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…

CJ goes modal, funky and deep into the soul – 26/01/2024

Wind your way with us at Cosmic Jazz and we will take you on a path that mixes the contemporary and the past, the upbeat and the becalmed, the dancefloor and the spiritual via this, our latest show.

1. Joshua Redman – Chicago Blues from Where Are We

Saxophonist Joshua Redman has been travelling around the USA and taking some interesting people with him. Or at least, that is what his latest album Where Are We on Blue Note Records would suggest. There are tunes about Philadelphia, New England, San Francisco, New Orleans, Alabama and more – including this one, Chicago Blues, with apologies for not taking ” a boy like you” with me, a number attributed to Count Basie, James Rushing and Sufjan Stevens. The musicians travelling with Joshua on this tour are top-rate and include ones well-known to us here at Cosmic Jazz. Aaron Parks on piano weaves away on a  catchy repeating rhythm from start to finish on and there’s a lovely interjection from Joel Ross on vibes. The sextet also includes the fantastic Brian Blade on drums, cool bass from Joe Sanders and vocals that are sultry,  mesmerising and enticing from  the California-raised Gabrielle Cavassa, someone new to us here at Cosmic Jazz. We await more with real interest and really recommend this album which also achieved the top spot on Jazzwise’s new releases of 2023.

2. Yoni Mayraz – Palms from Dybbuk Tse!

From a different zone of the contemporary jazz spectrum comes the British-based keyboard player and producer Yoni Mayraz. This is the second tune we have played from his Dybbuk Tse album released last year. It’s a short, but intense number where Yoni is joined by Joe Melnicove with some intricate  flute playing, Eli Orr on bass and Roy Reemy on drums. If you want to delve into some of the lesser-known contemporary jazz sounds of London from young-ish musicians, Dybbuk Tse is a good place to go and the album and band deserve more attention. They’re appearing live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on Thursday 15 February 2024 but have other forthcoming dates in Sweden and Belgium.

3. Max Roach – Effi from Members, Don’t Git Weary

10 January 2024 marked the centenary of the birth one of the great and most influential. jazz drummers, Max Roach. We may be a little late but his centenary has to be acknowledged on Cosmic Jazz. We are doing this via Effi, an uplifting, spiritual and soulful tune  with mind-blowing interplay from sax and trumpet. The tune was written by Roach himself and comes from the 1969 Atlantic Records album Members, Don’t Git Weary. The album was a call for brothers and sisters in the struggle not to be disheartened, not to give up and to carry on even when times get difficult. Max Roach was closely associated with the movement for civil rights and by 1969, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys, there was real cause for pessimism. The album has an astounding line-up of musicians: Gary Bartz on alto sax, Charles Tolliver on trumpet, Stanley Cowell on piano and Jymie Merritt on electric bass.  Andy Bey provides vocals on the title tune. This is an absolutely essential album from a band led by an essential jazz artist. If you don’t own a copy of this record then check out the recent reissue from Gilles Peterson’s new imprint Arc Records which appeared late last year. Of course, you can find it here on Bandcamp.

4. Fergus McCreadie – Driftwood from Stream

This is taken from McCreadie’s new full length album Stream – and it’s an exclusive first play of an album not out until May this year. In the meantime, don’t miss out on his solo piano EP (Sketches) released just a couple of months ago. Stream continues the themes established in McCreadie’s previous two releases on Edition Records – Cairn and Forest Floor, both of which have been featured on Cosmic Jazz.  We’ve long championed this passionate mix of Celtic-inspired composition and we’ll undoubtedly return to this stunning upcoming release in future shows. With four moths to go before official release, this is a rare opportunity for a first listen to this formidable trio – McCreadie on piano, David Bowden on bass and Stephen Henderson on drums. All three previous albums on Edition are available from the website and can also be bought via Bandcamp. If you’re a vinyl devotee, then the superb coloured pressings of Forest Floor is still available on Edition.

5. John Rae & Ben Wilcock – Apple Road from Splendid Isolation (Special Edition)

It’s thanks again to Scots promoter Rob Adams for this one – the new album from drummer John Rae, here in collaboration with New Zealand pianist Ben Wilcock. Rae moved to New Zealand some 15 years ago and is now based in Wellington where he has become a go-to drummer on the very healthy NZ jazz scene. This new record features a band with some familiar antipodean names – Patrick Bleakley, from Rae’s NZ band the Troubles, is on bass, Scottish guitarist Kevin Murray plays on three tracks and saxophonists Dan Yeabsley and Jabin Ward appear on one track each. The music is a delightful mix of lyrical compositions – as on Apple Road – with more bluesy investigations and an Indian Konnakol rhythmic diversion on the excellent Tak a Minute. You can find the album here on the Thick Records website – and it’s available right now.
6. Aki Takase Trio – Song For Hope from Song for Hope

There’s always been great jazz music from Japan and coming out of the excellent J Jazz anthologies from BBE Records, which we’ve consistently promoted since the arrival of Volume 1 in 2018 . These are all due to the crate digging of Tony Higgins (who has also done a sterling job of revitalising the golden age of British jazz in the 1960-70s) along with his vinyl companion Mike Peden. We’re now on J Jazz Volume 4, but this Aki Takase tune featured on the previous collection. Now it’s time for the complete Song for Hope album from pianist Takase – first released in 1981. Her world of jazz incorporates tributes to jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk but she’s just as happy in more avant-garde environments – for example with her husband, pianist Alex von Schlippenbach, saxophonist and composer John Zorn, or guitarist Eugene Chadbourne. Song for Hope is a live trio recording with Nobuyoshi Ino on bass and the great Takeo Moriyama on drums and is now available to pre-order – you’ve guessed it – here on Bandcamp. Btw – you’ll hear a 5 second drop in sound on this download not apparent on the J Jazz album but we’re sure that will be corrected on release. You can also find many of Takase’s previous releases on the Intakt label on Bandcamp too – check out some of the tribute albums already mentioned along with others. You won’t be disappointed.

7. Michael White – Fiesta Dominical from The Land of Spirit and Light

The tune Fiesta Dominical is from one of those albums that from time to time Derek dusts down from his shelves and plays, often to great delight – and there is no doubt that the 1973 Impulse! album from violinist Michael White brings delight and surprises. This particular tune is a prime example: it’s almost country meets Colombia, folkloric meets jazz, rural acoustic meets the urban avant-garde – a Land of Spirit and Light indeed. Classical guitarist Bob King features along with jazz pioneers Prince Lasha on flute, Cecil McBee on bass and Michael White on violin. Wikipedia suggests that the unidentified vocalists are Stanley Nash, Kenny Jenkins, and an ABC Messenger delivery man. Make of that what you will…

8. Wildflower – Rush from Love

Wildflower might not be a familiar name – but the personnel may be. How about Idris Rahman on saxes, clarinet and flutes, Tom Skinner on drums and Leon Brichard on acoustic and electric bass? This is the trio’s second album and it takes a rather freer approach to the writing process, with simple but effective melodies and bass motifs explored to give dynamic extremes. Skinner uses his minimal kit to good effect and Rahman is better than ever on brass and woodwinds. This is an album that creeps up on you with subtle force, demonstrating a range from heavy spiritual vibes to more groove-based and folk-like tunes. is on fire here whilst Rahman and Brichard trade riffs and push the harmonic and rhythmic boundaries. Rahman’s use of clarinet and bamboo flute plus additional layers of woodwinds, Skinner’s unique approach to stripped-down use of his very personalised kit, and Brichard’s use of both acoustic and electric basses make for a sonic landscape that is both unique and highly approachable. Touching on heavy spiritual vibes whilst taking in dark alternative grooves and delicate folk-like tunes, the music surprises and delights in equal measure. You’ll be very lucky to track down a vinyl copy but the digital album is still available here on Bandcamp.

9. Muriel Grossman – All Heart from Devotion

Saxophonist Muriel Grossman has really dug deep for this new release on Records. It’s a 2CD set that gives Grossman and her group the opportunity to stretch out. She has been based on the Spanish island of Ibiza since 2004 (and from where she sent Neil this excellent new release, apologising for the slight delay) but performs internationally and is now about to embark on a North American tour. Grossmann was born in Paris, raised in Austria, and began classical flute studies at five but didn’t get to the saxophone until she was 21, She has a deeply committed DIY aesthetic and supervises every aspect of recording, production and presentation including often painting her record covers. Her current band includes Belgrade-born guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, Abel Boquera on Hammond B3 and Uros Stamenkovic on drums. Bass is supplied by Grossman herself along with – on the new album – flute, percussion, tambura, kalima and harmonium. All of 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. Devotion is something of a breakthough – it’s on Jack White’s US-based Third Man Records and is titled after Grossmann’s experiences with Buddhist meditation. She says, Just as thoughts are always dissolving into the stillness of our mind, we slowly realize that the essence of our mind is clarity . . . This realization puts us on the path to confidence; it and trust are the basis of devotion. On our choice, All Heart, Latin and African polyrhythms combine in forceful and funky, hard swinging post bop. Other tracks are longer and more modal, but throughout this is the sound of a band working closely together – deep and spiritual indeed. 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

10. The Freedom Sounds feat. Wayne Henderson – Behold the Day from Late Night Tales: The Cinematic Orchestra

Returning to the theme of dusting down (see Michael White above), Neil has been doing some of that lately and items of music have found their way into Derek’s grateful hands. This is an example. Many artists from a wide range of the world of dance music have been involved in the Late Night Tales compilations – including Groove Armada, Jamiroquai, Fourtet, Air and others. UK’s Cinematic Orchestra created their set in 2010 and included some excellent tunes and Derek selected something new to him – the soulful, funky, danceable Behold the Day from The Freedom Sounds featuring trombonist Wayne Henderson. The sleeve notes explain that the Cinematics first heard this tune spun by Gilles Peterson, a pretty good recommendation, at a small club in Bastille, Paris. They had just finished their live set and this was the first tune that Gilles played. The track actually comes from the excellent 1969 Freedom Sounds album called Soul Sound System – track it down if you can.

11. Ray Munnings – Funky Nassau from Good Times with Joey & Norman Jay

Lord have mercy! We started to get funky with the last tune but this end to the show gets us funkier still. The well-known and hit-making, 1971 version of the tune Funky Nassau was a soulful/funky/Latin piece of dynamism  from Beginning of the End. One of the  members of this band – which comprised three brothers from the Bahamas – was Ray Munnings, who with Tyrone Fitzgerald wrote the number. Munnings recorded his own solo extended, jazzier, more horn-filled interpretation in 1979. It is great. It is irresistible. The good news is that it can be found on the 2004 Good Times CD compilation from Joey and Norman Jay. This exemplary series of compilations from these London DJs reflects the eclectic range of music we feature here on the show and all seven (or more) of these CD sets are worth tracking down. The bad news is that if you want a vinyl copy – and it sounds as if it really needs to be played on  vinyl – you are going to have to pay a lot of money. There’s a signed copy on Discogs for the equivalent of £85! Over to you…

Derek is listening to ….

Neil is listening to…

 

Three tributes and the wide world of jazz influences – 12/01/2024

This first Cosmic Jazz show of 2024 includes tributes to three artists who have recently died, with music ranging from Portuguese folk to classic soul jazz to neo soul. In between there’s lots of great jazz and more.

1. Sara Tavares – Balancê from Balancê

Portuguese singer Sara Tavares sadly died in November 2023 at just 45, leaving behind a small legacy of music. Although Portuguese was the main language of her songs, Tavares’ repertoire includes multilingual songs mixing in Portuguese Creole and English, sometimes even in the same song. Her third album Balancê showcased more of her Cape Verde roots and is highly recommended. You might also be able to track down an excellent 3 disc package of Balancê, her breakthrough record Mi Ma Bô and a live concert from hometown Lisbon on DVD. Derek was lucky to see Sara Tavares at the London Jazz Festival in 2006.

2. Eddie Harris and Les McCann – Compared to What from Swiss Movement

Swiss Movement is a great title – the music was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969 and acknowledges the precision of these two jazz giants. Sadly, McCann died in December last year but his back catalogue is still widely available. Compared to What is a protest song written by Gene McDaniels and first recorded by Roberta Flack for her debut album First Take (1969). For the Montreux album, McCann is on piano and vocals and Eddie Harris is on his Varitone tenor sax. They’re joined by Benny Bailey on trumpet, the great Leroy Vinnegar on bass and on Donald Dunn on drums. A 30th Anniversary edition included the additional track Kaftan. McCann maybe best known as a soul jazz player but his adventurous early synth album Layers from 1972 is one of Neil’s favourites – here’s The Dunbar High School Marching Band. The opening tune Sometimes I Cry was famously sampled by Massive Attack for the drumbeat backdrop of Teardrop.

3. Ferge X Fisherman – Adults (feat. Jerome Thomas and Takuya Kuroda) from Good Mother

Vocalist Fritz and musician Ferge originally met as teenagers while skateboarding in their home city of Nuremberg. An immediate chemistry between the two swiftly extended to involve crack jazz quartet Nujakasha, who have become an integral part of the FXF set-up both live and in the studio. FXF have previously released three well received jazz-infused albums, but for their upcoming new record Good Mother they deploy gospel choirs, vintage strings, soulful Rhodes chords and wah-wah guitar pedals to give the entire record a distinctly ‘70s film soundtrack vibe. Adults features Blue Note trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, London-born soul singer Jerome Thomas and Barcelona native singer Ceeopatra.

4. McCoy Tyner – His Blessings from Extensions

Just reissued in the ongoing Blue Note Tone Poet vinyl series, this is an essential McCoy Tyner album from 1972 and unique in that it features Alice Coltrane on harp. Also on board with Coltrane are Gary Bartz on alto with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones (of course!) on drums. Reviewing the album for jazz.com, Jared Pauley notes that This performance matches the superb quality of previous Shorter and Tyner albums where members of the Davis and Coltrane groups recorded together. The opening track Message from the Nile is the best thing on the album but for this show we went with the reflective His Blessings which closes this highly recommend album.

5. Fumio Itabashi – Makumba from Nature/J Jazz Vol. 4 – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan

We’re huge fans of Fumio Itabashi’s many renderings of the Japanese folk tune Watarase and have featured several versions on previous shows. But this is from his debut 1979 album Nature, reissued on Soul Jazz a few years ago and more recently on Mule Musiq. The record features bass players Hideaki Mochizuki and Koichi Yamazaki, drummers Kenichi Kameyama and Ryojiro Furusawa, soprano saxophonist Yoshio Otomo and vibes player Hiroshi Hatsuyama. For a different aspect of this album check out the spiritual jazz-inflected closing track Ash.

6. Nucleus – Torrid Zone from Elastic Rock

From the album Elastic Rock (1972) – and a newly remastered 6CD box set featuring every track released by Nucleus for the Vertigo label between 1970 and 1975 – comes this perfect slice of jazz rock. The trumpeter and flugelhorn player Ian Carr saw the potential in fusing these two musical sensibilities and  Nucleus was the result – at the same time as Tony Williams was pursuing new paths with his band Lifetime and Miles Davis was experimenting on the album In a Silent Way. With saxophonist and keyboard player Karl Jenkins, the late drummer John Marshall, saxophonist Brian Smith, bassist Jeff Clyne and guitarist Chris Spedding, Nucleus recorded the ground-breaking Elastic Rock in January 1970, with the album receiving widespread praise. On a series of influential follow up albums, Carr guided a diverse band of musicians through some of the most innovative music of the time. The bargain 6CD box set is a good place to start and both Belladonna (1972) and Alleycat (1975) have recently been reissued on vinyl.

7. Cal Tjader – On Green Dolphin Street from Catch the Groove: Live at the Penthouse 1963-67

Vibes player Cal Tjader rose to fame during the Mambo craze of the late 1950s, and his bands often featured both seasoned Cuban musicians and upcoming jazz talents. Tjader and his band opened the second Monterey Jazz Festival in 1959 and he was to play there on many subsequent occasions. He signed with Verve Records in the 1960s, recording his most famous album Soul Sauce in 1964. The title track (also known as Guarachi Guaro), written by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, has become something of a standard and has been recorded and remixed by dozens of artists – try this Fila Brazilia remix, for example. Catch the Groove is a live double CD/triple vinyl package from Zev Feldman (the Jazz Detective) and was certainly one of Neil’s highlights from the most recent Record Store Day. If you can find a copy you’ll be rewarded with an amazingly well recorded and expansive live set that runs the gamut from jazz classics like our choice On Green Dolphin Street through to Latin originals like Davito. Most of the later tracks include the celebrated conga player Armando Peraza but also along for the ride on many of these previously unreleased tunes are pianist Clare Fischer, bassist Monk Montgomery and drummer Carl Burnett. The LP and CD versions both come with comprehensive liner notes from fellow vibes players like Gary Burton and Joe Locke and there a wealth of photos and interviews to check out too. You can catch the groove on Bandcamp if you’re quick – there are currently just five copies left!

8. Donny McCaslin – Stria from I Want More

The current crop of recent Edition Records signings include saxophonist Donny McCaslin whose new album extends the jazz boundaries even further. That’s not surprising given his most famous credential as the man behind David Bowie’s Black Star album. As he explained to Edition, the new album is a hybrid of jazz-rooted music but [one] that was acceptable to a rock audience and we knew it had to come from a sound and from the soul. It wasn’t about just getting the right music and the right musicians playing it. It was about the right sound which required the right mixer and producer. And in this case, it was Dave Fridmann [The Flaming Lips] who has never worked in jazz. But it‘s that very thing that gave us the edge. The result is I Want More – and the clue about how it sounds is in that album name. The album begins with Stria and it certainly sets the tone  a captivating track which sets the tone for what is to follow. Throughout the album there’s a tight interplay between McCaslin’s tenor sax, Jason Lindner’s synths and Wurlitzer, Tim Lefebvre’s electric bass, and Mark Guiliana’s drums – and there’s a distinctive producer’s sound here too. A CJ recommended listen.

9.   Eparapo – My Beautiful City from Take to the Streets

The word ‘eparapo’ means ‘join forces’ in Yoruba but it’s also the title of a tune by the late, great Tony Allen – drummer for Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and lifelong friend and mentor of Dele Sosimi who also features on this album. The force behind Eparapo is bassist, composer and producer Suman Joshi who’s a longtime member of Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Orchestra. Vocalist on My Beautiful City is Ghanaian percussionist Afla Sackey and the band members include Tamar Osborn – saxophonist, composer, producer and bandleader of Collocutor – and trumpeter Graeme Flowers. My Beautiful City has been on heavy rotation on Jazz FM in recent months and deservedly so. You can find the album (and a bunch of remixes) here on Bandcamp.

10. Amp Fiddler – Eye to Eye from Waltz of a Ghetto Fly

We bookend the show with another sad jazz-related death and, just as Derek saw Sara Tavares in 2006, Neil saw and met Amp Fiddler at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2004 in a great triple bill along with Gilles Peterson and trumpeter Harry Beckett. Joseph ‘Amp’ Fiddler was a native of Detroit who played with George Clinton, Moodymann, Prince, the Brand New Heavies, Maxwell and many more. Perhaps even more importantly, he was a huge influence on hip hop producer J Dilla, also a native of the Motor City, introducing him to Fiddler’s Akai sampling drum machine on which the young Dilla began to create his celebrated beats, including the now iconic Welcome 2 Detroit.  You can still find the 20th Anniversary edition here on Bandcamp – listen to this instrumental version of Think Twice to hear how those hip hop beats merge with jazz in music by artists like Blue Note’s Robert Glasper. Chillin’ with Amp Fiddler seems a fitting end to this show – look out for more new music from Cosmic Jazz soon.

Neil is listening to…

Music for a jazz party – 21/12/2023

It is time for our end of year jazz dance party and we invite you to groove along with us here at Cosmic Jazz. Dancing and jazz may not seem an obvious connection for some, but it was there in the origins of the music and the connections have never gone away.

1. Herbie Hancock – Thieves in the Temple from The New Standard

We began this festive show with a standout track from an album which finally appeared last month on vinyl for the first time. The New Standard is just that – Hancock is performing the same trick as his mentor Miles Davis was to do a few years later – reinventing pop and rock tunes as jazz standards. Here we have Prince in a jazz arrangement – and why not? Just take a listen to this all star band of Michael Brecker on saxes, John Scofield on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Jack deJohnette on drums and Don Alias on percussion drive through this funky gem with real panache.

2. Walter Bishop – Soul Turnaround from Soul Village/Fusion With Attitude

Pianist Walter Bishop Jr. is probably best known for his Muse label records from the 1970s, particularly the excellent Soul Village – a record we have featured a number of times on Cosmic Jazz and which includes a reworking of Soul Turnaround which had initially appeared on Coral Keys, his first recording for Black Jazz Records. In his teens growing up in New York Bishop knew Sonny Rollins and Art Taylor – good friends to have around! On this session from 1977 Randy Brecker appears on trumpet and George Khan is on guitar with Bishop on Fender Rhodes, of course.

3. STR4TA – Kinshasa FC from Aspects

Neil greatly enjoyed the first album from Gilles Peterson and Bluey Maunick’s recreation of the heady days of Britfunk with STR4TA. Bluey is, of course, leader of the band Incognito and several other Britfunk groups including Light of the World and Freez. The music is straight out of the early 1980s – acid jazz at its best. Cheesy listening or easy listening? Either way, this is just a delight. And – if you like this – then check out their more recent 2023 release which includes Lazy Days, featuring Emma-Jean Thackray on trumpet and vocals. Like the previous choice, this is sunny summer music but this time with a British twist – the lyrics include the phrases “cotton sheets” and “pots of tea”!

4. Eddie Harris – Sham Time from The Electrifying Eddie Harris/The Eddie Harris Anthology Disc 1

If you want some percussive jazz, try Eddie Harris. This is one of tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris’ most famous and significant outings. He displays his mastery of the electronic Varitone saxophone on Charles Stepney’s excellent Theme in Search of a Movie and on the iconic take on Listen Here. On our choice of Sham Time there’s a horn section too, including David ‘Fathead’ Newman and King Curtis on tenor saxes. With Latin percussion from NuYorican Latin legend Ray Barreto and Joe Wohletz  and Melvin Jackson on bass this soul jazz classic should be in every jazz lover’s library. The tune Sham Time was released on the 1967 album The Electrifying Eddie Harris and can be found on the 1993  Anthology compilation released by Rhino Records.

5. Jazzanova – Creative Musicians (Henrik Schwarz Dub) from Creative Musicians (Wajeed & Henrik Schwarz remixes)

So how did the Berlin-based production collective Jazzanova find itself reimagining songs from the iconic, Detroit record label Strata? I couldn’t think of a more perfect band to do this work said DJ Amir about Jazzanova because they brought passion and love to the project, because they know the music and love the music. Amir Abdullah is the crate-digging, DJ and label-head for 180 Proof Records which began reissuing the groundbreaking Strata Records back catalogue . On The Sound of Detroit – Reimagined by Jazzanova, DJ Amir and Jazzanova rework eleven hand-picked tracks, including Lyman Woodard Organization’s Creative Musicians tune with inspired horn arrangements and a new drum track. Reimagined in Berlin fifty years later, DJ Amir and Jazzanova create something new that was then further enhanced by remixers Wajeed and Henrik Schwarz – and we love the Schwarz version.

6. Isis – In Essence from Like Una Presents E Soul Cultura Vol. 2

This superb jazzy house tune appears on a second É Soul Cultura compilation from Manchester-based DJ Luke Una on the Mr Bongo label. In May 2022, É Soul Cultura Vol.1 blended new, old, rare and under-discovered music from around the world with Piccadilly Records in Manchester making the album their top compilation of the year, and Rough Trade placing it as their number two. Vol. 1 featured the brilliant Eva from Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti – a tune that Neil had on repeat play for months. A second volume released in May this year included the Isis track In Essence, You’re not likely to find a copy of this one (there are none available on Discogs) so this compilation will be your only chance to get your hands on this hypnotic house classic. Howard Mills is on saxophone but the vibes player is uncredited. When we played this track in June we quoted Luke Una who said it’s all about telling stories, sharing the music, and making life’s journey mean something. In the end, of course, it’s just a compilation of other people’s music, but hopefully it’s more than that, adding something back to the pot. Which is pretty much what we try and do here at Cosmic Jazz.

7. MONDO GROSSO – Life feat. Paula Lima from MG4

Probably in common with many music lovers Derek has records which he loves but has no idea how he came about them. One such record is MONDO GROSSO’s MG4 released in 2000. It is a must for a jazz party. Several tunes on the album could have been selected but Life is the choice for this show featuring Brazilian vocalist Paula Lima with backing vocals from Japanese/American singer/songwriter Monday Michiru, who is featured elsewhere on the album both as vocalist and composer. MONDO GROSSO (Italian: Big World) was instigated by the Japanese  Kyoto-based DJ, musician and producer Shinichi Osawa whose main roles on this album are as composer and producer. He has worked with a number of Japanese musicians and several feature on this album, but also artists from elsewhere. The Brazilian musicians Tania Maria and Ed Motta appear as does former vocalist with The Brand New Heavies N’Dea Davenport. How to classify this music? Try some – or all – of the following: jazz/ acid jazz/Brazilian/house/funk/dance.

8. Mo’ Horizons – Brazil from Come Touch The Sun

A similar broad array of musical categories could be used to describe the music of Mo’Horizons. The same words as above (DJ, musician, producer) are also appropriate to describe the German founders Mark Wertzler and Rald Droesemeyer and there’s a similar global approach drawing on Afro/Latin/Brazilian grooves – for this choice it’s a taste of Braziliana. This is jazzy club culture at its best – irresistible rhythms, piercing percussion, solid bass, horn interludes and warm, engaging  vocals from Brazil courtesy of Leila Pantel. Come Touch The Sun was Mo’Horizons’ first album released in 1999 and it’s still readily available on CD and download. Warning – vinyl will not come cheap.

9. Koop feat. Yukimi Nagano – Summer Sun ( Original Version) from Waltz for Koop/Saint-Germain-Des-Pres-Cafe, Vol. 2

This tune takes us back into more strictly jazz territory, although the Swedish band Koop (a shortened version of the Swedish word for co-operation) reached out beyond  jazz to hip-hop, dance, acid jazz, trip-hop and beyond. Koop was formed by the electronic jazz duo of Magnus Zingmark and Oscar Simonsson using that ‘bedroom sampling’ approach of putting together several song samples to produce vocal jazz. They worked with several vocalists with our choice of Summer Sun featuring Swedish singer Yukimi Nagano – a teenager when the record was made. It is a swinging, bouncy, infectious, vibrant  tune with vocals beautifully and enticingly delivered by Nagano. You can find this one on the 2001 album Waltz for Koop and a French compilation, Saint-Germain-Des-Pres-Cafe Vol. 2 on which fellow performers in this Cosmic Jazz show, Mo’ Horizons and Herbie Hancock, can also be found.

10. Kira Neris – Open Doors from Behind Closed Doors

Alsace DJ and sampler Kira Neris (aka Hervé Poudoulec) appeared on the show way back in 2015, so this was a great opportunity to revisit a favourite from his 2007 Behind Closed Doors album. We’ve always loved his music and imaginative sampling – this time from Jimmy McGriff’s The Worm and Mel Tormé’s take on the classic Moonlight in Vermont – and so this seemed like a fitting end to the show. The whole album is worth a look – mixing as it does jazz and deep house. As one reviewer noted, imagine Cinematic Orchestra meets Moodyman, which seems about right to us. You can still get hold of the DL right here on Bandcamp – check it out. We’ll be taking a seasonal break for the next few weeks but will be back with more Cosmic Jazz in 2024. Have a great end to your year wherever you are.

From the spiritual to the dancefloor with Cosmic Jazz – 04/12/2023

Cosmic Jazz this time started with the Coltranes – John and Alice together – before sampling some of the musicians who have been in the UK capital in November at the London Jazz Festival. Unusually, we ended on the 80s dancefloor with Alphonse Mouzon…

1.  John Coltrane – Stellar Regions from Stellar Regions

We like to acknowledge what is going on around us in relation to the jazz world and so it was to our sheer delight that BBC Radio 3’s five hour-long episodes of Composer of the Week – almost universally the reserve of classical composers – was devoted to the work of John and Alice Coltrane. Presented by Kate Molleson, a specialist in  new classical music and with contributions from Kevin Le Gendre, the jazz broadcaster and writer, this is something to search for on BBC Sounds – here’s the first programme. So to celebrate what is a long overdue recognition, we begin the show with a short (by Coltrane standards), magical, spiritual blast from his tenor saxophone on Stellar Regions, the title tune from this posthumous 1995 release. Wife Alice Coltrane is on piano, with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. It was one of John Coltrane’s late recordings made on 15 February 1967, unearthed from ‘lost’ tapes found by Alice and son Ravi Coltrane. None of the compositions  had a title at the time they were recorded with Stellar Regions actually being an alternate version of Venus which had appeared on the earlier Interstellar Space record. In the liner notes, critic David Wild notes These recordings all have a similar aura. Among Coltrane’s final phrases, they are almost the last notes to be captured on tape, performances thus haunted by our foreknowledge that what will follow them is silence. More importantly and perhaps even more compelling, they represent a suggestion of the evolution his music would have taken had his life not been cut so short, a tantalizing glimpse of an unrealized future.

2. High Pulp – Astral Traveling from Mutual Attraction Vol. 1

So this one is a kind of backhand tribute to Pharoah Sanders and Lonnie Liston Smith who both recorded Astral Traveling – and now one of our favourite current bands has tackled it. High Pulp is undoubtedly rooted in the jazz tradition but also touches on indie-rock and electronic music, using all these sounds simultaneously to pursue something truly their own. We’ve featured their latest Days in the Desert album on previous shows but this show’s choices comes from the first of three earlier EPs of covers – Mutual Attraction Vol.1 which appeared on Record Store Day in 2020 and included covers of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra. All three albums are worth getting hold of – have a look at the band’s Bandcamp site here and grab them while you can. Several of their records on vinyl are now sold out so you’ll need to move quickly!

3. Niki Iles and NDR Bigband – Wild Oak from Face to Face

This new record came out just last week and in time to reflect Nikki Iles’ appearance at the last night of the London Jazz Festival with the celebrated NDR Bigband. Reviews of the show emphasise the sheer excitement of this concert – a testament to both the quality of Iles’ writing and the musicianship of the Bigband. Soloists included Percy Pursglove, Ingolf Burkhardt and Claus Stötter on trumpets and Fiete Felsch and Frank Dell on saxes, with dynamic, exuberant solos from guitarist Phil Robson added into the mix. The new album Face to Face is very much recommended here on CJ.

4. Makaya McCraven – Dream Another from In These Times

Neil can personally vouch for the validity of the rave reviews for McCraven’s appearance at the LJF – what a performance from the ‘beat scientist’ and his Chicago-based band! Along with the London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames, McCraven was joined on stage by his current core Chicago band – a quintet with Joel Ross on vibes, guitarist Matt Gold, electric bass player Julius Paul (wearing an on-stage outfit that made him look like a jazz version of Bootsy Collins!) and trumpeter Marquis Hill. As Chris May’s All About Jazz review noted, each was outstanding: Hill soulful and sonorous, Gold raw and off kilter, Ross mercurial and emphatic, like Cecil Taylor with sticks, McCraven colossal, a Buddy Rich for our age (in the best way). Each selection from the album was transformed into a charged up, intense performance that saw McCraven delivering some powerhouse drumming. Neither flute nor harp featured as on the record – instead the LCO string ensemble created a beautiful counterpoint to the quintet. When interviewed by All About Jazz, McCraven said This is a record of my compositions that feature odd time signatures and different types of rhythms. At the crux of my concept since I started writing and playing drums is that I like to play complex rhythms. In these times—it’s in the title. To hear more current McCraven and music from In These Times, check out this live set from US radio station KEXP and why not have a look at what he purchased in San Francisco’s celebrated record store Amoeba. We like the drummer-centric picks!

5. Charles Lloyd – I Fall In Love Too Easily from Mirror

Also at the LJF this year, saxophone master Charles Lloyd is one of CJ’s perennial favourites. His distinctive tone on tenor is what drives this reflective take on Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn’s enduring American standard. Many listeners will be familiar with some of the more famous takes – in both vocal and instrumental versions. How about those by Shirley Horn and Miles Davis to begin with? And Wayne Shorter’s Sanctuary on the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew is a kind of abstraction of the tune – see if you can spot the elements… Mirror is one of Lloyd’s many ECM records, all of which are worth investigating in this late flowering of a saxophone legend that began when he was taken on board by French pianist Michel Petrucciani in 1981. He then began a late run of superb albums on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label beginning with Fish Out of Water in 1989 and ending with Hagar’s Song in 2013. Signing with the revitalised Blue Note label two years later, Lloyd has continued to release inspiring music of which Tone Poem, his 2021 record with his group The Marvels, is a CJ choice.

6. Hiromi – Desert On the Moon from Brain

Japanese born, now US resident Grammy-winning pianist and composer Hiromi has built up a substantial reputation both in Japan and internationally since her 2003 debut album Another Mind. Desert On the Moon comes that debut’s follow up and the energy, dexterity and fluidity of her playing is readily apparent on this beautiful and refreshing number. What the music illustrates – as indeed does all of her work – is a willingness to experiment  and cross the boundaries from jazz to pop to classical. She is quoted as saying I don’t want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It’s just the union of what I’ve been listening to and what I’ve been learning. There is a creative and not always predictable energy about her work which recently saw her perform at the London Jazz Festival with both a new piano quintet and her regular group Sonicwonder whose new album can be found here on Bandcamp.

7. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Afro En Toulouse from Timba a la Americana

It is not always possible in the time available, but we try to play more than one tune from a new album that we select. Radio selections often play a one-off choice, frequently of one of the outstanding tunes of an album. Many of us have been caught out through being induced to  pay money for an album from the lure of a single audio-friendly track. This is one reason why pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa appears for a second time on the show – but, additionally, we simply love the music. Afro En Toulouse acknowledges that in the last year, along with his drummer brother Ruy, Lopez-Nussa moved from Cuba to Toulouse in South-West France. Prominent on this tune is Barbaro (Machito) Crespo on congas, bata and vocals, maintaining those sonic links with Cuba, but Lopez-Nussa notes that this new Blue Note album Timba a la Americana is very different to his previous records, admitting that for the first time I play electronic sounds without any shame. Of course, here at CJ, we fully acknowledge and celebrate the presence of electronics in jazz.

8. Jonathan Blake – Passage from Passage

Exactly the same reasons as above apply to the selection of further tune from another Blue Note debutant, drummer Jonathan Blake. This time, our choice is the title track from his album PassageIt’s dedicated to the memory of his father, jazz violinist John Blake Jr. who was the composer of this title tune.  Not surprisingly, the number is played with emotion, passion and great virtuosity by top-notch  musicians. These include another outstanding Cuban pianist David Virelles, prominent in Passage from the opening bars, but much of the tone and feeling is set by the alto saxophone playing of Immanuel Wilkins, definitely one of the young jazz players of the moment. Other members of the quintet are  the much-lauded vibraphonist Joel Ross (qv. Makaya McCraven above) and bass player and composer Dezron Douglas. This is definitely an album with a contemporary New York feeling and sound.

9. Brian Auger & the Oblivion Express – Happiness is Just Around the Bend from Closer To It!

Hammond guru Brian Auger is going through something of a renaissance at the moment. Two new box sets (both on vinyl and compact disc) have being going down a treat with listeners and probably the best of these Oblivion Express records is 1973 Closer To It! album. Happiness Is Just Around the Bend is Augur’s own composition and is a really strong vocal debut for Augur himself. The second side of this album features covers of jazz classic Compared to What and a surprisingly good take on Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues. The whole album is highly recommended – you’ll be able to track down a copy on Discogs.

10. Sabu Martinez – Hotel Alyssa-Sousse, Tunisia (Danny Krivit edit) from Mr. Bongo Edits Vol. 1/Afro Temple

Something of a crate digger’s favourite back in the day, an original copy of the Sabu Martinez album Afro Temple album used to change hands for up to $3000. Neil has had a reissue for decades but our choice is an edit from the New York DJ Danny Krivit – a DJ with a very interesting background. As he recounts in an online interview, his father was trumpeter Chet Baker’s manager and his mother was a jazz singer. Martinez is always worth exploring, whether for his earliest recordings with Art Blakey in 1953 or his own albums including his debut for Blue Note in 1957, Palo Congo. Martinez relocated to Sweden in the mid 1970s where he led the Burnt Sugar group. Afro Temple is a great record, with Hotel Alyssa-Sousse, Tunisia the stand-out track – and there are lots of different reissues for you to choose from.

11. Alphonse Mouzon – I’m Glad That You’re Here from 12 inch single

What are we doing playing this tune on Cosmic Jazz you may ask? There are several answers.  It links with our previous show where we had Alphonse Mouzon playing drums for McCoy Tyner, no less. It also takes us back to a tradition on the show whereby we end the programme with a tune that stretches the musical boundaries. There is also the not so inconsequential issue of the personnel on the record: Herbie Hancock on piano and Michael Brecker on sax – and his little early sax break is worth more than a cursory listen. Mouzon played with several distinguished jazz artists, although he ventured into the pop and disco world. Certain sections of the jazz listening public, often comfortably off themselves, have been quick to criticise such moves by jazz artists yet they ignore the difficulties any musician has to earn a living – especially in this current era of paltry download revenues. Jazz artists have more difficulties than most and so we should respect their right to a living. Enjoy the record – we love it. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

Neil is listening to…

There’s a funky theme to my ten choices this time. We begin with neglected Blue Note trumpeter Eddie Gale on Black Rhythm Happening before searching out UK premier remixers Bugz in the Attic who give 4Hero’s Hold It Down more than a little re-rub. Next is that hypnotic bassline from Abe Laboriel on Herb Alpert’s second disco hit Rise followed by more Brian Auger and his Oblivion Express with another track from that great record Closer To It! That sly funk masterpiece Cucumber Slumber from Weather Report, featuring the great Alphonso Johnson on bass, comes next. Derek reminded me that Marvin Gaye’s classic Let’s Get It On celebrates a 50th anniversary this year as does the O Jay’s magnificent slavery-themed album Ship Ahoy which contains the oft-covered For The Love of Money. Next was Flora’s Song (piano by Chick Corea), one of the stand out tracks from Airto’s superb CTI album Free which seemed to complement the funky Ohlos Coloridos from Brazilian singer Sandra de Sá before ending with more bass from Bobby Hutcherson’s San Francisco album and the evocative Ummh. If the spirit moves ya

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio