Jazz musicians for a Black Renaissance – 19/07/2024

Every tune for this show includes a musician/musicians who jammed together in New York in 1976 on what was to become Martin Luther King Day. They produced music for Black Renaissance – but indeed all the selections for this show speak of Black renaissance and empowerment.

1. Roy Ayers Ubiquity – We Live in Brooklyn Baby from He’s Coming/Roy Ayers – a Shining Symbol

This show is based around a one-off group formed by piano/keyboard player, producer, arranger and composer Harry Whitaker. One of the people he composed for was vibes player Roy Ayers and We Live in Brooklyn Baby is a popular Roy Ayers Ubiquity classic, composed by Harry Whitaker and on which he played keyboards. The line-up also included the jazz great Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham on percussion and it was recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder studios with the man himself as studio engineer. The tune  raises the question of who lives in Brooklyn – and the answer is We Live in Brooklyn Baby and in case of any doubt But we’re gonna make it, baby and what is more Our time is now – clearly a statement of  community rights, Afrocentricity and Black empowerment are themes that run through this first tunes and the work of all the musicians featured in this Cosmic Jazz show. On top of that this is just a great, hummable tune.

2. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind & Spirit

Harry Whitaker probably made his most significant earnings working closely with Roberta Flack as her musical director. But on what was to become Martin Luther King Day – 15 January, 1976 – at Sound Ideas Studio in New York City the 26-year-old Whitaker was responsible for a highly significant and original jazz recording of two long tunes, both written by him.  This was to become the only album of Black Renaissance. The evidence suggests that, unlike work with Roberta Flack, it brought him little in earnings – but what a legacy. A copy of the master tapes were later sent to Japanese jazz label Baystate who privately pressed the album without a deal ever being signed. Whitaker received no royalties and the tapes were seemingly lost until they were found when the house of a friend of Whitaker’s was burned down years later – with the tapes being rescued from the fire. Those Baystate Japanese pressings are near impossible to find, but luckily the album was finally reissued with Whitaker’s approval on the Luv N’ Haight label ‎in 2002.  It is an improvised masterpiece that opens with swirls from Whitaker’s piano and builds and builds through to quote the liner notes: Afrocentric spiritual soul, jazz poetry, a tasty bass line or two and more than a fair share of funky beats. Whitaker himself has recalled the atmosphere of the session: The studio was packed, it was like a party celebration or a gathering. It was full of people who appreciated music and that helped the energy and the vibe, we were able to bounce ideas off the crowd. There are solos, poetry and even rapping on it, all of it improvised. They say the first rap records came out in 1976, maybe mine was one of the first?  And the record is indeed one of the very first record to combine jazz and rap, Recorded in one take, you feel the spontaneity and energy, especially as the studio was packed with invited friends and industry people, including Roberta Flack and a current and past partner reciting poetry. It all helped to generate a party vibe. As for the musicians who joined Whitaker – what a line-up! Woody Shaw on trumpet, Azar Lawrence tenor and soprano sax, David Schnitter on tenor, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Hart on drums and percussion, and Mtume and Earl Bennett on percussion. Derek and Neil both think that this tune is up there with the very best – and so did Gilles Peterson in the sleeve notes – and because of this (and because it still needs to be heard much more widely), Derek has resolved to play it once a year on Cosmic Jazz.

3.  Azar Lawrence –  Lost Tribes of Lemuria from The Seeker 

Every selection in the show has been chosen because it includes at least one musician who played on Black Renaissance. Tenor and soprano saxophone player Azar Lawrence is next. Born in Los Angeles, Lawrence soon met drummer Elvin Jones who persuaded him to head to New York. Like Harry Whitaker, Lawrence’s career has combined jazz and soul projects. He too worked with Roberta Flack as well as Earth Wind and Fire, Ike and Tina Turner and Charles Wright. He has also an impressive CV of work for more great jazz musicians including McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard This 2011 tune, though, is from a group that Azar Lawrence put together himself many years after Black Renaissance. A live recording from Jazz Standard in New York City. it features Lawrence with an opening solo, followed by pianist Benito Gonzales before  trumpeter Nicholas Payton joins in with a fiery solo. There is a full-on sound when the brass combines with Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts on drums and Essiet Oken Essiet on bass. This album is a CJ recommendation – as is the very recent vinyl release of Lawrence’s People Moving album on the Real Gone Music label.

4. Eddie Harris – Free Speech from Free Speech/The Eddie Harris Anthology

Billy Hart, the drummer on Black Renaissance, is behind the kit here too – and credited as a co-writer for Free Speech, originally released on the 1970 Eddie Harris album of the same name. It is a number free of sound and spirit, in many ways most unlike the music often associated with Eddie Harris who here, though usually associated with the sax, provides a sparkling trumpet solo. Billy Hart, now 84 years old, was born in Washington D.C. but – like many jazz artists – moved to New York. His career has taken him not only into performance but also as an educator at Conservatory and University level as well as in a private capacity. Lik eLawrence, his music has covered soul and jazz, working with impressive names from across these areas. They range from Sam and Dave and Otis Redding to McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul. Stan Getz and Herbie Hancock.

5. McCoy Tyner – La Cubana from Sama Layuca

The name of the great pianist McCoy Tyner has come up more than once as a musician associated with players from Black Renaissance. It is appropriate, therefore, that we end the show with the Tyner number La Cubana from his superb 1974 Milestone album Sama Layuca. This tune and the album includes no less than four members of Black Renaissance: Azar Lawrence on tenor and soprano, Buster Williams on bass, Mtume on conga drums and percussion and Billy Hart on drums. This tune is pure fire. It is an extended workout of improvisatory music based on African and Cuban roots, with mesmerising and super fast piano from Tyner, with the same description going for the vibraphone of Bobby Hutcherson, positive sax playing from Azar Lawrence and heavy bass and percussive workouts underpinning and driving the tune along. Wow! What a way to end any show and a fitting link to Black Renaissance.

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

#deep jazz, #vocal jazz and #jazz on vinyl – 03/07/2024

New music galore on this show: check out more from Kamasi Washington’s latest, UK drummer Jake Long’s new EP, brand new reissues from Louis Moholo-Moholo and Ernest Ranglin and a stunning reworking of a tune by DJ Yellowtail (aka Hiro Awanohara) and vocalist Mark Murphy (below) that’s now out on vinyl.

1. Kamasi Washington – The Garden Path from Fearless Movement

Here at Cosmic Jazz we’re not quite as taken with the long awaited new release from Kamasi Washington as with his previous records, but Neil is really enjoying this track. The Garden Path has all the familiar Washington hallmarks – strings, a choir and multiple percussionists – but Brandon Coleman’s organ neatly squares up to Dontae Winslow’s trumpet on this one and the result is a genuine groove. The tune has also got one of the best melodies on the album – and it works best when the melody comes back together after some soaring solo work from Coleman and Winslow. This is Washington at his best and we’ll keep exploring this new record for more Cosmic Jazz grooves.

2. Jake Long – Ideological Rubble from City Swamp

Drummer, composer and producer Jake Long has been part of the Cosmic Jazz landscape for a few years now – mostly as the leader of Maisha who debuted with There Is a Place on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. There are links to other recent projects though, including the London Brew record we featured on its release last year. Both take their jumping-off points from Miles Davis’ electric bands of the 1970s – and indeed the bass groove you hear on Ideological Rubble is a close cousin of the one that locks in It’s About That Time from In a Silent Way. For comparison have a listen to this version from Miles’ live date at Tanglewood in 1970. Both these more recent albums were created using extended studio jams followed by radical cut-up and reconstruction surgery – the very process pioneered by Davis’ famed producer Teo Macero. Present on City Swamp are tenor saxophonist and flautist Nubya Garcia, guitarist Shirley Tetteh, keyboardist Amané Suganami, bassist Twn Dylan and percussionist Tim Doyle. There are also appearances by Binker Golding and Tamar Osborn – so it’s an allstar contemporary BritJazz cast! Neil loves this new EP and so it’s highly recommended.

3. Sacha Berliner –  Jade from Onyx

This one is new to us although it was actually released in 2022. After an impressive debut album, Azalea (2019), in-demand vibraphonist Sasha Berliner presented the follow up Onyx which finds the San Francisco-born composer being produced by Jimmy Fallon and The Roots producer Steven Mandel to create a really impressive album that has a pretty much all-star cast: Marcus Gilmore on drums, Burniss Travis II on upright and electric bass and James Francies on piano and Fender Rhodes. Special guests include Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone, Julius Rodriguez on analog synths and vocalist Thana Alexa. The album is complex, mature and a delight from beginning to end. Our choice, Jade, just burns!

4. Phil Bancroft Quartet – Golden Section from Headlong

More from Phil Bancroft who we featured on CJ in May in a duo with tabla player Gyan Singh. His quartet is surprisingly starry – Mike Walker (from The Impossible Gentlemen) on guitar, Reid Anderson (from The Bad Plus) on bass and Thomas Strønen (who has featured on a number of superb ECM records) on drums. But when you hear the quality of Bancroft’s tenor sax playing it’s, of course, not surprising at all. Headlong was originally released on the Scottish jazz label Caber, and had been unavailable for a while now. Its re-release on Bancroft’s own label Myriad Streams is very welcome because this (and the duo album with Singh) is ambitious and confident quartet music. There’s a lot of freedom in places (like the track Double Trouble but the album opener Golden Section is a real clue to the controlled improvisatory strength of these excellent musicians. You can find both this album and the duo release Birth & Death here on Myriad Streams.

5. Zara McFarlane – Inner City Blues from Sweet Whispers

This new release from Zara McFarlane is a real surprise. Sweet Whispers is a dedication to the divine Miss Sarah Vaughan but, of course, McFarlane isn’t in the same league as Vaughan when it comes to vocals. But that’s not the point of this really good new record. Here it’s all about the arrangements and the way they reinterpret each of the chosen songs. Much of this is thanks to producer, clarinettist and saxman, Giacomo Smith who delivers some really stunning arrangements of both familiar and less well known songs from the Vaughan canon. Alongside him are Joe Webb on piano, Ferg Ireland on double bass, Jas Kayser on drums, Marlon Hibbert on steel pan and Gabriella Swallow on cello. And, yes, Sarah Vaughan really did sing Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues – you can find it on her Mainstream label release A Time in My Life from 1972. Have a listen to her take on this essential tune – it’s rather good.

6. Louis Moholo-Moholo – Joyful Noises from Viva-La-Black

This is exciting news: it looks like there’s going to be a reissue programme of releases from the much-loved UK label Ogun Records, home to many emigre South African musicians in London from the 60s to the end of apartheid. The label celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and we should expect some celebratory gigs, reissues and maybe even a movie about this important aspect of the British jazz scene. Thanks to Mike from Ogun for this info – and expect more in coming months. Drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo played on so many records from the South African and Black London diaspora, upholding the legacy of his SA Blue Notes group. On this 1978 record, he introduced young talent into his groups including jazz warrior Steve Williamson (a full two years before the release of his breakthrough album A Waltz For Grace), the dynamic trumpet and flugelhorn talent of Cape Town’s Claude Deppa and from Durban and the Netherlands the underrated tenor player Sean Bergin. Add into this mix the bass work of newly-arrived-in-London Italian Roberto Bellatalla and another exiled South African, Thebe Lipere on percussion.  This set is now issued on CD for the first time and it’s a treat to listen to. Another recommendation from Cosmic Jazz.

7. Ernest Ranglin – In The Rain from Be What You Want To B

This great music has been reissued for the first time on the Emotional Rescue label and is a meeting of the legendary Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin with fellow Jamaican King Sporty (aka Noel Williams) who had moved to Miami in the 1970s and become deeply involved in producing for Miami’s booming disco boogie scene. The result was this highly sought after 6 track EP. Ranglin has been closely involved with the development of Jamaican music from the days of mento through to ska and into the growth of reggae, playing on early recordings like My Boy Lollipop and working with the Skatalies, Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley. He moved to Florida in 1982, and teamed up with Williams to create this superb EP, featuring a roll call of musicians integral to the Miami scene – Bobby Caldwell, Timmy Thomas, Betty Wright and Williams himself. The music includes this superb take on the Dramatics’ soul classic, In The Rain from 1972 – you can listen to the original right here (complete with rain sound effects!).

8. Bobbyy – I Was At The Fence (feat. Rachel Lime) from Buckets

Ok, so this isn’t what we’d call jazz – but it is a great bit of music from a newly released album by a musician we have featured many times here on Cosmic Jazz. Bobbyy (yes, there are two ‘y’s) is part of the acclaimed US West Coast experimental jazz collective High Pulp, as well as the duo sunking, 2024 sees him stepping out as a solo artist. His debut album Buckets incorporates elements of Chicago House a la Larry Heard, alongside raw, sample-based production reminiscent of Madlib or Daedelus. A first single I Was At The Fence shows that Bobbyy can do  R&B too, and includes a hushed vocal by Rachel Lime.

9. Yellowtail feat. Mark Murphy – Seasons In My Mind (Emanative rework feat. Jessica Lauren) from 

Now, this new 12in single (or really EP) from Milan’s Right Tempo label is a delight from start to finish. A version of this tune first appeared on the label’s compilation album The Congregation – Jazz  Alliance International with Mark Murphy on vocals in an ‘unreleased’ Patchworks remix. You can still find that here on Bandcamp and thankfully this version of the tune is also included along with six others in a limited edition 12in EP that emerged a few months ago. It’s also on Bandcamp right here. Neil’s favourite version features Jessica Lauren and emanative playing live over some brilliant beats but (unusually) all versions here are just great. Highly recommended and a great way to end the show.
Neil is listening to…

From the contemplative to the avant-garde to jazz funk – 14/06/24

Cosmic Jazz this time begins with tunes of contemplative beauty and then moves through the gears. Along the way there are nods to the avant-garde, ending with funky tunes involving the late David Sanborn.

1.  Charles Lloyd – The Water is Rising from The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

We begin the show with deep, contemplative music from saxophonist Charles Lloyd, with a wonderful line-up of Jason Moran on piano, Larry Grenadier on double bass and Brian Blade on drums. This comes from the recently released Blue Note album The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow. Excellent and highly recommended it is too, like so much of Charles Lloyd’s work which spans a long period – he’s now 86 years old. His first album as leader was released in 1964, when he was also playing with Cannonball Adderley. The list of jazz greats that he has played alongside is endless, but also in the 1970s he worked outside jazz with The Beach Boys and The Doors. He returned to jazz and today he is still playing and touring. His music is something very special and this tune adds to the substantial list of Charles Lloyd music that we have rightly played on Cosmic Jazz.

2. Frank Morgan – Lullaby from A Lovesome Thing

We stay in the realms of the becalmed and the beautiful with alto and soprano saxophonist Frank Morgan. The tune Lullaby is warm and tender and brings a fitting closure to the album A Lovesome Thing. The tune was written by and features pianist George Cables, a name always worth looking out for and the album – released in 1991 – included guest appearances from Roy Hargrove and Abbey Lincoln (although not on this track). Frank Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933 and was inspired by hearing and meeting Charlie Parker. He spent from 1947-1955 in Los Angeles, but from 1955-1985 was in and out of prison, returning to performing and recording in 1985 until his death in 2007. In September 1986 he played at the Monterey Jazz Festival and in December of that year made his first New York appearance at the Village Vanguard. After his death, the author Michael Connelly produced a film Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story, see here for details.

3. Sarah Vaughan – The Mystery Of Man from One World; One Peace/Gilles Peterson Worldwide Vol. II

In the last programme Neil played a new recording of the tune The Mystery of Man by Zara McFarlane. In this show we go back to the original recording by Sarah Vaughan. Quite an orchestral and religious sounding piece it is too, but mixed with a touch of Hollywood and with a dramatic ending – but don’t let this put you off! The religious element is no surprise as it comes from an album where Gene Lees, a Canadian music critic, biographer, lyricist and journalist was commissioned to translate the philosophical poems of Pope John II and set them to music. Sarah Vaughan sang with the backing of a large orchestra and chorus conducted by the great Lalo Schifrin. The reviews of the record were not altogether positive but this tune is a standout.

4. Ambrose Akinmusire – Reset (Quiet Victories & Celebrated Defeats) from On The Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment

We move into the avant-garde phase of the show. There is also a link to the previous Cosmic Jazz show because this recording is on Blue Note Records and was considered for inclusion for out previous label special. The Blue Note albums of Ambrose Akinmusire probably qualified among the longest of album and track titles as exemplified by this tune and the 2020 album it comes from. Perhaps this reflects the complexity of the music. It is certainly, deep, intense and at times heavy music. Akinmusire’s trumpet dominates throughout with a clarion clarity that arrests you into a motionless, contemplative sense of peace and calm and something beautiful. Yet somehow, this is combined with a sense of something powerful and even challenging. The whole record evokes these emotions, a recording of beauty a recording of the deepest intelligence.

5. Mary Halvorson – Ultramarine from Cloudward

We keep it avant-garde with a tune from the latest album Cloudward from guitarist Mary Halvorson and her Amaryllis Sextet. This is serious music, not easy listening, but music with plenty of interesting things going on. Derek saw the group live in Amsterdam where they were performing some of the music on this album pre-release. It was an intense and powerful experience. Six top-rate musicians, with leader Halvorson sat down in the middle saying nothing until the end of the third tune and keeping everything else that was spoken to the minimum necessary. On this tune Ultramarine the reverberating bass of Nick Dunston opens things up, strokes from Mary Halvorson’s guitar join in, then comes the vibraphone of Patricia Brennan gaining in pace and complexity as it goes along followed by a strident, lengthy lead on the trumpet by Adam O’Farrill (from the famous Cuban/Nuyorican musical family). From there, the interweaving of trumpet, vibraphone and guitar takes us through to the end.

6. The Detroit Experiment – Space Odyssey from Gilles Peterson Worldwide Vol. III/The Way We Make Music

We enter the next phase of the programme which takes us across some musical boundaries but with jazz musicians and a jazz sensibility at the heart of things. Derek has only recently found this tune Space Odyssey by The Detroit Experiment and heard it first played as a wedding ceremony was due to begin; it was a good choice for such an occasion. The Detroit Experiment, not surprisingly, featured artists from that city, artists with a range of musical experiences but all had underlying feel for and love of jazz; some were jazz musicians. The original release date was 2003 and this is a version of the 1974 tune Space Odyssey by trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who plays on and is featured in this version. The record was put together by record producer and DJ Carl Craig, and among the artists who made an appearance on the Detroit Experiment album were Regina Carter, Bennie Maupin, Francisco Mora Catlett, Geri Allen and Amp Fiddler.

7. Two Banks Of Four – One Day from Three Street Worlds

Derek is sure he is not alone in having the experience where you hear a tune, you recognise it, like it and even hum along but do not know what it is or where it comes from. This was his experience recently when delving through his shelves and playing One Day from British band Two Banks of Four. The music is very much in the realms of early 21st Century UK urban, jazzy, electronic club culture. Two Banks of Four, taking its name from a football team formation of the time, came from two producers Robert Gallagher a.k.a. Earl Zinger and Dilip Harris a.k.a. Demus and they drew upon a fluid group of musicians, ranging on the album Three Street Worlds from which this track is taken from solo bass on one track to one with a total of nine musicians. One Day features seven with the bass of Andy Hamill featuring prominently, a lead from sax player Chris Bowden towards the end and vocals from Valerie Etienne.

8. The Brecker Brothers – Sneakin’ Up Behind You from East River

The final section of the show gets decidedly funkier and more up-tempo. The Brecker Brothers were the late Michael Brecker on saxophone and trumpet player Randy Brecker. They were born in Philadelphia but moved to New York where they became distinguished jazz musicians, with Michael seen as an important figure in developing the legacy of John Coltrane, Randy became part of the Horace Silver Quartet and both joined up with Billy Cobham and did session work. Each has made important contributions to jazz but from 1974 to 1982 they ran the Brecker Brothers band – a mix of jazz and sophisticated funk. Sneaking Up Behind You, the first single release from the band, was a dancefloor favourite and even a top 40 hit in the UK. It is brass heavy, not only from the Breckers, but also with the inclusion of the late sax player David Sanborn who is co-credited as one of the composers of the tune. He died on 12 May, 2014.

9.    David Sanborn – Bang Bang (mardi gras dance mix) from 12″ single

The programme ends with a bang – well a tune called Bang Bang – to add to our celebration of the work from alto saxophonist David Sanborn. This is the 1992 Mardi Gras Dance 12” mix produced by bass player Marcus Miller, with whom David Sanborn worked extensively. Sanborn included the tune on his 1992 album Upfront but the number was written by Latin artists Jaime Sabater and Joe Cuba and released by the Joe Cuba Sextet in 1966. This illustrates how David Sanborn worked across musical boundaries and this included 1960s/70s rhythm and blues and sessions for, and touring with, pop artists. Sanborn was one of the more commercially successful jazz artists but was (wrongly) accused of promoting dull, unchallenging smooth jazz. In fact, Sanborn was one of the most distinctive alto sax players of the last fifty years and was equally at home in free jazz settings as the more commercial end of the jazz spectrum. Indeed, he studied free jazz in his youth with Julian Hemphill and Roscoe Mitchell and collaborated, with among others, Bobby Hutcherson, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette. This is a joyful way to end the show and to remember this great alto saxophonist.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

 

#new jazz; #European jazz – 31/05/2024

This Cosmic Jazz is all about new music – new releases from the wide world of jazz. We begin with two of the most anticipated new albums from tenor saxophonists Kamasi Washington and Shabaka – now relinquishing his tenor horn for a range of flutes – and add in music from Scotland, Poland, Russia and Sweden.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Dream State from Fearless Movement

Washington is the man who gave us a 3CD/LP for his debut and then followed it with a double CD with a secret bonus album. Fearless Movement is his third outing – and immediately feels a little more scaled back. Ostensibly more dance orientated, the album features a Zapp funk cover and an appearance from Funkadelic and Parliament’s George Clinton. But much of the music on the new record retains the grand gestures, thunderous climaxes and musical drama of his previous albums. There are guest vocalists aplenty but, at its best, it’s all about sheer excitement throughout. We think the album gets stronger in the second half with the extended Road to Self (KO) and The Garden Path but we’ve gone for Dream State which features André 3000 on flutes…

2. Shabaka – I’ll Do Whatever You Want from Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace

… and which links directly to this new album from Shabaka (now first name only). Shabaka Hutching has been associated with the tenor saxophone since his earliest days in jazz but a surprise  announcement in January 2023 revealed that he would be taking an indefinite hiatus from the tenor and focusing on a range of different flutes. The reason for this volte face was explored in an excellent extended interview with Tidal in 2022 focusing on the release of his Afrikan Culture EP. Shabaka explained that he wanted to create energy without tension noting that The way that a lot of jazz is created, on a technical level, comes from tension. That tension is even in the way that people stand. When you think of the iconography around jazz, you think of someone tensing their body into a shape and then applying more energy to battle the tension that their body’s going through. During a visit to Japan in 2019, Shabaka bought a traditional shakuhachi flute and saw that with the shakuhachi flute, you can’t do that. The instrument doesn’t resonate if your body’s tense. So it’s been a journey of learning how to relax and create enough energy to make that wood vibrate. This really does characterise the new album – Shabaka hasn’t just swapped one signature instrument for another but instead has remade his music from the ground up. We highly recommend this album – it’s a real exploration of a new approach in jazz. And the André 300 link? Well, the former partner with Big Boi in the celebrated Atlanta hip hop duo Outkast also features on I’ll Do Whatever You Want alongside DJ and electronic musician Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) – himself last seen with the late Pharoah Sanders on their 2021 collaboration Promises.

3. Organic Pulse Ensemble – For All the Other Places from A Thousand Hands

Released last year on the Spanish Two Headed Deer label, this fusion of free and spiritual-style jazz comes out of Sweden and is the project of multi-instrumentalist Gustav Horneij. It’s a blend of spiritual and meditative modal jazz grooves, layered percussion, saxophone and flute solos, with pulsing bass lines and (sometimes) an Eastern influence.  Horneij – who is also half of the  jazz-funk duo project Duoya with Dimitrios Karatzios – performs all the music on the session.  Perhaps that’s the illusion of a thousand hands – but, whatever, it’s presented in such an organic way that it’s hard to believe all the composition and performance come from a single artist. Information on Horneij is limited, so it’s thanks to TJ Gorton of BeatCaffeine for this one.

4. Village of the Sun – Ceska from First Light

This late 2022 release may have passed Neil by on release earlier this year, but this is a terrific album from two familiar names – Binker Golding and Moses Boyd who this time pair up with Simon Ratcliffe, one half of 1990s dance music dons Basement Jaxx, Now if Basement Jaxx was in-your-face dance electronica, this is a lot more subtle. The synths create a warm blanket that never dominate the music – this is very much a Binker and Moses record with traces of Alice Coltrane mixed in with some Afro-cuban rhythms that really broaden the scope of the music. Ratcliffe is also responsible for the lovely clattery drums and percussion that add so much to our choice, the first track Ceska. Do check this one out if you can – available on vinyl and CD from your local record store or here on Bandcamp.

5. EABS – Boratka from Reflections of Purple Sun

2023 was a breakthrough year for EABS in many ways. The album In Search of a Better Tomorrow, recorded in collaboration with the Pakistani band Jaubi, provided an opportunity to tour in Europe and China and receive several Best of the Year nominations. Now comes their sixth album released in May 20024, and it’s very much a return to their Polish roots, being a tribute to Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko who released his Purple Sun album back in 1973. Stańko’s original record relies heavily on rhythm, (check out the title track here) and the EABS version is indeed a reflection of Stańko’s superb record. Remarkably, Reflections… was recorded 50 years later in what was Stańko’s apartment in Warsaw – complete with the original piano that Stańko had played. Trumpeter Jakub Kurek even used one of Stańko’s own trumpets for the recording.

6. Svetlana Marinchenko – Berlin Moment from Between the Times

Svetlana Marinchenko is a Russian pianist based in Berlin who shares something of that cinematic approach not dissimilar to EST or Tord Gustavsen – both of whom have featured on Cosmic Jazz in previous shows. Between the Times is her second album and was recorded last year, with Niklas Lukassen on bass and Tobias Backhaus on drums – good examples of the strong musicianship that runs through the current Berlin scene. And it’s a big thanks to promoter Rob Adams for steering us in this very productive direction – we’ll be investigating more of this exciting scene in upcoming shows.

7. Zara McFarlane – The Mystery of Man from Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan

This is a really interesting change of direction for singer Zara McFarlane, who we’ve previously championed on CJ. It’s thanks to Julie Allison at R!otsquad Publicity for this one – and it turns out to be a treat. Sweet Whispers is more than a run-through of some of Vaughan’s most popular songs. Through a thoughtfully chosen selection of songs – in collaboration with producer, clarinettist and saxman, Giacomo Smith – McFarlane journeys through the musical life of Sarah Vaughan. There’s some really stunning arrangements of both familiar and less well known songs interpreted by a great cast of musicians – Joe Webb on piano, Ferg Ireland on double bass, Jas Kayser on drums, Marlon Hibbert on steel pan and Gabriella Swallow on cello. Much of this is recorded live with minimal overdubs and the sound is terrific. It’s so good to hear The Mystery of Man: the Sarah Vaughan version (with lyrics by Pope John Paul, of course!) is wonderful and the bold re-versioning from Sonzeira on one of Gilles Peterson’s Brazilian projects is a great listen too. And, by the way, McFarlane’s take on Inner City Blues is a breath of fresh air too. Highly recommended.

8. Gary Brunton – Fort Steven No.5 from Gwawr

More new music and thanks to Rob Adams again for this track and the next one. Bassist Gary Brunton is from the UK but has been based in Paris since he went there to study aged 20 in 1988. As a result, he’s played with lots of musicians on the current European jazz scene –  Bojan Z, Nguyen Le, Adam Nussbaum, Pee Wee Ellis and many more. His latest album, Gwawr (Welsh for dawn or sunrise) was released earlier this year and features the impressive Paul Lay on piano, Francois Jeanneau on soprano saxophone and Andrea Michelutti on drums. For jazz trivia geeks: Brunton was once invited to the great JF Jenny-Clark’s place in Paris for bass lessons (listen to JF J-C’s amazing multi-tracked solo Ozone here) and was also inspired by a workshop he attended given by fusion guitarist Gary Boyle of Brian Auger, Stomu Yamash’ta, Mike Westbrook and Isotope fame.

9. Phil Bancroft & Gyan Singh – Birth & Death from Birth & Death

Saxophonist Phil Bancroft has been one of the major forces on the Scottish scene over the past thirty years and more. He played with Sun Ra during one of Ra’s visits to Scotland and has worked with Kenny Wheeler, Joe Lovano, Oliver Lake and Dutch cellist Ernst Reiseger, amongst others. His long-lost 2004 album, Headlong, is typical of those collaborations. It features Reid Anderson (from The Bad Plus on bass), leading Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen and the Impossible Gentlemen’s Mike Walker on guitar – and we’ll come back to that one in a future show. The other release is a duo album that Phil recorded with the tabla player Gyan Singh, recorded spontaneously initially in Scotland and then in Delhi. Gyan Singh is a musician with wide experience, performing Hindustani classical music for many years with violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastra, but also collaborating with musicians from all over the world. This record is well worth investigating – find out more here at Bancroft’s Myriad Streams platform or here on Bandcamp.

10. Scott Kinsey – Volcano For Hire from Luniwaz LIVE

Recorded live at the the Jazz Dock in Prague, Luniwaz LIVE is the second release by keyboard player Scott Kinsey that is inspired by the music of Joe Zawinul and specifically his group Weather Report. This new release features compositions from later Weather Report albums including 1980’s Night Passage – very much a return to form for the group which included saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bass player Jaco Pastorius. Kinsey retains his bass player Hadrien Feraud along with drummer Gergo Borlai who are joined by Patrick Bartley Jr. on also sax. Also on board are guests Meredith Salimbeni (vocals), Pedro Martins (guitar) and Bobby Thomas Jr. (percussion) on two tracks each. Thomas was a member of Weather Report and Zawinul’s later group the Zawinul Syndicate and is a welcome addition. Neil has strong memories of seeing Weather Report live in the late 1970s and there’s an energy in this live record that really does reflect (and add to) the music of this most inspirational group.

Neil is listening to:

Neil’s choices this week include a selection from David Sanborn who died earlier this month. You could distinguish Sanborn’s distinctive sound on the alto saxophone in seconds, whether on his domination of David Bowie’s Young Americans album or on one of his own many records. Sanborn was a go-to session player and appeared on literally hundreds of records, but perhaps his most famous collaboration was with producer and bass player Marcus Miller. Neil has also included music from André 3000’s own new album and the Record Store Day Jazz Detective special from Sun Ra. Enjoy!

Celebrating 85 years of Blue Note Records

Blue Note has traced the entire history of jazz – from boogie woogie to swing, through bebop and soul jazz and onto the avant garde and fusion. Now Blue Note artists embrace the world of jazz rap, hip hop and more and it was time for us to celebrate 85 years of the longest-running label in jazz.

Eighty five years ago in January 1939, German-Jewish immigrant and passionate jazz fan Alfred Lion produced his first recording session in New York City, founding what would go on to be this most iconic of labels. In 2012 Blue Note entered a new era under the stewardship of new President Don Was – an inspired choice of leader who has taken the label on to new heights through imaginative signings and the refocused reissue programme of Classic and Tone Poet editions.

We should also mention the great Michael Cuscuna who died earlier this month. Cuscuna was the man who singlehandedly kept the Blue Note label on life support when no one else was playing attention or knew what to do – and quote comes from the Blue Note obituary and reminiscence feature that you can find right here. It’s a tribute to and celebration of what one inspired visionary can do in the corporate world of the music business. Cuscuna worked alongside Bruce Lundvall – an established record executive and jazz devotee – and from 1984 they headed various reissue campaigns, including the popular RVG series which namechecked the master engineer Rudy Van Gelder. But they also brought back former Blue Note icons and signed many new artists too – and without them, the label would undoubtedly have died. You can hear Cuscuna talking about the Blue Note sound and some of the iconic record covers in this great video feature from Vox and for a one minute film about the great cover designer Reid Miles check this out.

So on Cosmic Jazz this time round we pay tribute to the label with a selection of ten classic tracks – old and new, mainstream and avant garde, down in the groove and out there on the edge.

1. Grant Green – Time to Remember (Osunlade remix) from Blue Note Revisited

We kick off the show with a chilled remix from producer and Yoruba priest Osunlade that’s unusually just half the length of the original which first appeared on Grant Green’s Alive album. Bright and bouncy, this is highlight from a patchy Blue Note remix album first released in 2004. Of course, Blue Note artists had long been sampled to good effect by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West and Public Enemy and one of the delights of these hip hop artists was listening out for their sample sources. Among the best crate-digging beats come from London-based group Us3 (the first hip-hop act signed to Blue Note) who scored a pop hit with Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) in 1993, which famously reconfigured Herbie Hancock’s Canteloupe Island and A Tribe Called Quest’s wonderful Electric Relaxation from their masterpiece Midnight Marauders (also 1993) which uses Ronnie Foster’s Mystic Brew as a starting point. Check out this udiscovermusic post for lots more Blue Note samples.

2. Art Blakey – Abdallah’s Delight from Orgy in Rhythm Vol. 2

Art Blakey booked his slot in our Blue Note show at a very early stage – although he recorded for many other labels, he’s perhaps most associated with Blue Note. Derek’s first choice is a bona fide classic from 1957 and one of the first percussion-focused records. Released initially as two LPs, Blakey enlisted a terrific line-up with Art Taylor and Philly Jo Jones alongside the leader on drums, five percussionists including the great Sabu Martinez, flautist Herbie Mann, pianist Ray Bryant and bassist Wendell Marshall. From that opening drum break, into the bass solo and then the muted piano before Herbie Mann comes in on flute, Abdallah’s Delight is indeed a charming groove that just swings! Ray Bryant summons up a kind of Ellingtonian vibe and Sabu leads a midtrack percussion breakout – it’s just nine minutes of magic. Note that Blakey recorded his final Blue Note album Indestructible exactly 60 years ago on 15 May 1964!

3. Joe Henderson – El Barrio from Inner Urge

Derek and Neil have great memories of El Barrio at a Blue Note live gig some years ago – a hit on the dancefloor, this burner from tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson really got everyone moving. And that’s not surprising as Henderson is joined by jazz royalty – McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones alongside Sonny Rollins’ sideman Bob Cranshaw on bass. Tyner is really impressive on this record – and his raw power on the keys matches Henderson’s full-throated tenor tones. This 1964 album is full of great tunes with the title track, the Thelonious Monk-influenced Isotope and our choice – the wailing cry of El Barrio. Inner Urge is one of the best Henderson albums and it’s now available in an all-analogue remastered vinyl edition in the Classic series. Just go for it…

4. Wayne Shorter – Black Nile from Night Dreamer

And from one classic to another – also recently made available in the all-analogue Kevin Gray-mastered Classic series. Tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s Blue Note debut (also 1964) found him well prepared to enter the big time. With an impressive quintet that includes trumpeter Lee Morgan, the aforementioned McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones along with the great Reggie Workman on bass. There’s a consensus that Shorter’s finest work is the sequence of records that he made for his first tenure with Blue Note, from Night Dreamer all the way through to the under-rated Odyssey of Iska in 1970. The invaluable Penguin Guide to Jazz notes that This is Shorter at his most Coltrane-like… The lines are much fuller than typical Wayne, with lots of accidentals and grace notes – and we can hardly disagree. This is another essential and a wonderful place to start your Shorter collection.

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

In the early days of Jazz FM in the UK, Derek remembers a late-night show where he came across Rachelle Ferrell and her Blue Note record First Instrument. It struck him then as an amazing record and that feeling remains today. Here was a jazz vocalist re-interpreting well-known tunes in a highly imaginative way and with a voice whose range seemed at times to take her into the stratosphere. In recent years a new crop of much-praised jazz vocalists has emerged who draw upon traditional tunes but, in our opinion, Rachelle Ferrell stands proud besides them. First Instrument was released originally in Japan in 1990 and had to wait until 1995 for a wider Blue Note release. On You Don’t Know What Love Is Rachelle soars up and down above the pared down sounds of a trio with Eddie Green leading the way on piano, Tyrone Brown on bass and Doug Nally on drums. Elsewhere on the album can be found the likes of Lenny White (who produced the record), Terence Blanchard, Wayne Shorter, Gil Goldstein, Michel Petrucciani and Stanley Clarke. Sadly, Ferrell has suffered health issues for some time and does not appear to be performing.

6. Don Pullen – Jana’s Delight from New Beginnings

For Neil, this is one of those tracks that always generates a wide smile. Seeing Pullen in London a few years before his death was a truly memorable live gig. On this Blue Note record from 1988, Pullen seems to be almost unzipping the keyboard while alongside him Gary Peacock on bass and Tony Williams on drums provide the perfect trio background. Want an even more remarkable example of Don Pullen’s unique approach to the piano? Then check out this extended version of his composition Warriors Dance: Little Don Pt.1 from the superb Black Saint album Warriors (1978).

7. Erik Truffaz feat. Nya – Siegfried from Bending New Corners

The album title is, of course, an allusion to the Thelonious Monk classic album Bending Corners and Alsace-born trumpeter Erik Truffaz takes the tradition forward with a record that features guest vocalist Nya on some tracks, including our long-time favourite Siegfried. This tune has long been a Cosmic Jazz favourite – we last played it in February last year, and we’ll surely feature it again sometime. Derek saw Truffaz live a few years ago amply demonstrating that cool modal sensibility and plangent tone to great effect – despite a tiny audience. Siegfried features the rapper Nya to good effect and the delicate Milesean tone that Truffaz teases from his horn is is just so good that once you’ve listened, a repeat is unavoidable.

8. Melissa Aldana – Los Ojos De Chile from 12 Stars

Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana is a relatively new signing to Blue Note, but she’s already made an impact with two releases, including her new album Echoes of the Inner Prophet, whose title track pays homage to Wayne Shorter. Derek’s choice comes from her debut for the label – 12 Stars – which includes this lovely tune and interesting cover art designed by jazz vocalist Cecile McClorin Salvant. It wouldn’t be the same without your artwork writes Melissa Aldana on her very special thank you list. She is now based on New York, which she reached via a full scholarship to attend Berklee College at the encouragement of Wayne Shorter’s pianist Danilo Perez. but from the title of this tune Los Ojos De Chile (Eyes of Chile) her homeland is not forgotten. Wayne Shorter was on the judges’ panel in 2013 that chose Aldana as the winner of the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. For more Aldana, just listen to her playing on this video from a 2023 live concert in California.

9. Immanuel Wilkins – Lighthouse from The 7th Hand

We continue with another of the contemporary Blue Note artists and one who’s highly rated – namely alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. He has also been appearing on music by other Blue Note artists – for example, drummer Johnathan Blake and his album Passage, which we have featured on the show. The album The 7th Hand is steeped in Biblical symbolism with a photo of Baptismal immersion on the album sleeve and the record is an hour-long suite comprised of seven movements.  If the number six represents the extent of human possibility, Wilkins wondered how it would sound to invoke divine intervention and allow that seventh element to possess his quartet. It’s the idea of being a conduit for the music as a higher power that actually influences what we’re playing, he says. The sleeve notes states how new battles are in front of us, to resume the work that began in the 1960s before things turned to psychedelic decadence and that the work will be resumed ready or not. We’re not sure whether Wilkins is talking about society or the music of the 1960s but his is certainly very much of a contemporary album even though Lighthouse includes sounds that echo jazz history.

10. Hank Mobley – No Room For Squares from No Room For Squares

We end the show with this characteristic Blue Note release from 1963. Recently reissued on vinyl as part of the Blue Note Classics series, No Room for Squares was the eleventh outing on Blue Note for Hank Mobley. Here he’s accompanied by Lee Morgan on trumpet, Andrew Hill on piano, John Ore on bass and (again) Philly Joe Jones on drums. The term ‘square’ in this context now seems to be long gone from usage, but it came out of the jazz community of the 1940s and was directed in a demeaning way to anyone who was old-fashioned or out of touch with musical trends. We can only guess that Mobley was making a statement – like this music or count yourself square. Ironically, Hank Mobley has not always been seen as a great innovator, but he commanded the greatest respect from fellow musicians like Donald Byrd. The album is a typical Mobley session, and while he’s often considered something of a journeyman for the label, he’s on excellent form here. Like a number of other Blue Note soloists (including Jackie McLean) Mobley changed his tone over the years, adopting a harder, more aggressive sound in the 1960s when compared with his 1950s approach. On this title track there’s some knotty soloing from both the saxophonist and Morgan on trumpet and Andrew Hill’s piano is typically meaty too. John Fordham in The Essential Guide to Jazz on CD described Mobley as A player of restrained fire, with a sense of melodic shape and quirkiness rivalling that of Sonny Rollins, though with none of Rollins’ bullish theatricality. Out of Mobley’s many Blue Note records currently available, we’d pick this one if you want to start your Hank Mobley collection – highly recommended and a great place to end our ten track tribute to the glories of the Blue Note label.

Neil is listening to…

Cosmic Jazz does jazz carnival, jazz raps and jazz for the spirit – 03/05/24

Cosmic Jazz this time is full of contrasts. Starting in Brazilian Carnival mood, it passes through afro-beats and raps to music for the spirit and contemplation to music of reminiscence.

1. Azymuth – Jazz Carnival from 12″

For those of us who have a considerable record collection, but not unlimited funds, there are always tunes/albums that we would like to add but either they are not available, or not available at a sensible price. For Derek, the Brazilian dancefloor classic Jazz Carnival by the trio Azymuth was such a record. UK Record Store Day 2024 came to the rescue when the British label Far Out Records, as label that specialises in Brazilian music, re-released the record as a 12” single in limited quantities for independent record stores. Record Store Day is the best-selling day of the year for these stores. Derek and Neil both believe that the experience of going into a store where you can see, touch and hear the music, get music ordered if need be and receive the advice of the record enthusiasts who run the place, is so much better than any online order – however ethical the online outlet may be. Buying locally contributes to keeping town and city streets alive, not to mention preventing the need for yet another delivery vehicle filling up your street. There will be an independent record store somewhere near you – just go there and enjoy. For Derek, the source of his records is Soundclash Records in Norwich. It’s been run by Paul for 33 years and always stocks nothing but the best. We featured Soundclash along with other local record stores in Suffolk and Singapore in this Covid-era feature.

2. Elza Soares & Roberto Ribeiro – O Que Vem De Baixo Nao Me Atinge from Sangue Suor e Raca/Blue Brazil 3

Our next show will celebrate 85 years of Blue Note Records, the essential label that was founded in 1939. Every tune will come from Blue Note. In the meantime, this show provides some tasters. One of these is chosen to follow nicely from Azymuth and is a tune from Elza Soares and Roberto Ribeiro released on Blue Note Brazil. The label has recorded far more than the great records that have almost been seen as stereotypical exemplars, for example, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Herbie Hancock etc. For example, Blue Note went to Brazil for three compilation albums titled Blue Brazil and all released in the late 1990s and early 20s – this tune coming from Blue Brazil 3 released in 2000.  Elza Soares was one of the great Brazilian vocalists who kept singing right up until her death in 2022 aged 91. She collaborated with fellow Brazilian singer and composer Roberto Ribeira (1940 – 1996) in 1972 for the album Sangue Suor e Raca from which this tune on the Blue Note compilation is taken.

3. Ezra Collective – Juan Pablo from Juan Pablo The Philosopher EP

Ezra Collective probably need little in the way of introduction here after their UK Mercury Music Prize winning album Where I’m Meant To Be. Probably less well known is their second EP Juan Pablo The Philosopher released in 2017. Juan Pablo is the percussionist on this record and one presumes this tune is named after him. He does not, however, appear on the later record. The tune Juan Pablo has an afro-beat feel and jazzy sound and charges along at a serious pace with pounding bass, rhythmic percussion and combinations of solo and collective brass. The whole record is recommended. It  provides a clear indication of the band’s influences and includes a version of Sun Ra’s Space Is The Place. Recording was at Abbey Road Studios, which provided the perfect atmospheric sound, with mixing by Matt Mysko and Floating Points.

4. Akua Naru – Sugar (Honeyice Tea) feat. Takuya Kuroda & Ensemble Resonanz from All About Love: New Visions

Akua Naru is a rapper from Connecticut USA, now based in Europe and currently touring  across a number of European countries, including recent appearances in the UK. She has been described as the Toni Morrison of hip-hop. Her music draws upon soul and jazz influences and the jazz highlight in the tune Sugar (Honeyice Tea) comes courtesy  of a blistering solo from the jazz trumpeter Tukoya Kuroda, born in Kobe, Japan but now resident in Brooklyn, New York and an artist we have played on Cosmic Jazz.  He contributes to two tunes on the album All About Love: New Visions. To demonstrate  further the eclectic nature of Akua Naru’s work, this tune and others on the album includes additional embellishment from the Hamburg-based Ensemble Resonanz, who rank among the world’s leading chamber orchestras.  All About Love: New Visions is both inspired by and is an ode to the late Black feminist icon bell hooks and her classic text All About Love which examines society and its ideals of love. The album sees Naru exploring various iterations of love and it celebrates the enduring power of unconditional love through the tenderness of motherhood.

5. Yusef Lateef – Love Theme From Spartacus from Eastern Sounds

There are many reasons to play Yusef Lateef and the wonderful tune Love Theme From Spartacus, but Derek decided to play it after receiving a video from someone he knows well, who had been playing the tune to his baby daughter as he moved around the room and rocked  her in his arms – she looked much comforted. That’s the power of music! Yet there should be no surprises in the power of this particular tune and this particular version (there is also an interesting one by Terry Callier with remixes). It’s a lovely melody and Yusef Lateef and his quartet deliver the tune in a way that is lilting, sweet and warm and rocks gently. It is a sound to comfort anyone. It was recorded in 1961 for the album Eastern Sounds, with the incomparable Rudy Van Gelder as recording engineer, when Yusef Lateef was exploring the relationship between North American and Near Eastern improvisational music and – significantly – before John and Alice Coltrane went on to explore such musical territories.

6. Charles Lloyd – Defiant, Reprise; Homeward Bound from The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

The show has now moved from the carnival explosions of the opening to a meditative, spiritual mode via the new double album The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow from the legendary saxophone and flute player Charles Lloyd – a jazz legend much loved in these parts. The album was released by Blue Note Records on 15 March 2024, Lloyd’s 86th birthday. It’s his first new studio recording since 2017 and is an album of Lloyd originals – old, new and reimagined –  including, under the latter category, a version of Booker’s Garden which is much played by  CJ.  Common to both tunes is the pianist Jason Moran whose imaginative, intense and sensitive playing is a true joy. Larry Grenadier is on double bass and the in-demand Brian Blade is on drums – Defiant, Tender Warriors all (to quote the title of the opening tune on the album) and they remain defiant to the end as this tune title states – the final track on the album. Throughout it all is the clarity of sound, the beautiful , soulful and inspirational playing of Charles Lloyd himself – a genius, a master musician, and an essential  jazz artist.

7. Joshua Redman feat Gabrielle Cavassa – Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans? from Where Are We

We end the show with reminiscence, nostalgia and longing for New Orleans – Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans (when that’s where you left your heart?). So sings the excellent Gabrielle Cavassa in an enticing voice full of expression. The tune ends with some trumpet playing from Nicholas Payton to echo the sounds of that city. This is all on the album Where Are We by saxophonist Joshua Redman and credited as  featuring Gabrielle Cavassa. It is the third tune on the show from a Blue Note album  and that is before our Blue Note feature show. The record was voted 2023 album of the year by  the writers of the UK Jazzwise magazine. Also on the album you can find  Brian Blade (again, see above) on drums, Aaron Parks on piano and Joe Sanders on bass. The record is a tour around places in the USA that have their name in song titles – in effect, a tour around the USA from north, south east and west. Some of the tunes are from the classic American Songbook and the record is a shining example of how past tunes can be covered, re-interpreted and presented in ways that are innovative and interesting.

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Getting ready for our upcoming Blue Note special celebrating the 85th anniversary of the iconic jazz label, Neil is listening to some recent Blue Note Tone Poet and Blue Note Classic reissues he’s purchased – on vinyl of course! If you’ve not explored this series of exceptional all-analogue represses then head to your nearest independent record store and see what you can find. The Tone Poets come in beautifully laminated heavyweight gatefold sleeves while the Classic series usually feature regular sleeves with less lavish laminating. Importantly, both series are produced and curated by the Tone Poet Joe Harley and mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio on 180g audiophile quality vinyl – and, believe me, you really can hear the difference. Many of the albums feature stunning photography from the recording sessions by Blue Note founder Francis Wolff, so holding these sleeves in your hands and reading the sleeve notes while listening to these pristine recordings from the legendary Rudy van Gelder is what the vinyl experience is all about!

New jazz, a Grammy winner and a tribute to Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath – 18/04/2024

There’s four fresh slices of new jazz on this show, including a Grammy winner, a sensational new tune featuring Hammond B3 guru Brian Auger and the latest from UK saxophonist Nat Birchall. Add to this a classic and overlooked take on an Erykah Badu tune, a tribute to the last of the Heath brothers and remixers supreme 4Hero. It’s all in this episode of Cosmic Jazz.

  1. Imani Winds, Harlem Quartet and more – Psalm from Passion for Bach and Coltrane

We began the show with a very unlikely award winner. The 2023 US Grammy Award for Classical  Compendium went to Jeff Scott’s composition Passion for Bach and Coltrane – a concert-length oratorio that combines elements from classical and jazz music. It features orator and poet A.B. Spellman, as well as wind quintet Imani Winds, string quartet Harlem Quartet, and jazz trio Alex Brown, Edward Perez, and Neal Smith. Phew! The music is largely based on works by J S Bach and John Coltrane – and not just in the improvised solos that are threaded through the work. Scott took the shape of the piece from Bach’s Goldberg Variations with the work opening with an A. B. Spellman poem. but Coltrane’s influence is everywhere – and the spirit of A Love Supreme is clearly in evidence. Our choice, Psalm, includes a jazz chant and Spellman’s poem that begins I will die in Havana in a hurricane. A final tune – Acknowledgement – is, of course, another link to A Love Supreme and an uplifting poem on death, renewal, and the power of love. Check out this interesting release – the download only is available from Bandcamp right here.

2. Nat Birchall – New World from New World

UK saxophonist Nat Birchall is undoubtedly an ambassador for what is often called spiritual jazz. He’s no mere acolyte of Coltrane though, being equally adept in dubwise reggae settings as he is in the world of jazz. The new album features strong compositions (like the title track) all performed by an expanded lineup of Birchall’s Unity Ensemble. There are six original compositions played by a seven-piece group featuring legendary UK tenor saxophonist, Alan Skidmore and guest percussionist Mark Wastell. Birchall appears on tenor, soprano saxes with Adam Fairhall on piano, Michael Bardon on bass, Paul Hession on drums and Lascelle Gordon on drums. As with all of Birchall’s albums, this new one is highly recommended and can be found here on Bandcamp.

3. 4Hero – I’ve Known Rivers from Another Story

Neil dipped into the drum and bass waters for this remix of I’ve Known Rivers, a take on Langston Hughes’ great poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers, made famous in the jazz world by Gary Bartz in a live performance at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival. This version is a 4Hero remix of the version by UK saxophonist Courtney Pine on what Neil considers his best album – Modern Day Jazz Stories. The record was one of the Mercury music prize albums of the year in 1996 (but didn’t win) and featured vocalist Cassandra Wilson who appears on both I’ve Known Rivers and Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain. The whole album was remixed the following year and – unlike some remix projects – turned out to be surprisingly successful. Outstanding are this 4Hero remix and  Flytronix’s take on Don’t Explain. For a something different, try 4 Hero’s own bossa nova lite reworking of their remix (!) – it’s here on Youtube and also on Another Story.

4. Ignacio Berroa  – Joao su Merced from Codes

The name of Ignacio Berroa might not be familiar but this Cuban drummer is a real heavyweight. Feted by Dizzy Gillespie as the only Latin drummer in the world in the history of American music that intimately knows both worlds: his native Afro-Cuban music as well as jazz Berroa performed with Gillespie from 1981 until the trumpeter’s death in 1993. Joao su Merced comes from Codes, his 2006 debut album on Blue Note. Since then, Berroa has recorded and played with a host of frontline jazz musicians including McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Michael Brecker, Milt Jackson, Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden and many more. Codes is much more than just an average jazz debut – and the presence of Gonzalo Rubalcaba as producer and keys player is a major contributor to this success.

5. Fabiano do Nascimento and Sam Gendel – Foi Boto from The Room

Brazilian guitarist Nascimento and L.A. soprano saxophonist Gendel have collaborated on a genuinely charming duo album, seeming to just coil themselves around these beautiful melodies. There’s no effects, no percussion and no grandstanding – just two musicians weaving magic in a way that recalls the work of Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell and – to a lesser extent – the deftness of Stan Getz. Gendel is on the soprano horn throughout and so the music has a lightness of touch that perfectly complements Nascimento’s seven string guitar. And it’s all beautifully recorded too. This one is highly recommended by Neil and, of course, it’s available in all formats on Bandcamp.

6. José James – Green Eyes from On and On

Perhaps the most famous tune on Erykah Badu’s second album release Mama’s Gun, the take on Green Eyes we have here is principally a vehicle for vocalist José James – but the extended instrumental coda takes it to another level. All the songs are by Badu but they’re placed in a strong jazz context with a band of new talents like Big Yuki (from A Tribe Called Quest), Ben Williams who’s played with Kamasi Washington and young saxophonists Ebban Dorsey and Diana Dzhabbar.  The tunes cover the full spectrum of Badu’s career from Baduizm to New Amerykah Parts 1 and 2 and what’s great about them all is how the quality of songwriting is merged with sophisticated jazz arrangements. And the cover is a cute tribute to Alice Coltrane’s Journey to Satchidananda – have a look. Naturally, this can also be found here on Bandcamp and is – no surprise – highly recommended.

7. Herbie Hancock – Oh! Oh! Here He Comes from Fat Albert Rotunda

This 1969 album was centred around soundtrack music that Hancock wrote for the Fat Albert US television cartoon show. An unusual record in Hancock’s extensive canon, it has a strong R&B/soul jazz sound throughout with powerful horn riffs and lots of tight grooves from Hancock’s Fender Rhodes. There are two beautiful melodies (Tell Me a Bedtime Story and Jessica) but we chose the funky Oh! Oh! Here He Comes to celebrate the drummer of this rather stellar group, Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, who died earlier this month at the age of  88. He’s on the album in the strong company of Joe Henderson on tenor sax, Johnny Coles on trumpet, Garnett Brown on trombone and Buster Williams on bass.

8. Tea – Ibiza Redoux feat. Brian Auger 

French guitarist Franck Balloffet and Southern California-bred keyboardist-percussionist Phil Bunch are the fusion duo Tea. Their third release Grand Cru from 2018 had several influences including jazz and soul and featured ‘the godfather of Acid Jazz’ Brian Auger on Hammond B3. After producing Auger’s solo album Language of the Heart, Tea continued the collaboration with Grand Cru – but nothing there comes close to this slice of summer that ended our show. Auger is just spectacular! Check it out here on Bandcamp – you won’t be disappointed.

Jazz now: from mainstream to the fringes – 28/03/2024

There was a really contemporary feel to Cosmic Jazz this time as we introduced listeners to David Duffy and Shake Stew, took a dive into the new trio record from pianist Vijay Iyer, checked out two more new Edition Records artists and ended with a bonafide classic from Horace Silver. It’s a continuous mix experiment this time on the show – a quick into from Derek and music choices from Neil. Go ahead and listen…

  1. David Duffy Quartet – Pulse from Where The Branches Begin

It’s thanks to Sîan Williams and the team at R!otSquad promotion that we featured David Duffy for the first time here on Cosmic Jazz – and what a great way to start the show! Duffy is a Barcelona-based Irish composer, producer and bassist and Where The Branches Begin is his debut album as a bandleader. He brings years of experience composing in the digital arts world and it’s the electronics that’s such a notable contribution to the sound of his quartet. Joining him are four players on the fringes of jazz – the Catalan Marc Martin on piano, Swedish saxman Emil Nerstrand and fellow Irishman Davie Ryan on drums. The group is augmented with Warren Walker (from the Kandinsky Effect) on additional synths and electronics creating a more ambient electronic jazz with some distinctive Scandinavian style sounds in the mix. R!ot Squad suggest that the sound is where Jan Garbarek and Cinematic Orchestra meet with Jon Hopkins and Rival Consoles with the textures of Colin Stetson and undertones of Nils Frahm and who are we to disagree… Pulse is the first single to be taken from the album and Duffy notes I love the feeling of sparse melodies floating on top of dense textures… Blending clarinets, bass clarinets, harmonium, synthesisers and bowed double bass… [these] reflect my internal experience, yet the beauty and stillness is always present, whenever you have space to hear it.

2. Robert Hood and Femi Kuti – Variations 1 from Variations

Trawling Bandcamp can be very rewarding – as evidenced by this track from the unlikely partnership of Robert Hood and Femi Kuti. Hood’s techno wizardry and Kuti’s Afrobeat sax intertwine in this short live set recorded (and filmed) at the Charles de Gaulle Paris Aéroport in 2019. It’s a joyous and surprisingly satisfying musical journey with Hood’s pads and synths meshing with Kuti’s free-flowing sax improvisations.  Producer and DJ Robert Hood is a pioneer of Detroit techno but has more recently incorporated elements of house, gospel and disco into his music. while Femi Kuti is, of course, the son of Afrobeat pioneer and activist Fela Kuti. He’s carved his musical path while retaining the polemical fire of his father.  Variations can be dowloaded from Bandcamp – and you might still be lucky enough to get a copy of the vinyl release from the same source.

3. Vijay Iyer – Compassion from Compassion

Next up were two tracks from the new album from pianist Vijay Iyer – and there’s a surprising link with the previous track: Break Stuff, a previous Vijay Iyer Trio album, included Hood, a tribute to the Detroit techno pioneer. Compassion doesn’t include any of the subtle electronics of his debut record with ECM, 2013’s Mutations but it’s none the worse for that. The (very quiet) title tune and album opener introduces the band with bell and gong sounds before bringing in the piano and bass and then straight into…

4. Vijay Iyer –  Overjoyed from Compassion

Up next, more from Iyer – these time Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed which just crackles with energy and includes a powerful solo from Iyer – one of many on this excellent new album. There are other full-on tracks on the record and these are interspersed with more reflective pieces. The covers also include Roscoe Mitchell’s Nonaah and Free Spirits/Drummer’s Song (from John Stubblefield and Geri Allen) and the album ends with Iyer’s Ghoststrumental which includes some of the most spirited playing on this excellent new release.

5. Greg Foat and Art Themen – Sis No Hyp from Off Piste/Pulp Jazz: 21st Century Groove Music

On this new album keyboard player Greg Foat teams up with 83 year-old London saxophonist (and doctor) Art Themen on the leftfield Athens Of The North label. Off Piste was recorded in Edinburgh and features guitarist Gavin Sutherland, harpist Amanda Whiting, electric bassist Philip Achille, and drummer/percussionist Nadav Schneerson. This is Foat’s ninth album for the label and is a mix of analog synth textures, meditative grooves and cinematic landscapes. Over this comes a series of spacious, melodic improvisations from Art Themen – and it all works rather well. Our choice – Sis No Hyp – from the album is also available on an great compilation called Pulp Jazz: 21st Century Groove Music on the always excellent Aquarium Drunkard website.

6. Mark Lockheart  – Morning Smiles from Smiling

I like that it makes me smile, this album, says Mark Lockheart, as he recalls the effect when he first heard the new Edition record. Lockheart is a former member of the innovative big band Loose Tubes, which also included such contemporary UK jazz greats as Julian Argüelles, Iain Ballamy, Django Bates, Eddie Parker and Ashley Slater. The new record is much smaller in scope but there are some surprising new influences too. The band has two French horns and John Parricelli’s introduces some rockier strands too. As Lockheart has noted – Steely Dan, you know, is a massive influence on my generation. And I hear some of that on the first track. I mean, it’s a lot busier than a Steely Dan album, but it’s the groove. Also on board is Rowland Sutherland, whose breathy flute attack is the first solo instrument you hear on the record. Add in Cosmic Jazz favourites Laura Jurd on trumpet and Nathaniel Facey on alto sax and you have some fascinating new music that’s highly recommended by Neil. You’ve not got long to wait as Smiling is released at the end of March – check it out here on the Edition Records website.

7. Shake Stew – Lila from Lila

More thanks to Sîan Williams for this one – do make sure you check out the great musicians on R!otSquad, including the always excellent Lucien Johnson (see last week’s show). Award winning Austrian band Shake Stew combine hypnotic grooves and a trademark high-energy style with a more subtle and deeply spiritual vibe on their sixth album Lila. The band’s unusual configuration of two drummers, two bass players and three horns remains but on board for Lila is Viennese producer Marco Kleebauer, a key figure in the Austrian music scene and although their musical paths have been very different the collaboration has clearly worked. The title track and first single Lila is perhaps the most reflective piece to date from the band but the level of musical invention across the whole album is as inventive as ever. To check out Shake Stew in action, have a look at this video of them in performance at Westbahnstudios in Vienna with four tunes from the new record.

8. Louis Stewart Trio – Footprints from Louis the First

This is the long-awaited re-release of guitarist Louis Stewart’s 1976 debut as a leader. Beautifully remastered, you can now fully appreciate nine titles that showcase the range and breadth of Stewart’s music. Recorded in Dublin’s Trend Studios in September 1975, Louis the First captures the guitarist at his peak and includes an extra track – our featured take on Wayne Shorter’s classic Footprints – along with a 16-page booklet and a trove of previously unseen photographs. At the time Stewart was playing in Ronnie Scott’s house band in London where he played with top visiting jazz artists of the day including Over the course of his long career, Stewart appeared on over seventy albums by various great jazz names including Tubby Hayes, J J Johnson, Clark Terry and Benny Goodman. The New York Times noted that he spins out single-note lines that flow with an unhurried grace, colored by sudden bright, lively chorded phrases. His up-tempo virtuosity is balanced by a laid-back approach to ballads, which catches the mood of the piece without sacrificing the rhythmic emphasis that keeps it moving – and that pretty much sums up the qualities of this world-class guitarist. The record is available in CD or DL formats on Bandcamp – check it out here.

9. Chris Potter – Cloud Message from Eagle’s Point

Eagle’s Point is Chris Potter’s new album for Edition Records and features a modern day supergroup with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. Released earlier this month, the record is full of striking new compositions from saxophonist Chris Potter – the album’s dominant voice. Always technically masterful, Potter’s melodic compositions have gained in depth and purpose. Cloud Message, with its propulsive bass line, is a great demonstration of his prowess but – as Neil well knows – there is no substitute for seeing that invention and imagination at work at a live gig. If you can’t get to see Potter on stage, then any of his live records will take you there. We’d recommend the excellent Follow the Red Line from 2007 or last year’s Got the Keys to the Kingdom, both recorded at the iconic Village Vanguard Club in New York.

10. Horace Silver – Song for My Father from Song for My Father

What can we say? Steely Dan stole that opening piano figure for Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number, but this most popular of Horace Silver’s compositions also includes the rasping tenor sax of Joe Henderson. It’s simply one essential jazz album that everyone should own. As the great LondonJazzCollector blog notes, If a piano could smile, that’s what Silver’s playing would make it do. Coming originally from Cape Verde – a distinctive melting pot of West African and Portuguese culture – Silver is resolutely in the American mainstream hard  bop tradition and his rhythmic and percussive style gave him a natural home on Blue Note records for over two decades. This record was recorded in two sessions over a year apart, in 1963 and 1964, with (on the title track) the little-recorded Carmell Jones on trumpet, along with Joe Henderson on tenor sax, Teddy Smith on bass and Roger Humphries on drums. Also on the album is the Joe Henderson standard The Kicker – often covered for the hard bop challenge of its jerky phrases and tight rhythms – and initially recorded by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson on his album of the same name. And, yes, that is Horace Silver’s father, John Tavares Silver on the iconic record cover.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon – but in the meantime, here’s Neil’s selections from this week. They’re all influenced by the legend that is Tony Poole – former Essex Radio presenter, DJ, record collector and Virgo Vibes retailer – now retired in Spain but still active in jazz. Here’s the transcript of an interview with Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove to get you up to speed.

Neil is listening to…

Trumpet troubadours, modal moments and Latin largesse – 07/03/24

This Cosmic Jazz promises to uplift the soul with a glorious mix of the old and the new. Trumpeters are prominent, there’s powerful new jazz, Latin ensembles and even a touch of poetry!

1. Muriel Grossman – Absolute Truth from Devotion

We’re returning to Muriel Grossman’s excellent new Devotion album because it’s just so good! On this 2CD set there’s a great opportunity for saxophonist Grossman and her group to stretch out – and the 20 minute Absolute Truth more than justifies this approach. The current band includes Belgrade-born guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, Abel Boquera on Hammond B3 and Uros Stamenkovic on drums. Bass is supplied by Grossman herself and she’s added flute, percussion, tambura, kalima and harmonium into the mix. As noted in a previous show, all her albums from 2010’s Birth of the Mystery to the breakthrough excellence of 2018’s Golden Rule are worth investigating. The latter has a strong Coltrane influence – check out her excellent soprano outing, Traneing In, which also featured in another equally powerful version on the later Union album. 2020’s Quiet Earth included four long compositions, two of which were substantially revisioned versions of tunes that originally appeared on the 2013 album Awakening. The opening of Absolute Truth is reminiscent of the Miles Davis classic It’s About That Time – no bad thing – and Abel Boquera goes for a Larry Young vibe throughout. This is wholly convincing, modern music that references the past but extends and deepens the modal mood. As with all of Grossman’s records then, this new one is highly recommended and is available via Grossman’s own website on vinyl or CD – and, of course, here on Bandcamp

2. Lucien Johnson – Satellites from Ancient Relics

It was just great to hear that saxophonist Lucien Johnson is about to release a new album. Neil and Derek are both big fans, having featured this New Zealander back in April 2021 when they came across his excellent Wax///Wane album. Johnson is from Wellington 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. Now Johnson returns with Ancient Relics which will hit the shelves in April. The new record features the Pacific’s leading harpist, Natalia Lagi’itaua Mann, whose swirling textures brings to mind Alice Coltrane and, while there are references to that Impulse! Records vibe, Johnson’s tenor sound is very much his own. The record also has Jonathan Crayford on piano and Wurlitzer, Tom Callwood on bass, Julien Dyne on percussion and Cory Champion on drums. As with Wax///Wane, we know that we’ll come back to this record  time and again. Both Ancient Relics and Wax///Wane are available here on Bandcamp– and they’re on vinyl too.

3. akua naru – Poetry How Does It Feel (All About Love version) feat. Takuya Kuroda & Edson Sean from All About Love: New Visions

This is definitely the sort of thing we like on Cosmic Jazz: akua naru is a poet/hip-hop artist who performs with a musical backing that is strong on jazz but also includes soul and the blues. You can hear that in this single which was released for Valentine’s Day 2024, taken from the forthcoming album All About Love: New Visions to be released in May 2024 in both vinyl and digital formats. You will not fail to notice a stellar contribution to the tune from Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, who we have already featured on Cosmic Jazz, and US singer/emcee Edson Sean is in there too. The American philosopher Cornell West described akua naru as the Toni Morrison of hip-hop and she has collaborated with a range of musical artists including Tony Allen, Christian Scott, Eric Benet, Mulatu Astatke, Angelique Kidjo and Bernard Purdie. She performs with mesmerising lyricism and emotion and, although US-born, is based in Europe. Naru is on tour currently and will be in Europe from April through May. She has several dates in the UK, including The Blues Kitchen in Manchester and The Jazz Café in London. For a taste of how good she is live, check out this earlier stunning live performance of All About Love or head to Bandcamp and download the album that first opened our eyes here at CJ.

4 . Tamba Trio – Influencia Do Jazz from Tamba Trio Classics Disc 1

From the contemporary poetry of akua naru to the legendary 1960s Brazilian multi-instrumentalist bossa nova/samba jazz group  Tamba Trio may seem like quite a cultural shift, yet Derek thinks it works. Tamba Trio were also mesmerising and lyrical, but in a different way. Comprising pianist Luizinho Eça, bassist Bebeto (born Adalberto Castilho), and drummer Helcio Milito, Tamba Trio not only played a wide range of instruments but also contributed close harmony vocals – something unique at the time. They were immensely popular in the 1960s and among their finest moments was their wonderful version of the tune Mas Que Nada which was used in a 1998 commercial featuring the Brazilian football team. Mas Que Nada was written and originally performed by Jorge Ben although the best known version is that by Sergio Mendes. We need look no further than our chosen tune on this Cosmic Jazz show to see the importance of jazz to the band. And don’t be deceived by the lightness of touch that Tamba Trio bring to all their music – at the heart remains a remarkable musicianship – and, as much Brazilian music of the period demonstrates, that engaging lyricism has stood the test of time for decades.

5. jaimie branch  – baba louie from Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Writing about branch in the wake of her early death in August 2023, Pitchfork’s Allison Hussey noted that jaimie branch connected the focus and intensity of high-concept sound artists with the unbridled joy of living in the moment and baba louie absolutely exemplifies that sense of joy, with clean melodic lines and New Orleans-evoking rhythms radiating some deep energy. branch’s Fly Or Die bandmate Lester St. Louis commented that It was clear that this tune was the joyous tune for the record. It was that special jaimie joy, where she’s happy, laughing super loud, cracking jokes, having drinks with the homies, eating pizza… just good vibes all around. branch is on trumpet, voice, keyboard, percussion, Lester St. Louis on cello, voice, flute, marimba, keyboard, Jason Ajemian on double bass, electric bass, voice, marimba and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira, timpani, bells, marimba. This intensely vibrant music is available on Bandcamp right here. Highly recommended.

6. Don Cherry – Race Face from Dona Nostra

Neil has been going back to the music of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman in recent weeks – and here’s a chance to savour both. This ECM outing from 1993 is one of his lesson-known records and here he’s teamed up with five European musicians, including pianist Bob Stenson and multi-reedist Lennart Aberg. Cherry sticks to his pocket trumpet here (no berimbau or doussou n’goni) and includes two Ornette Coleman tunes – with Race Face (which doesn’t appear to have been recorded by Coleman) being our choice for this show. Following his travels to Europe, India, Morocco, South Africa, and elsewhere to explore and play with a variety of musicians, Cherry settled in Sweden with his wife, designer and textile artist Moki Cherry. For ten years, the couple lived and worked collaboratively in an abandoned schoolhouse in Tagarp, exploring their concept of Organic Music Society though collaborations with musicians from all over the world.  We’d recommend his three ECM records with Codona, a trio that also included Naná Vasconcelos and Collin Walcott along with the duo album El Corazon recorded with drummer Ed Blackwell and also on ECM. And how about the wonderful title tune  Brown Rice from Cherry’s funkier 1975 album which includes some powerful saxophone from Frank Lowe?

7. Mario Bauzá & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra – Son Cubano (Yo Soy el Son Cubano) from The Legendary Mambo King

Derek decided to continue his explorations of Afro-Cudan Jazz, inspired by the article Mambo Kings in the February 2024 edition of Jazzwise magazine. Afro-Cuban Jazz owes its origins to multi-instrumentalist, composer and musical director Mario Bauzá. He was born in Cuba in 1911, at the age of seven was studying music at the Municipal Academy of Havana, and by the time he was sixteen was a seasoned oboist and clarinettist. It was then that his future wife Estella introduced him to her brother Machito, who later became a huge Latin bandleader in New York. The two remained friends and colleagues and it was Machito, now making waves in New York, who invited Bauzá to join his band as a trumpeter and settle in the city. Max Salazar, writing in Latin Beat Magazine in February 1992, claimed that Latin jazz began on Sunday evening, 28 May, 1943 at La Conga Club in Manhattan where Machito’s band was playing. In between tunes, the pianist and bassist began to play the intro to the tune El Botellero  and Bauzá listened. The next day at rehearsal, Bauzá got them to play this tune again. He began playing jazz riffs over the top, then summoned the alto sax player to improvise. After two hours Bauza had merged Cuban music with jazz and a new musical genre came into being. Bauzá’s most famous number is the brilliant Tanga – an Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite in five movements which we have featured on the show before. The selection this time – Son Cubano (Yo Soy El Son Cubano) – is from an album recorded in 1992, a year before he died – with Bauzá as musical director and, on this tune, a background vocalist. Featured soloist on trumpet here is Victor Paz.

8. Jesus Alemany’s Cubanismo! – Descarga De Hoy from Cubanismo!

In the last show we played a tune from the Cuban band Sierra Maestra and drew attention to a trumpet blast at the end. That came from Jesus Alemany who had been invited to join the band at the age of fifteen. He was later to form the group Cubanismo! and the tune Descarga De Hoy is from the album Cubanismo! recorded in Havana in 1995 with all star Cuban musicians from several generations. The record provides plenty of opportunities to hear the soaring trumpet of Alemany. Among the over twenty musicians included on the album is pianist Alfredo Rodriguez (1936-2005) who left Cuba in 1960 for New York and Miami. He played with many of the Latin greats, including Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Dizzy Gillespie and the aforementioned Mario Bauzá. This tune is a descarga, which basically means a jam – it’s rooted in Cuban sounds but has the spirit and approach of jazz.

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Deep jazz, Latin with jazz and memories of Marlena Shaw – 09/02/24

We began the show with music to remember Marlena Shaw and then added in ‘that’ sample, before checking out deep contemporary jazz from Europe and some explorations of the links between jazz, Latin and Caribbean music.

1. Marlena Shaw – Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy from 12″ single

Derek begins with the tune he most associates with Marlena Shaw, who died on 19 January 2024 (b. 22/09/42). It was not until he looked closely at the sleeve of his 12″ single last week that he realised it was written by pop hit duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King (as Go Away Little Girl) and first released in 1963 by Bobby Vee with The Johnny Mann Singers. While Derek does not wish to upset all the Bobby Vee fans out there, he would like to bet that the Marlena Shaw interpretation, released on the Mercy, Mercy, Mercy album in 1967, is definitely the one to hear. Marlena with brilliant panache changes from mood to mood, from the joy of the perfect man and Black is beautiful, to  ordering the jobless man to Go Away Little Boy, to second thoughts and  reconciliation and you might as well stay/don’t go away as the ear lobes are caressed and all is good again; at least for the time being. Inevitably, you wonder what happened next… It is all delivered with such cool intimacy  yet with heightened and dramatic expression, while the band gently rocks away in the background to some repeated  rhythms. It is a classic – and a CJ essential.

2. Marlena Shaw – Women of the Ghetto (Live) from Live at Montreux

Marlena Shaw appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973 with highlights from the concert appearing in the Cookin’ With Blue Note series. Famously sampled by many artists over the years (see below), Shaw’s spoken introduction to Woman of the Ghetto was one of several great improvised moments on this record, and includes elements of the songs Remember Me and Boyfriend. Shaw scats, hums, and preaches in equal measure on this track which ended her live performance and includes interpretations of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life and Marvin Gaye’s Save The Children. Her backing trio are George Gaffney on piano and Fender Rhodes, Ed Boyer on bass and Harold Jones on drums.

3. St. Germain – Rose Rouge from Tourist

Perhaps the most famous of those samples from Woman of the Ghetto is this – from the St. German project, led by Ludovic Navarre who released the album Tourist in 2000. A million seller, Tourist also sampled Miles Davis (with John Lee Hooker) and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but also featured Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin on Montego Bay Spleen.  Sharp-eared listeners may also spot a drum and bass loop from Dave Brubeck’s Take Five… We have previously enjoyed and featured Navarre’s eponymously titled St. Germain album which travels in a very different direction, combining house rhythms with west African kora and n’goni, and which appeared some fifteen years later in 2015.

4. Daniel Herskedal – Your Inner Shadow from A Single Sunbeam

Herskedal has been a presence on Edition Records for several years now with A Single Sunbeam being his latest release for the label. Since his emergence in 2015, Herskedal has built a formidable reputation as that rare thing – an expert on both the bass trumpet and the tuba. This album stands out as Herskedal’s most meditative and ambient work to date and, with the addition of Norwegian folk-inspired vocals, subtle string programming and unusual percussion, we have music that is sounds both fragile and intense. Herskedal’s music has always been inspired by the atmospheres and landscapes around him and this new record further develops that unique sound.

5. Verneri Pojola – Of Our Children from Monkey Mind

This is another recent Edition Records release from November 2023 and continues the quieter phase of the show, a time to rest from the dance moves and to hear deep, intense and moving jazz. Verneri Pojola is a Finnish trumpet player already established as a leading artist on the Europena jazz scene. For Monkey Mind he has assembled some notable and important musicians: Kit Downes on piano, Jasper Holby on bass and Olavi Ouhivuori on drums. Pohjola plays with an innovative style to create a  distinct sound  and manages to merge traditional elements into what sounds like something very contemporary.  Of Our Children feels minimalist and spacey, with a cool isolation – and yet it’s a profound piece that reaches deep into the soul.

6. Fredrik Kronkvist – Eternal Light from Afro-Cuban Supreme

Swedish alto-saxophonist Fredrik Kronkvist is an experienced and award-winning musician who has played with a number of musicians both from Europe and the Americas. His work has ranged from acknowledgement of his homeland in The Swedish Songbook, to respecting New York Elements, to summarising his experiences via On The Move, to Afro-Cuban Supreme in 2017. The latter has Coltrane and Gillespie standards with Afro-Cuban interpretations, shades of Pharaoh Sanders and also spiritual dimensions. There are compositions from the band, including this number Eternal Light, written by Kronkvist and vocalist Mariam Aida, which definitely reaches spiritual heights. The band is first class and also includes Martin Sjostedt on piano, Johnny Ahman on bass, Eliel Lazo in percussion and Jason Marsalis on percussion. We have to thank Steve’s Jazz Sounds for introducing us to Fredrik Kronkvist and his excellent music and it is to Steve you need to go if you want to get music by him and other continental European jazz artists and more.

7.   Bugge Wesseltoft – Clauss it from Bugge & Friends

We stay with a Scandinavian connection, this time to Norway via Bugge Wesseltoft – pianist, composer producer and record label owner (Jazzland).  He is another much-travelled Scandinavian artist who has listened to, absorbed and been influenced by a range of musical styles stretching out from jazz. He has recorded with other Scandinavian musicians – for example, Arild Andersen, Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek – and as a member of the band Rymden, but he has also worked with Billy Cobham, Joyce  and Banda Maluca. His musical listening has taken him to club DJs, techno and dance music scenes and the album Bugge and Friends is the perfect exemplar – not only from the sounds of the music, but also through the inclusion of one of the top New York club DJs on the album and reference to him in the title of this number Clauss it. The jazz tenor saxophone of Ilhan Ersahin and the jazz trumpet of Erik Truffaz soar above the Fender Rhodes and programming of Wesseltoft and added in are the effects and programming of that most notable  DJ – no less than Joaquin ‘Joe’ Claussell. Conventional rhythm duties are provided by the electric bass of Marius Reksje and the percussion of Eril Holm. The overall effect is quite a soundclash.

8.   Sierre Maestra – Dundunbanza from Dundunbanza

The links between Latin salsa/son and jazz are not that hard to find. They share examples of superb musicianship and deep improvisation – and the roots of both lie down on the dancefloor. As if to prove the point,  the February 2024 edition of Jazzwise magazine has an article on the Story of the roots of Afro-Cuban jazz. My evidence begins with Sierra Maestra, a band from Cuba that started in 1976. Sierra Maestra are a large band playing with an acoustic feel that revives the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s classic son found in the Sierra Maestra Mountain range from eastern Cuba. All the required instruments are there – tres, guitar, trumpet, bongos, guiro, maracas, clave and vocals. Dundunbanza is the title track of the album released in 1976 on the UK label World Circuit and was composed by one of Cuba’s greats, Arsenio Rodriguez in the 1940s. It is a stunning tune, with a beautiful, sweet and tuneful sound. It is classified as a son-montuno, a sound unique to Cuba. Dundunbanza is apparently, an evil spirit in Afro-Cuban mythology sent to the singer who warns that he too can do magic. Does it meet my jazz link criteria above? Definitely. Montuno, say the album sleeve notes, is typified by a short lyrical refrain over musical improvisation. The urge to dance and move is there from the first bar. As for musicianship, just check the soaring trumpet towards the end of the tune from Jesus Alemany who later started his own group Cubanismo.

9. Fruko Y Sus Tesos – Salsa Brava from Tidi Bailan Salsa

The second piece of evidence laid before you (and it is for you to judge) comes from Colombian artist Fruko. Incidentally, where is he playing on 19 April, 2024? The Jazz Café in London. The tune Salsa Brava takes Derek back to the days when he was DJing at salsa nights and this was a number definitely guaranteed to fill the dance floor. Fruko is a multi-instrumentalist – certainly guitar, piano and bass and probably more. He was discovered at the age of 13 (born 1951) by the founder of Colombia’s leading record label Discos Fuentes. After a trip to New York in 1971, he was inspired by New York salsa and – merging these this with the sweeter Colombian sounds along with Cuban rhythms – he formed the band Fruko Y Sos Tesos. Ever since, he has been a musical leader in Colombia and gained international recognition, releasing over 800 albums. Quality production and infectiously catchy melodies, claim the sleeve notes. On this evidence who could disagree?

10. Bob Marley and The Wailers – Concrete Jungle from Catch A Fire (Deluxe Edition, Disc 1)

We ended this show with some classic reggae as a tribute to Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, who died earlier this month. Along with his drummer brother Carlton Barrett, he was the engine room of the Wailers provided a bass line that anchored his brother’s ‘one drop’ rhythms. Before working with Bob Marley, Barrett had already achieved notable success with the studio band the Upsetters and he went on to record Pick a Dub (1974) with Keith Hudson, one of the first ever dub albums. We’ve chosen Concrete Jungle from the album Catch a Fire (1973) – but in its original Jamaican version which was not released until 2002.

Neil is listening to…

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