02 December 2015: female jazz greats

Derek’s CJ theme this week was clearly female jazz artists – many of whom are regular fixtures on the show. He began with Cassandra Wilson who released a run of consistently great albums on Blue cassandra wilson blue lightNote before moving to Sony. She found her initial fame as a vocalist with Steve Coleman’s M Base movement and then made Blue Light ’til Dawn, her first Blue Note album with what was to become something of a trademark sound. She was able to take familiar tunes from the pop, jazz and blues canons and give them a unique interpretation that featured her resonant voice and spare instrumentation all within a spacious semi-acoustic setting that reinvested these well known tunes. She continued with a string of albums that invoked the spirit of the deep south – delta blues meets jazz and pop – and all of them are worth investigating. For something different try this Joe Claussell remix of Run the Voodoo Down from her Travelling Miles album.

This was followed by two more favourites – the first from the debut album by six octave singer Rachelle Ferrell and her track Prayer Dance. This album features cameos from jazz Wayne Shorter, zara mcfarlaneTerence Blanchard, Michel Petrucciani and Stanley Clarke and is well worth investigating. Up next was young British singer Zara McFarlane with a track from her sophomore release on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label If you Knew Her. Woman in the Olive Grove is a really atmospheric song with a spare jazz quartet backing that engages the listener from its first double bass notes. There’s a great tenor solo from Brinker Golding too.

Esperanza Spalding is a Grammy Award winning phenomenon. She’s a first call bass player and bandleader and something of an expert in creating dazzlingly original arrangements for her band. Witness the esperanza spalding radio music societysensational vocal version of Wayne Shorter’s Endangered Species from her Radio Music Society album from 2012, or the track we featured, Cinnamon Tree.  She’s been remixed too – check out this version of Fall In, remixed here by xvze. Carmen Lundy needs no introduction to CJ regulars: Soul to Soul is the title track from her 2014 release and features appearances from Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, Randy Brecker and Bennie Maupin. More importantly, it’s something of a distillation of Lundy’s approach – musicians who chime beautifully with her voice, a few standards and lots of original material written by Lundy herself. Another recommendation.

The second visit to Brownswood came from 22 year old Cuban vocalist Dayme Arocena who – although a newcomer – is really following in the footsteps of classic Cuban vocalists like Omara Portuondo who sang both American standards and Cuban originals. But Arocena brings the Santeria spirit to her music and this is different. Don’t Unplug My Body is another stripped down performance that features some great piano work. You can hear a great remix from Atjazz (aka Martin Iveson) here. And that West African religious tradition is also a familiar inspiration to many Brazilian artists, including Jorge Ben. Here, though, CJ featuredjoyce samba jazz another longtime favourite, the singer Joyce performing on the track April Child with her husband, drummer Tutty Moreno. Joyce has recorded more than 20 albums in her own name, including the classic Feminina from 1980 which brought her voice and compositions to western listeners. Since signing to Joe Davis’s British label Far Out, she had recorded a series of excellent releases, all of which are worth investigating. Check out the video below – a live 2002 performance of the title track from her classic Feminina album – an essential purchase.

The show ended with two contrasting female artists – Hiromi from Japan and Alice Coltrane from the USA. Hiromi is a keyboard player who is equally at home on piano and synthesizers. Technical alice coltrane transcendencevirtuosity is mixed with a unique style that is undoubtedly influenced by her early meetings with both Chick Corea and Ahmad Jamal. Her album Brain is a classic jazz piano trio recording with dazzling keyboard work in a range of different styles. It features accomplished bassist Anthony Jackson on some tracks although not the title track played here. But you can see him here with his unique contrabass guitar in a studio performance with Hiromi on piano and Simon Philips on drums. The show ended in reflective mode with Alice Coltrane’s Transcendence featuring her unique harp playing along with a string quartet – a suitably spiritual end to a show that revealed the range of female artistry in the wide world of jazz today.

  1. Cassandra Wilson – Come On In My Kitchen from Blue Light ’til Dawn
  2. Rachelle Ferrell – Prayer Dance from First Instrument
  3. Zara McFarlane – Woman In The Olive Grove from If You Knew Her
  4. Esperanza Spalding – Cinnamon Tree from Radio Music Society
  5. Carmen Lundy – Soul To Soul from Soul To Soul
  6. Dayme Arocena – Don’t Unplug My Body from Nueva Era
  7. Joyce & Tutty Moreno – April Child from Samba Jazz and Outras Bossas
  8. Hiromi – Brain from Brain
  9. Alice Coltrane – Transcendence – from Transcendence

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