Week ending 04 November 2017: searching for jazz

This week Cosmic Jazz returned to some themes from our last show – check it out via the Mixcloud tab left.

There was another attempt to find the jazz in Zara McFarlane’s new album, Arise. I am still struggling. Her voice does not have the range or expressiveness of CJ favourites like Jazzmeia Horn or Cecile McClorin Salvant and musically Arise is neither notable jazz nor typical of any Caribbean musical styles . At times, it sounds to me like a pop record! Neil notes: heaven forfend! I agree with what you say Derek, but Arise is being presented as more of a mainstream breakthrough record and so evaluation needs to be on those terms. McFarlane’s voice is actually better suited to soul rather than jazz and the new record reminds us of this. Is McFarlane’s Peace Begins Within a good cover? Yes, because it reinterprets Nora Dean’s reggae original and gives it a smoother take on what, in other more adventurous jazzier hands, could have been an all-out spiritual anthem. And that trombone/sax break from Nathaniel Cross and Binker Golding is pretty cool… Producer Moses Boyd has ensured that the album sound clean and crisp – all directed at that more mainstream audience. As a whole, Arise is a better use of McFarlane’s vocal limitations than her more jazz inflected earlier releases – but there is certainly a lot less jazz here. So, with Brownswood’s intention to target a different audience, does Arise succeed? Overall, yes – but with caveats for both Neil and Derek here on CJ.

Zara McFarlane’s reworking of the Max Roach classic All Africa is – however – the real jazz deal. It’s worth getting hold of the 10inch single/download to hear the extended McFarlane take on this celebrated cut from Max Roach’s anthemic 1960 album We Insist! There are great solos from Binker Golding on sax and Ashley Henry on keys.  Listening to this version was a useful reminder to play the inspiring original which featured vocals from Abbey Lincoln alongside an all star band including Julian Priester, Booker Little and Coleman Hawkins.

Once I get into a phase of listening to a particular style I tend to return to it. Afro-Cuban Jazz was the example this week. I could not resist returning to the Dizzy Gillespie and Machito album and that led to another record with connections. Mario Bauza appears on the Dizzy/Machito record, as does Chico O’Farrill and trumpeter Victor Paz. They are all together again on a tune from Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra, Carnegie Hall 100. It is uplifting – check out the speed and clarity of that conga playing. The Tanga Suite, the album from which it comes is highly recommended.

The Horace Tapscott tune came from a compilation put together to mark a recent art exhibition at Tate Modern gallery in London, which I was  pleased to visit.  Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power seemed to be an appropriate selection as Black History Month came to its conclusion – as did Terra Firma from Joe Henderson’s Black is the Color record.

To end I could not resist at least another play of Yusef Lateef’s Morning from the latest release in the Spiritual Jazz series and originally found on his – yes – his first 1957 album Jazz Mood. What a revolutionary track this was! Lateef taps deep into middle eastern sounds and in a wonderful piece of modal jazz is featured on tenor sax, with bassist Ernie Farrow doubling up on rabat. In his autobiography The Gentle Giant, Lateef notes how he would visit Detroit’s Eastern Market and the Syrian spice shop where he first encountered the arghul, an Egyptian twin reed clarinet which features elsewhere on Jazz Mood.

Searching for jazz? Oh yes, we found it…

  1. Zara McFarlane – Pride from Arise
  2. Max Roach – All Africa from We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite
  3. Dizzy Gillespie y Machito – Pensativo from Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
  4. Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra – Carnegie Hall 100 from The Tanga Suite
  5. Horace Tapscott – Desert Fairy Princess from Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power/Live at IUCC
  6. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color
  7. Yusef Lateef – Morning from Spiritual Jazz 7/Jazz Mood

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

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