jack, (1971), Body Heat (1974), and Sounds… And Stuff like That (1978). Back on the Block comes from 1989 – and could have been one of those all star disasters. It’s not. Jones astutely uses Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Barry White (and more) across the spread of an album that seeks – more or less successfully – to bring together a history of jazz and its influence on rap music. Birdland is, of course, the Joe Zawinul composition recorded with Weather Report. It’s almost a standard and on this version (and its intro on the album) Jones places it squarely in the jazz pantheon, even quoting Pee Wee Marquette, compere at the Birdland Club itself as he introduces a live performance by Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. It’s a stunning take on the original (and definitive) version – linked here for comparison. Jones would go on to be involved in the touching final appearance of Miles Davis at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival as he performed a selection of music from his 1959 Gershwin album Porgy and Bess  just months before his death. Here’s Gone, Gone, Gone from that memorable final recording.

10. The Awakening – Just A Little Peace from Mirage

This tune shows that Black Jazz Records was not just about funky, soulful uptempo jazz. This tune befits its title Just A Little Peace. It is another Black Jazz Records re-release, available on re-mastered vinyl and CD from Real Gone Music. The Awakening were the only group on the Black Jazz roster and many feel they should be heralded as one of the great jazz groups of the 1970s, but the label’s distribution problems meant they were not as well known as they should have been. A six-piece band, they included other artists as guests on the album, including Rufus Reid on bass. Yes, it’s a combination of spiritual jazz, free jazz, soul jazz, fusion jazz and more – all of the threads common to many early 1970s African-American artists – but in this instance it is all woven into music that is genuinely greater than the sum of its part. 1973’s Mirage is less political/pan-African than its predecessor Hear, Sense and Feel, which had links to those deep Art Ensemble of Chicago/AACM roots. Instead, it’s more abstract and varied in its moods and textures. The Real Gone release is the first time Mirage has been reissued on LP and is newly remastered with informative liner notes by Pat Thomas. Original records are hard to find – and very hard to fund if you do find one. Sadly it was the last record the band made together.  Find and enjoy before the vinyl copies disappear.

11. Henry Franklin – Soft Spirit from The Skipper at Home

The calmer, gentler side of Black Jazz Records continues with another Real Gone Music re-release – this time bass player Henry Franklin’s 1974 album The Skipper at Home. ‘The Skipper’ was the nickname given to Franklin and he recorded two albums for the label but appeared on other releases by Doug Carn, Gene Russell , Calvin Keys and more. The band includes top musicians – Kirk Lightsey on keyboards, trombonist Al Hall Jr. and drummer Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler who played with so many of the very best names in jazz, including Miles Davis and Joe Henderson. The reissue is available on vinyl and has never before been available in that format outside Japan.

12. Cochemea – Mimbrenos from Vol. 2 Baca Sewa

Cochemea – his family name prior to Spanish colonisation – leads a seven-piece ensemble including some of New York’s finest percussionists and members of the Daptone label’s rhythm section. Mimbrenos is from a new album called Baca Sewa Vol. 2 to be released next month on Daptone Records. Percussion is a strong element in  the record and it does evokes a spiritual quality. Baca Sewa is a semi-autobiographical work which goes deep into family histories and is part of a musical  process of cultural reclamation. As a soloist, section player, and composer/arranger over the past twenty-five years, Cochemea has been featured with diverse and notable musical acts, from touring and recording with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Kevin Morby, Jon Batiste, Archie Shepp, Antibalas, the Budos Band and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress. Performance and studio work includes sitting in with Mark Ronson, The Roots, David Byrne, Beck, Rick Rubin, and Quincy Jones among many others.

13. Matti Klein – Rocket Swing from Soul Trio Live on Tape

Matti Klein leads a soulful jazz outfit with an album recorded in Berlin. The Soul Trio started as an idea rather than a group: three musicians met in a Berlin studio in 2018 with a producer and played a series of live sessions which were taped. None wore headphones and there was no acoustic separation – each musician finding their desired space live and direct, and so locking into the immediacy of the groove. The album Soul Trio Live On Tape was the result, initially available as a limited fan-only item at live shows. Now it gets an official release on LP, CD and digital formats. Matti Klein is known for his work as musical director for the Brazilian superstar Ed Motta, but here he is heard taking  a strong lead on Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes.

14. Rachelle Ferrell – You Don’t Know What Love Is from First Instrument

Someone Derek knows – a jazz fan – recently posted on Facebook that there are no good female jazz vocalists around at the moment. Has he not heard of Cecile McLorin Salvant, Jazzmeia Horn and the extraordinary Cassandra Wilson among many others? He did post, as an example of a vocalist he admired, a tune from the Rachelle Ferrell 1990 album First Instrument. It’s a good choice: Ferrell stretched her vocal chords to some amazing places on this record, sadly, but much of what she has recorded since appears to have been much less jazz orientated. Nevertheless, this is an essential album to have and to hear and this prompted Derek to re-visit a tune from it (again).

15. Alice Russell – To Know This from My Favourite Letters

This week Derek returns to his usual ending to the show with a tune that is jazzy but not jazz. The selection was prompted by hearing British vocalist Alice Russell doing a words and music feature with Gilles Peterson on his BBC6 radio show as she has a new album appearing later in the year. Russell is based in Brighton but was originally from a small town in Suffolk, the county in the UK where this show is recorded. She has an amazing, powerful, soulful, bluesy, jazzy voice. It is quite  a presence. She  is quite a presence live. Derek saw her at the Old Pumphouse venue as part of the Aldeburgh Festival Fringe some years ago. Russell and her band could make even these somewhat basic surroundings feel intimate and warm. To Know This is from the 2005 Tru Thoughts album My Favourite Letters – an excellent place to start with her music as it demonstrates her versatility as a singer and arranger. Russell is always moving on: she promises something very different from her new record and we look forward to its release. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

Neil is listening to…

Just as Neil was completing this blogpost, the death of trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell was announced. If you’re not familiar with his work, this Guardian obituary should provide a good basic primer to his life, while this feature from the Vinyl Factory will do the same for his music. Hassell was not a jazz artist but  his influence of  musicians in many genres, including jazz, is profound. A selection of favourites is below:

Brian Eno and David Byrne worked with Jon Hassell for the 1981 recording My Life in the Bush of Ghosts but edited him out of the credits for that album.  This angered Hassell, but Eno acknowledged the profound influence the trumpeter had on his work and Hassell’s concept of Fourth World music, on which he wrote:

FOURTH WORLD IS A KIND OF PHILOSOPHICAL GUIDELINE, A CREATIVE POSTURE, DIRECTED TOWARDS THE CONDITIONS CREATED BY THE INTERSECTION OF TECHNOLOGY WITH INDIGENOUS MUSIC AND CULTURE. THE UNDERLYING GOAL IS TO PROVIDE A KIND OF CREATIVE MIDWIFERY TO THE INEVITABLE MERGING OF CULTURES WHILE PROVIDING AN ANTIDOTE TO A GLOBAL “MONOCULTURE” CREATED BY MEDIA COLONIZATION.

THE UNDERLYING PREMISE IS THAT EACH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ MUSIC AND CULTURE – THE RESULT OF THEIR UNIQUE RESPONSE TO THEIR UNIQUE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT – FUNCTIONS IN THE SAME WAY AS, AS AN “ELEMENT” IN THE PERIODIC TABLE OF CHEMISTRY: AS PURE BUILDING BLOCKS FROM WHICH ALL OTHER “CULTURAL COMPOUNDS” WILL ARISE.

IN OTHER WORDS, THESE CULTURES ARE OUR “VOCABULARY” IN TRYING TO THINK ABOUT WAYS TO RESPOND TO OUR PLACE IN THE NEW GEOGRAPHY CREATED BY OUR MEDIA WORLD, AND MUST BE RESPECTED RELATIVE TO THEIR IMPORTANCE TO OUR SURVIVAL.

12 June 2021: Braziliance – and more!

Brazilian music and music influenced by the country are key elements of this edition of Cosmic Jazz, but there is more too: the sounds of Trinidad and Tobago, a Kiwi in London and an essential Blue Note. More than this, there are links aplenty across the music – as indicated by the (see below) references throughout! Listen to the show by clicking on the Mixcloud button (top left or below):

  1. Sivuca – Ain’t No Sunshine from Sivuca

We begin with a track that’s ironically rather sunny, and a perennial favourite – Sivuca’s take on the Bill Withers classic Ain’t No Sunshine. The self-titled Sivuca re-release from Real Gone Music may still be available in your local record store and, if you’re lucky, in purple or forest green vinyl. The gnomish Severino Dias de Oliveira (aka Sivuca) was a Brazilian virtuoso on accordion, guitar, and keyboards but it’s his singing style that’s so engaging. This album was originally released in 1973 on the Vanguard label and reissued for the first time last year. It’s worth searching for – there’s a great version of Edu Lobo’s classic Ponteio too (and see below).

2 and 3.  Raul De Souza Generations Band – Nethinha Aura/Passarim from Plenitude

Virtuoso trombonist and composer Raul De Souza was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1934 and has had a music career spanning six decades both in Brazil and the US. In his 20s he played with the likes of Sergio Mendes, Milton Nascimento, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. After moving to Los Angeles in 1973 his collaborators included Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Jack DeJohnette, Jaco Pastorius and Herbie Hancock. He has recently been working with a group of younger musicians who bring modern sounds and fresh energy to his new album Plenitude It is an intercontinental group that includes young European musicians alongside the now 86 year old De Souza. The band originally came together in 2017 for a Hamburg jazz festival and has developed a blend of funk with traditional and contemporary Brazilian jazz. The album includes compositions by De Souza, George Duke, Chico Buarque, Airto Moreira and a take on Wayne Shorter’s Beauty and the Beast (more see below).

4.  Joe Barbieri feat. Alberto Massico  – Vedi Napoli E Poi Canta from Tratto Da Una Storia Vera   

You can hear Brazilian influences in the work of Naples-based Italian jazz singer-songwriter Joe Barbieri, whose music we like here at Cosmic Jazz. Translated into English, the album title means ‘Based On A True Story’. Barbieri has created his true story in a personal record based around  great songs that are both richly diverse and deeply intimate. With thirty years of a life as artist and musician there are plenty of stories to tell. The album was released back in April of this year and was preceded by the upbeat single Promemoria which we have already played and enjoyed on the show. Barbieri says “The truth is a treasure chest that is difficult to unlock,” but he’s certainly opened the box on this new record.

5. Da Lata – Jungle Kitten from Jungle Kitten/Asking Eyes

Da Lata (muti-instrumentalist and producer Chris Franck and DJ Patrick Forge) return with a 12in cover of the underground classic Jungle Kitten by Manfredo Fest, featuring Kaidi Tatham on synths. It’s a rare thing, but this version really does improve on the original – check that out here. Previous albums by De Lata include the excellent debut Songs from the Tin (2000) and Serious (2003). Their take on Ponteio was released by Far Out Recordings back in 1998 appearing on the excellent Brazilian Love Affair 2 compilation and the corresponding Love Affair 3 also included a De Lata take on Os Escravos de Jo (Jo’s Slaves), a Milton Nascimento/Fernando Brant composition. It’s worth remembering that Brazil was the last country in the so-called developed world to outlaw slavery (in 1888), having trafficked more than five million slaves over the centuries.  Even today, most African-Brazilians live as second-class citizens, working in service industries that perpetuate their relative poverty while their white counterparts are afforded more opportunities through education and work. It’s a dark legacy and one that is often explored in Brazilian music by artists such as Milton Nascimento and Jorge Ben. The image below shows the enslaved on a fazenda (coffee plantation) in 1885. This excellent Red Bull Music feature is a good introduction to this influence.

6. Milton Nascimento – Ponta de Areio (Epilogo) from Ultimo Trem

Speaking of Milton Nascimento, this beautiful tune is another Brazilian  classic and appears in this version on Nascimento’s Ultimo Trem – a concept album and the soundtrack to a 1981 ballet. Ultimo Trem (or Last Train) deals with the closing of a railroad line connecting the mining communities within the Minas Gerais state – where Nascimento grew up – to the coastal urban centres of Rio and São Paulo. Pianists Wagner Tiso and João Donato both appear on Minas, and vocalist Naná Caymmi is just exquisite on Ponta de Areia, named for the last stop on the train line. There are some train-whistle effects and some spoken-word narration, but really the record is a collection of gorgeous vocals and Brazilian folk melodies. Nascimento and saxophonist Wayne Shorter (see below again) collaborated on the excellent Native Dancer which includes another version of Ponta de Areia. Neil first heard (and bought) this record on its release in 1975 and it’s been a favourite on his turntable ever since. Interestingly, the normally very reliable Penguin Guide to Jazz got their review of the record completely wrong, calling it “a bland samba setting which does more to highlight Nascimento’s vague and uncommitted vocal delivery than the leader’s saxophone playing”! Don’t be influenced by this – the album is just as essential as Shorter’s Juju (see below once more).

7. Myele Manzanza – Portobello Superhero from Crisis & Opportunity Vol 1 – London

New Zealand drummer Myele Manzanza is a jazz artist who dissolves the borders between modern jazz and electronic beat production. He’s previously released three solo albums and racked up tours and collaborations with Jordan Rakei, Theo Parrish, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Recloose and Amp Fiddler amongst others. His base is now London and he’s performed at both The Jazz Café and Ronnie Scott’s. Crisis & Opportunity’ Vol.1 – London features young London based talent including Ashley Henry (piano), James Copus (trumpet), George Crowley (tenor saxophone), Benjamin Muralt (bass) with additional contributions from fellow New Zealander Mark de Clive-Lowe (synths).

8.  Anthony Joseph – Calling England Home from The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for their Lives   

Anthony Joseph is an award winning Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician. He is the author of four poetry collections and three novels including the 2018 novel Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon detailing the life and times of Lord Kitchener – calypso performer, passenger on the Empire Windrush and writer and performer of London Is the Place for Me. Joseph has released seven critically acclaimed records, including his most recent The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives, the title a quote from fellow Trinidadian C L R James’ Black Jacobins, a play about the Haitian revolution. This new 2021 record is a historical interrogation as searing as it is sentimental, in which Joseph details his own struggles along with the tribulations of those who came before him. Ambitious indeed, but the result is a cohesive, forward-looking jazz record that records both crushing oppression and real hope for change. Nowhere is this clearer than on Calling England Home, where Joseph recounts different stories of immigrants who arrived in England at different times. Each person, he says, had a difficult relationship with the idea that England was their home. The haunting instrumentation reflects this with saxophonists Jason Yarde, Colin Webster, and Shabaka Hutchings playing over the powerful rhythm section and Joseph manipulating his voice as he details the experiences of his characters – Black and been here since 1949, I’ve lived here longer than home and How long do you have to live in a place/Before you can call it ‘home’? As well as an obvious link to Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite, Joseph calls up the spirit of Gil Scott Heron on tracks like Swing Praxis and The Gift and indeed Rod Youngs, the drummer on these tracks, collaborated with Gil Scott Heron on his excellent Spirits album – the title track an interpretation of Coltrane’s Spiritual, included here in the epic live version from the Village Vanguard.

9. Anthony Joseph – Milligan (The Ocean) from People of the Sun   

It made sense to include a track from Joseph’s previous album, 2018’s People of the Sun. Joseph is now London-based, but for this record he returned to Trinidad and recorded the album with local Port of Spain musicians.  Rather than jazz, the sounds here are very much of the steelpan, alongside more R&B and soul overtones although UK saxophonist Jason Yarde also appears. Along with longtime cohorts bassist Andrew John and drummer David Bitan, the Ibis String Ensemble add a further richness to some tracks including Milligan (The Ocean) – itself a kind of magic realist poetic narrative about Milligan and a volcanic eruption. Like all of Joseph’s lyrics there’s a poetic sensibility here that bears repeated listening.

10. Jazzmeia Horn – Free Your Mind from Love & Liberation 

Jazzmeia Horn has been busy during lockdown with an online presence and it seemed time to return to her music. Besides, a tune called Free Your Mind from an record entitled Love & Liberation seemed to be an appropriate  way to follow Anthony Joseph. This album, her second, was released in 2020 and contains some original compositions, including Free Your Mind, as opposed to her first album A Social Call released in 2017 which included interpretations of classic tunes. Derek has enjoyed both albums. Horn was born in Dallas, Texas but in 2009 moved to New York, establishing a reputation there as a dynamic singer before her breakthrough as the winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. Both albums received Grammy nominations, and undoubtedly Horn is a singer to watch.

11. Alfa Mist – Run Outs from Bring Backs  

The new Alfa Mist album Bring Backs is a self-written and produced album from the UK producer and self taught pianist who has reached out from his hip-hop background to explore jazz. He has followed his own path over five years to emerge as a distinct talent from among the burgeoning London jazz scene. The album Bring Backs is his most detailed exploration of his London upbringing in musical form. Perhaps the raps, which form an important part of this story,  may not appeal to some jazz listeners but there are instrumental tunes too. Bring Backs was recorded with a core band of long-time collaborators. including Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), with Jamie Houghton on drums and Johnny Woodham on trumpet.

12. Artemis – Goddess of the Hunt from Artemis  

Artemis is a jazz supergroup with a debut Blue Note album released last year and featured on several previous Cosmic Jazz shows. Their musical director is pianist Renee Rosnes and the group includes also clarinetist Anat Cohen, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda, drummer Alison Miller and vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant. They named themselves after the Greek goddess Artemis, the daughter of Zeus and Leto, the twin sister of Apollo, the patron saint and protector of young girls and the goddess of hunting, wild nature and chastity. Their album has been a widely acclaimed, as was their performance at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival – and it’s a recommended buy on vinyl, CD or download.

13. Wayne Shorter – Juju from Juju 

Recent shows have ended with tunes that Derek has classified as ‘jazzy not jazz’ but there was no need to end the show like that this week, as much of the programme confidently veered in that direction. Artemis and Wayne Shorter put that process in reverse by ending Cosmic Jazz with tunes that are solidly jazz. The choice of Wayne Shorter was inspired by what had gone before on the show – particularly the Raul De Souza album, which includes both a short De Souza dedication To Wayne and a Wayne Shorter composition Beauty and the Beast. It was appropriate, therefore, to end the show with the man himself. Shorter’s second album for Blue Note, Juju was the first to showcase both his compositional talents and his developing personal style. Although his backing band here are Coltrane’s then rhythm section (Elvin Jones on drums, Reggie Workman on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano) this is very much Shorter’s album and a clear indication of the direction he would take, both in his work with Miles Davis and string of superlative records for Blue Note. From the African-influenced title track (with its short, hypnotic, repetitive phrases) to the mesmerising interplay between Tyner and Shorter on Mahjong, the album (which is all Shorter originals) is full of ideas that draws on the many influences that make Shorter probably the foremost composer in modern jazz. Incidentally, Shorter’s Beauty and the Beast appeared on the aforementioned Native Dancer record making a fitting end to the many links in this edition of Cosmic Jazz. More great music soon…

Derek is listening to….

28 May 2021: new on Edition Records and 50 years of What’s Going On

Welcome to a new Cosmic Jazz. This week we celebrate the range and diversity of the Edition Records label, dive into deep new jazz from Damon Locks and Jason Moran and acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the release of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, a record that should be in everyone’s collection. To listen to the show, just click on the Mixcloud tab (above left).

1.Rudd, Saft, Dunn, Pandi – Cobalt is a Divine from Strength & Power

Music this week comes from the usual diverse sources starting with Jamie Saft, the man with the longest beard in jazz. Saft is uniquely interesting: associated with John Zorn’s Tzadik Records, he could easily be seen as a serial leftfield collaborator – after all he was responsible for an anti-Semitism themed heavy metal outing called Black Shabbis. But his diversity of output is pretty remarkable – from pianist in a self-described bar band to the soloist in a John Adams opera, Saft has also recorded frequently with veteran drummer Jerry Granelli, trumpeters Wadada Leo Smith and Cuong Vu, long time friend and neighbour trombonist Roswell Rudd and released an intriguing record of Bob Dylan covers in 2006. Cobalt is a Divine (we’re not sure what that means either!) is driven by the then 80 year old trombonist and free-jazz pioneer Roswell Rudd who died a year after this recording. Having worked with free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, Rudd knew how to punctuate Saft’s glissando vamps and hammered chords, even as Dunn and Pandi clatter and crash in the background but he could also produce the kind of blues drawls that sound almost Monk-like at the beginning of Cobalt Is a Divine. For a different side to Saft pianism, listen to him in a great duo performance with veteran drummer Jerry Granelli on First Thought, Best Thought from their excellent Nowness album.

2. Daniel Herskedal – Ice- Free and Arriving at Ellis Island from Harbour

Herskedal is a tuba player from Molde in Norway, home of the famous moldejazz festival. He’s played with fellow countryman Marius Neset (another great Edition Records signing) along with a host of other Norwegian jazz artists. There’s more than jazz in Herskedal’s playing – not for nothing was his Master’s dissertation on the relationship between jazz and the sacred Sami music form of joik. There’s a classical influence there too and all this come together in his previous album for Edition, Call for Winter, for which he won a Norwegian ‘Grammy’, or Spelleman award. The album was inspired by Norway’s stunning winter landscape, and Herskedal sought inspiration before the recording by retreating to a remote area of the Southern Sami highlands, where he built a studio and then – for two weeks – spent his time skiing, composing, and recording. The result were twelve tracks that captured the cinematic ambience of the landscape through the extraordinary range Herskedal conjures up on both tuba and bass trumpet. Subtle electronic effects add yet more atmosphere. Call for Winter is a deep record deserving of an uninterrupted listen – preferably while gazing out at a snowy landscape and sitting by an open fire. The new album Harbour will be out in July 2021 and was recorded with long term collaborators pianist Eyolf Dale and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken. The track titles indicate the maritime theme at work here and there are references to the role ships and boats have played in people migration, from the immigration station at Ellis Island to the beaches of Lesbos in Greece. We’ve got two tracks for you here on Cosmic Jazz – listen and then head right here to Edition Records to pick up your copy (vinyl, CD or download).

3. Chris Potter – Sunrise & Joshua Trees from  Sunrise Reprise

We are long time fans of Chris Potter’s ever imaginative playing here on Cosmic Jazz and his new trio recording on Edition Records doesn’t disappoint. We featured a couple of tunes in our last show and include the atmospheric opening track here. It sets up the tone of the record – sparse and subtle use of electronics set against reeds, keyboards and drums. The Circuits band lineup first appeared in 2019 on Potter’s first release on Edition Records (he’d previously been signed to ECM) and the new record continues the explorations in that first self-titled album. In many ways, Potter is the heir to Michael Brecker – muscular, soulful playing that utilises the full range of the tenor horn with energy, ambition and the harmonic understanding that Coltrane shared. Like Brecker, Potter is also good at making short, pithy statements but it’s his new-found ability on a range of instruments (pace his previous solo album There Is a Tide) and the subtle use of electronics that mark him out as unique. Potter is on tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinets, flutes and sampler with James Francies on keyboards and Eric Harland on drums.

5. Doug Carn – Power and Glory from Revelation

Doug Carn’s earliest musical influences included his mother,  who was a formidable pianist and organist who had gigged with Dizzy Gillespie and knew tenor player Stanley Turrentine and organist Shirley Scott.  With his wife Jean, Carn moved to southern California in 1970 and took up residence in an apartment building that also housed Earth, Wind and Fire members and both Carns featured on the band’s first two records in 1971 before signing to the new Black Jazz label. Infant Eyes (which we featured in the last CJ) was Carn’s first release on the label, with the excellent Spirit of the New Land following in 1972.  Revelation is more obviously modal than previous albums and includes Olu Dara (rapper Nas’s father) on trumpet and Rene McLean (Jackie McLean’s son) on flute and alto sax. It was the final release by the Carns as a married couple and also included covers of Coltrane’s Naima and Rene McLean’s Jihad. More recently, Carn was recruited to the first of producer/DJ Carl Craig’s excellent Detroit Experiment records and – interestingly – appeared on trombonist Curtis Fuller’s 2005 album Savant. In 2020, Carn teamed up with producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists Adrian Young and Ali Shaheed Muhammad for one of their Jazz Is Dead releases (see below) and the result included the atmospheric Desert Rain with its hip hop triplets and Carn back on Hammond B3.

6. Damon Locks –  Black Monument Ensemble – Now (Forever Momentary) Space from NOW

Damon Locks and his Black Monument Ensemble’s new album NOW was created at the end of summer 2020, following the explosion of social unrest and street violence in the US. The music was recorded in a few takes in the garden of a Chicago studio, For Locks, the impetus was more about getting together as musicians to share their feelings: “It was about resisting the darkness. It was about expressing possibility. It was about asking the question, ‘Since the future has unfolded and taken a new and dangerous shape… what happens NOW?’” The Black Monument Ensemble was originally conceived as a medium for Chicago-based multi-media artist/activist Damon Locks’s sample-based sound collage work but it’s expanded into a collective of artists, musicians, singers, and dancers working together and this very spontaneous-sounding recording emphasises the collaborative nature of the music making. The music that results is not without its antecedents – think Phil Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Eddie Gale’s Black Rhythm Happening, Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues, and even Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and you have some points of reference. The angry yet joyous spirit that emerges is highly recommended as a listening experience.

7. Gary Bartz, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad –  Spiritual Ideation

Jazz Is Dead (JID), is a duo comprised of soundtrack composer and producer Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, formerly from the iconic hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. The two have come together to create records where they work with influential jazz musicians, giving them a contemporary sound. Previous collaborations have featured Roy Ayers, Marcos Valle, Azymuth and Doug Carn. Some of these have been innovative and worthy of attention – but for Neil, others have fallen rather flat (most notably the one with Marcos Valle which felt warmed-over rather than really hot. Spiritual Ideation doesn’t try to change too much of Bartz’s sound and consequently works rather well, with the 80 year old Bartz still sounding fresh and inventive. He’s got a long history in jazz, of course, joining the Miles Davis band in 1970 for the celebrated Cellar Door recordings and going on form his Ntu Troop, releasing the superb I’ve Known Rivers and Other Bodies, a Cosmic Jazz favourite, which includes the title track recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973.

8. Archie Shepp, Jason Moran – Wise One from Let My People Go

Saxophone elder Archie Shepp and pianist Jason Moran first met backstage at Belgium’s annual Jazz Middelheim Festival in 2015 and these live performances came from Paris’s annual Jazz à la Villette festival in 2017 and the 2018 edition of the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Mannheim, Germany. Despite the age differences, there are some close similarities: both were born in the deep South, raised up in the sound of the blues and black gospel with Shepp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Moran in Houston, Texas. Both developed an ever-expanding appreciation of pioneers like Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Thelonious Monk, but with an ear for contemporary styles too: Shepp with 1960s free jazz, and Moran with hip hop of the late ‘80s through to today. With this newly released download, we hear Shepp’s singing voice too – and on Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child it’s weighty with the song’s history and deep meaning. The same is true of Let My People Go which includes some stunning piano work from Moran. On Coltrane’s Wise One there’s a breathy, stately tone from the 84 year old Shepp while Moran provides deep rippling chords underneath. It’s intensely moving (and beautifully recorded too). For the latest from Jason Moran, check out the Neil is listening to… choices below and for Coltrane’s original, listen right here.

9.  Sault – Fearless from UNTITLED (Rise)

What is there that can be said about Sault? Very little, actually, because there’s something of a mystery around this London group. What we do know is that over the last two years, Sault’s music has arrived out of the blue: no interviews, no photos, no videos, no live appearances, no Wikipedia entry, a perfunctory and entirely non-interactive social media presence. Vocalist Michael Kiwanuka got a guest artist credit on their last album UNTITLED (Black Is) released in June 2020 and we know that proceeds from the album “will be going to charitable funds”.  UNTITLED (Rise) is not only their fourth album in 18 months, it’s their second double album in just over 12 weeks. Its predecessor was largely written and recorded in response to the murder of George Floyd, less than a month before it was released and was a remarkably diverse record. UNTITLED (Rise) is even better. The opening track Strong features beats spiked with explosions of dubby echo, an intricate mesh of Nile Rodgers-ish guitar and a terrific breakdown inspired by Brazilian batucada percussion while Fearless is supremely funky with flurries of disco strings and a dark, inspiring production that works against lyrics like “It hurts on the inside”. You can only admire this music and – yes – it’s not jazz, but it deserves inclusion in a show that has balanced anger, compassion, joy and love in equal measure.

10. Cochemea – Turkara from Vol 2 Baca Sewa

Flute and alto saxophone  player Cochemea Gastelum leads a seven-piece band that includes a  rhythm section and percussionists that are among New York’s finest. The album title Baca Sewa is Cochemea’s original family name prior to Spanish colonisation and is a semi-autobiographical dive into his family history and culture. Cochemea has played with a range of notable artists, including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Archie Shepp and Antibalas and has supported in the studio The Roots, David Byrne and Quincy Jones among others. His musical heroes include Eddie Harris, Gary Bartz and Yusef Lateef – quite a list of Cosmic Jazz favourites – but he has developed his own distinctive style rooted in family and culture. You can track this new album down here on Daptone Records – it’s released on 16 July.

11. Sean Khan feat Sabrina Malheiros – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser (All That You Could Be) from Palmares Fantasy

It is always fantastic to see musicians collaborating across generations and nations. So a former  flute and saxophone student at Goldsmith’s College, London in  the 1990s, included veteran Glasgow-born guitarist Jim Mullen on his album Palmares Fantasy – the name deriving from an escaped slaves settlement in north eastern Brazil. But the links on this record stretch much further –  the album emerged from Sean Khan’s visit to Brazil in 2016 for the British label Far Out Recordings and it was here that the music took shape. Palmares Fantasy features Brazilian muti-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal, Azymuth drummer Ivan Mamao Conti,  bassist Paulo Russo and guest vocals from Brazilian chanteuse Sabrina Malheiros – daughter of Azymuth’s bass player Alex Malheiros – along with Cinematic Orchestra frontwoman Heidi Vogel. The album was released in 2018 and is recommended. Footnote: we first played these two versions of Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser back to back on the show three years ago – time to hear them again…

12. Lo Borges – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from A Via Lactea/ Blue Brazil Vol .1

The Sean Khan version of Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser includes lovely vocals and some interesting instrumentation, and playing it gave Derek the excuse to follow up with another play for a much earlier 1979 recording of the tune. He first discovered this take on the Blue Note compilation Blue Brazil, the first of three excellent compilations issued by the label. Lo Borges is from a family of musicians in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. At the age of 19 he collaborated with Milton Nascimento on one of Neil’s all time favourite records, the album Clube da Esquina, which includes Nascimento’s haunting version of the tune. You can find out more about this milestone record here on Cosmic Jazz.

13. Marvin Gaye – Right On from What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye’s classic 1971 record What’s Going On turns 50 this month – and it remains as timely now as when first released. Gaye wove together the doo-wop harmonies and church hymns from his childhood, his outrage at the war in Vietnam, growing ecological concerns with the link between urban poverty and police violence – but still made a truly beautiful record. It’s disturbing that the subject matter remains just as relevant today (“trigger happy policing”,  “money is tighter than it’s ever been”, “what about this overcrowded land/how much more abuse from man can she stand?’) but it’s also what makes What’s Going On totally apposite for today.  So why write about this landmark recording in a jazz blog? Well, the music is suffused with jazz: whether it’s the delicate alto and tenor sax lines of Eli Fontaine or Bill Moore,  the extraordinary bass guitar improvisations of James Jamerson or the sweeping arrangements by David Van De Pitte from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, this is a unique suite of songs that blend together into a concept we need to hear again today.

Neil is listening to…

16 May 2021: favourite record labels old and new + Curtis Fuller

Welcome to the latest Cosmic Jazz. Just click the Mixcloud tab (above) to hear music from two record labels – the short-lived Black Jazz Records and a British label with an international perspective, Edition Records, now celebrating 13 years of music. We also play tribute to trombonist and veteran of many a Blue Note session, Curtis Fuller, who died this week. As if that wasn’t enough – there’s jazz from Poland and some soulful and spiritual moments.

1. Art Blakey – The High Priest from Kyoto

First up is Art Blakey and a mid-1960s incarnation of the Jazz Messengers, featuring the late Curtis Fuller on trombone. The High Priest is a Fuller composition and features some fine trombone soloing along with Wayne Shorter’s characteristic tenor sound and Freddie Hubbard’s fluent trumpet break. By this time, Lee Morgan and Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt had left the Messengers and had been replaced by Hubbard, Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman. Fuller was added to create a powerful sextet that went on to record the classic Buhaina’s Delight, Free For All and Indestructible albums, the last of which has just been reissued as part of the ongoing Blue Note 80 vinyl editions. If you can find a copy, it’s well worth getting hold of. Curtis Fuller is also featured on Blue Train – John Coltrane’s sole Blue Note recording – but he also released over twenty albums under his own leadership. Recommended are his other Blue Note and Prestige dates along with two albums recorded in the 1970s for the Mainstream label – Smokin’ (1972) and Crankin’ (1973). Here’s the title track from Crankin’ which includes the young Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums, then both starting out on their careers with Chick Corea’s Return to Forever group.

2. Yusef Lateef – Before Dawn from Before Dawn

Curtis Fuller also appears on this 1957 record from Yusef Lateef, who was even then experimenting with sounds beyond jazz. Before Dawn was recorded in April 1957 and Curtis Fuller was born in December 1934 so he was only 22 at the time. This, and the youthful-looking photo that accompanies the notes for the CD reissue, might suggest that this was an early date in his career but Fuller had, in fact, already played on sessions for the Prestige, Blue Note and Savoy record labels.  Before Dawn is an inventive tune, full of surprises and most unlike the jazz of its time. Bob Blumenthal in the CD notes  comments that “The structure is modal and the mood raga-like”, and it still stands out today as distinctive and original.  The first solo on the track is delivered by Lateef but then in comes Fuller blowing over the cacophony of backing noises. It has probably not been easy for any jazz trombone player to become a jazz superstar: it’s difficult to produce those flashy moments you can get from sax or trumpet players, and yet the trombone provides a solid, rounded sound and in the hands of someone like Curtis Fuller, an inventive one too.

3. Doug Carn – Moon Child from Infant Eyes

Two more new releases from Real Gone Music – who are working their way through the complete Black Jazz Records catalogue – were next on the show. Both tracks are from Doug Carn albums – Infant Eyes from 1971 and Revelation from 1973 – and both feature Jean Carn, Doug Carn’s then wife, on vocals. Using her five octave range, the music is powerful stuff – more spiritual than soul jazz, as evidenced by the inclusion of John Coltrane’s Welcome and Acknowledgement (from A Love Supreme). Moon Child isn’t the Pharoah Sanders tune but a Carn original and features some really excellent piano. The rest of the album includes some great Carn lyrics to versions of Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes and Bobby Hutcherson’s Little B’s Poem and – more than many Black Jazz records – Infant Eyes is full of strong performances and feels a really well structured album. There’s also includes a fiery cover of McCoy Tyner’s Passion Dance which holds up well against Tyner’s original recording on his 1967 The Real McCoy album.

4. Doug Carn – Feel Free from Revelation

Revelation appeared two years later and includes Olu Dara on trumpet and Rene McLean (Jackie McLean’s son) on flute and alto sax. More obviously modal in style – and certainly on Revelation – with some great guitar from Nathan Page and expressive vocals from Jean Carn. Perhaps now known more for being the father of celebrated rapper Nas, Dara is something of an unsung figure in New York’s loft scene in the 1970s. Playing alongside David Murray, James Blood Ulmer and Hamiet Bluiett, Dara later released just two albums under his own name in 1998 and 2001, neither of which demonstrate his jazz playing to any extent. Neil has both records and whilst they are charming in a downhome, chilled out bluesy kind of way they major on Dara’s guitar playing and vocals rather than his ‘jazz’ instrument, the cornet. For a taste of the tone of these two records, try Young Mama from In The World: From Natchez to Mississippi, his first solo album, but for the jazz Dara go for David Murray’s masterpiece Ming and the lovely title track on which Dara plays trumpet while Butch Morris is on cornet and George Lewis on trombone. Carn dips again into McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy album for the lovely Contemplation, which features some impassioned vocals from Jean Carn. It’s worth saying again that these two records are among the best of the twenty releases on the Black Jazz label. Both are likely to sell out soon and – of course – vinyl is the way to hear them.

5. Chris Potter – Southbound and The Peanut from Sunrise Reprise

Now signed to UK label Edition Records, saxophonist Chris Potter has an upcoming new trio release, Sunrise Reprise, that showcases his work on saxes and the synth samples he’s used in his solo lockdown record, There Is a Tide. Potter is just 50 but has already released over 20 albums as leader and guested on numerous others, most notably with Dave Holland, Pat Metheny and the late Paul Motian. Sunrise Reprise sees the return of his new Circuits trio with James Francies on keyboards and Eric Harland on drums. In Sept 2020, a small window emerged from the Covid-19 restrictions and Potter took the opportunity to record with his trio. As Potter explained, “All of a sudden we’re in the studio. It felt such a release, a sense of freedom to create and to express ourselves collectively. It’s this, that has been the central part of this album – it’s about the trio, our shared energy, reflecting our own thoughts and feelings from all that’s going on in the world. Eric, James, and I really needed to PLAY, to try to put into music all the intense feelings of the previous few months. The close bond we had developed playing this music together on the road led to what we felt as a cathartic musical experience in the studio, documented in one very special evening”.

7. Gretchen Parlato – E Preciso Perdoar from Flor

Also on Edition Records is singer Gretchen Parlato with a Brazilian-infused album that sees her return to recording after some years away with her family.  Back in 2011 we were championing Parlato and her trio of albums for the New York-based ObliqSound label. In A Dream (2009) featured her take on Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly – a tune we played several times on Cosmic Jazz. The tune was also featured in a beautifully restrained version on the superbly recorded Live in NYC album where Parlato’s breathy vocals accompanied sensitive arrangements and some fine playing from a band that included husband Mark Guiliana on drums and Taylor Eigsti on piano. The new album is Flor and it’s an altogether lighter, more restrained recording with an introspective approach that reflects an interest in children’s songs, including the affecting Wonderful. In a recent interview with Jazzwise, Parlato commented on  the “sense of nostalgia in choosing Brazilian music as the theme because it’s something that represents an early love as a teenager, something I’ve always loved but never really paid respect to in a full album.” In the best possible way, it’s a charming record and no track is more so than her superb cover of the Alcivando Luz tune E Preciso Perdoar. This is surely one of the most beautiful songs in any language and works in whatever arrangement – even this bass heavy take from the Red Hot and Rio album with Cesaria Evoria, Caetano Veloso and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

8. Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto – E Preciso Perdoar from The Best  Of Two Worlds

Of course, for the real thing we had to include the definitive take from Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto on their essential Best of Two Worlds album. In Neil’s view, this is simply a must-have Brazilian album. Recorded in 1976, it’s something of a reunion with Gilberto and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim – but it’s actually more than that. The band is to die for – drummer Billy Hart, percussionist Airto Moreira, bass player Steve Swallow and pianist Albert Dailey. Vocalist Heloisa Maria Buarque de Hollanda (also known as Miucha and mother of Bebel Gilberto) is the Astrud Gilberto voice – but much better. Aguas de Marco is superb, but so is everything else. Here it is – just listen to that poetry and Getz’s concluding solo!

9. Bheki Mseleku – Cosmic Dance from Beyond The Stars

The late Bheki Mseleku was something of a phenomenon. An entirely self-taught pianist, saxophonist, guitarist and composer who grew up in Johannesburg, Mseleku moved to London in the late 1970s where in 1987 – and cradling a tenor saxophone at his piano stool – he made his debut at Ronnie Scott’s club. His 1991 album Celebration was nominated for  Mercury Music Prize (but, of course, it didn’t win). Meditations and Timelessness appeared on major label Verve in subsequent years but by 2008 Mseleku was dead from diabetes at just 53. Now comes a newly-discovered solo piano recording, overseen by long time friend and supporter Eugene Skeef who had helped Mseleku return to London in 2003. Beyond The Stars is the result: a solo piano suite which condenses Mseleku’s vision of the diversity of South African musical forms into a statement in six parts. There are references to Mseleku’s Zulu heritage and the song forms of marabi, amahubo, maskanda and nguni create a kind of musical summary of his life.

10. Leszek Kulakowski Project – Cul-de-Sac from Komeda Variations

Komeda Variations is, of course, a tribute to the work of Krzysztof Komeda, surely Poland’s most celebrated jazz composer. Komeda wrote the scores forRoman Polanski’s films Knife in the Water (1962), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and the tune we featured in this show, Cul de Sac (1966). Komeda found success with his quartet, which included the great Tomasz Stanko on trumpet, and – until his move to Los Angeles – they would perform at the celebrated Golden Circle club in Stockholm to great acclaim. Tragically, Komeda was to suffer a brain haematoma and died in 1969. The Komeda Variations is a live concert recording by veteran Polish pianist, composer and bandleader Leszek Kulakowski quartet with Kulakowski on piano, bassist Adam Kowalewski and drummer Tomasz Sowinski, and three trumpeters – Piotr Wojtasik (another good friend of Cosmic Jazz), Tomasz Dabrowski and German Christoph Titz, playing with the Sinfonia Baltica Philharmonic Orchestra. There’s a great balance between orchestra and quartet and Kulakowski’s piano solos are full of delicate touches and inventive twists.

11. Quindependence – Road to the Promised Land from Circumstances

The Polish group Quindependence return for a second week on the show, prompted by a comment from Neil as to how good that first track is on the album really is. Released in 2017, Circumstances would appear to be their only record. Much has been made of the so-called melancholy in Polish Jazz. There is none of that here. There is a sound that feels bigger than the quintet format and there are hints of soul and gospel-tinged touches which add a warmth  and embracing feel to the music. Of course, Polish jazz does not affect just one style or tradition – there is a wealth of variety here and, coupled with what appears to be an unending profusion of new artists on the scene, there is always something new to listen to. Not sure where to start? Explore more great European jazz via the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

12. Cannonball Adderley – Fun in the Church from Soul of the Bible/Walk Tall: the David Axelrod Years

The soul and gospel hints in the Quindependence tune suggested to Derek that the music of Cannonball Adderley would be an excellent follow-up. For anyone in the early stages of discovering jazz,  the uplifting and accessible music of alto saxophonist Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley would be an inspiration to keep on digging. Apparently, he was given the name ‘Cannonball’ at  high school because of his voracious appetite. Whatever the truth of this, Adderley’s music always had great power. No Jackie McLean acidity or David Sanborn leanness appears in his tone on alto – it’s always rich and warm, and nowhere can you hear the contrast more easily than on the iconic Kind of Blue album where he paired with John Coltrane. Adderley had joined the group two years before the recording so he was well settled in – and you hear this on his first solo on So What. It couldn’t be more different than Coltrane’s – listen to them both here. By the 1960s Adderley had his own quintet with younger brother Nat on trumpet. Many outstanding jazz musicians were to pass through the ranks of his line-ups, including the aforementioned Yusef Lateef and Adderley’s always populist (in a good way) joyous approach endeared him to live audiences. His music straddled categorisation – there’s soul jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, gospel, bossa nova and more in an extensive discography recorded both live and in the studio. We’d recommend starting with Somethin’ Else which is really a Miles Davis record with Adderley’s name on the front. The music here doesn’t put a foot wrong: Autumn Leaves is definitive with its wonderful blues-soaked Adderley solo, but everything else, including a take on Love for Sale, is cliche-free and Art Blakey on drums and Sam Jones on bass keep it swinging throughout.  Fun in the Church actually comes from one of our Cosmic Jazz favourites – the underrated Soul of the Bible album from 1972, credited to brother Nat Adderley. This album may have its detractors but for us it truly is music for the soul and music for the dancing feet. The excellent 2CD compilation Walk Tall: the David Axelrod Years includes this and other tracks from Soul of the Bible, along with tracks from later Adderley records like Accent on Africa, Why Am I Treated So Bad and Black Messiah. Highly recommended.

13. Terry Callier – Love Theme From Spartacus (4Hero Main Mix) from Love Theme From Spartacus EP

Derek has been ending the show with tunes that stretch beyond the boundaries of what might be termed jazz. Last week the show featured Callier on a tune that acknowledged the influence of John Coltrane. This week’s choice is taken from a 12in EP of remixes and can’t be called jazz, but 4Hero’s work here has its own deep qualities. It’s difficult to believe that this beautiful, gentle mix was recorded almost twenty years ago, but the work of Londoners Marc Mac and Dego has stood the test of time. Their full length records are worth exploring too, starting with the sprawling two disc set Two Pages, from 1998. The first disc is the jazzier side of their work – try the orchestral sweeps of Planetaria, complemented by Luke Parkhouse’s live drum and bass kitwork. For more Terry Callier check out another twist on Spartacus, here with UK guitarist Jim Mullen and recorded live at the Bratislava Jazz Festival. It’s a fine performance of the Spartacus Love Theme mixed with What About Me (You Gonna Do About Me), and reminds us just what a fine singer Terry Callier was.

Derek is listening to…

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio