As many CJ listeners will know, David Bowie’s final album Blackstar features the late rock star working with a contemporary jazz group – and so the show this week began with some of those musicians. We started with tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, heard here rocking out with guitarist Ben Monder – both of whom feature on Blackstar.
Second up was the inspiration behind Blackstar, Maria Schneider. One Sunday night in the spring of 2014, Bowie walked into 55 Bar, a 96-year-old jazz club tucked away on a quiet side street in New York’s West Village. It was his friend Maria Schneider who had suggested he check out the night’s headliner, a quartet led by Donny McCaslin. Bowie apparently grabbed a table near the stage and took in a set of exploratory jazz, then left without speaking to the band. A server was like, ‘Wait, was that David Bowie?’ McCaslin has said. It started dawning on people. Ten days later, McCaslin got an email: Bowie wanted him and his drummer Mark Guiliana to join him in the studio. I thought, ‘This is David Bowie, and he chose me, and he’s sending me an email?’ McCaslin said. I tried not to think about it too much. I just wanted to stay in the moment and just do the work [he wanted]. You can read more about this in Rolling Stone magazine – and check out the video clip of McCaslin, drummer Mark Guiliana, bassist Tim Lefevbre and keyboard player Jason Lindner.
Schneider headlined last year’s London Jazz Festival and her most recent release The Thompson Fields is a delight. We featured the reflective title track from her previous album Sky Blue.
Steve’s Jazz Sounds keeps Cosmic Jazz supplied with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of music from Scandinavia and eastern Europe. This week we featured the Witold Janiack Trio, another of those great piano trios that continue to reinvent this most classic of jazz formats.
The pianist Paul Bley died on 03 January. Influential rather than well known (even to some jazz cognoscenti) Bley has influenced a generation of musicians – from Keith Jarrett to Pat Metheny who commented On one level, what he’s doing is very complex, but it’s also completely accessible, very open… and in the end, something very personal becomes very universal. We played a tune by Bley’s first wife, the pianist and arranger Carla Bley from Bley’s superb piano solo release from ECM Records, Open, to Love. Have a look at this video performance from 1973 in which Bley’s quirky style (and pipe smoking!) is clearly apparent.
The Swedish band Oddjob has been inspired by the Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research and has created an album based on recordings of ancient Swedish pastoral music. Any music inspired by old recordings of shepherd songs is going to be unusual but we think this works – we played one of the tracks from this interesting album which is simply called Folk.
And this week we got round to playing in full the Bugge Wesseltoft track that ended last week’s show before winding things up with Mark Murphy’s uncompromising variation on Cole Porter’s All of You from his 1999 album The Latin Porter produced by Ben Sidran.
- Donny McCaslin – Rock Me from Declaration
- Maria Schneider Orchestra – Sky Blue from Sky Blue
- Paul Bley – Ida Lupino from Open, to Love
- Witold Janiack Trio – Owjas from Jagrajcie Swoja Muzyke
- Oddjob – Folk @ Six Calling at Nygards from Folk
- Bugge Wesseltoft – Play It from Bugge and Friends
- Mark Murphy – All of You from The Latin Porter