Week ending 11 November 2017: jazz with a message

Kamasi Washington poses for photos with his saxophone “The Duchess” at The Atom Factory in Culver City, CA (March 8, 2016)

Can instrumental jazz have a message? Of course. Music of all kinds speaks to the body, mind and spirit and this includes jazz. Whether it’s the spiritual intensity of Kamasi Washington as he channels Pharoah Sanders or the elegaic trumpet of Avishai Cohen as he reflects on the tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre and beyond. Cohen was clearly moved by saxophonist Jimmy Greene, whose daughter was killed in that 2012 high school attack and who released the excellent tribute album Beautiful Life in 2014. Whilst the NRA and Donald Trump appear to be ignoring the real issue, the New York Times recently made the situation crystal clear. The simple fact is that a country making up 4.4% of the world’s total population owns 42% of the world’s guns. Just let that sink in – and then think about what the obvious solution must be…

More new jazz this week, then, from five 2017 releases, one superb reissue compilation and some downtempo Braziliana from UK producer Mark Pritchard’s group Troubleman – and all available as soon as you click on the link left.

The show began with man of the moment (or more accurately, the last 24 months) Kamasi Washington. Familiar to CJ listeners since the release of his 3CD monster The Epic in 2015, Washington has carved out a mainstream profile and is now one of the most recognised figures in contemporary jazz. For those new to this remarkable LA-based tenor saxophonist, his new EP Harmony of Difference (on The Young Turks label and available here) is an admirable summary of his style. The record consists of variations on a theme – including the opening track Desire – and Washington powers his way through all six tracks, culminating the mini-epic Truth. You can listen to that complete track and watch the powerful AG Rojas video here.

Up next was trumpeter Avishai Cohen – not to be confused with jazz bass player Avishai Cohen. We’ve been featuring his new ECM release Cross My Palm with Silver – a convincing recommendation from Cosmic Jazz. More Polish jazz next courtesy of the ever reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds and then a new Blue Note double album from some of the label’s big name artists including Robert Glasper on keys, Marcus Strickland on saxes and Lionel Loueke on guitar.  It’s truly an all star lineup and the compositions are good too. This week’s show featured Meanings. Elsewhere, there’s a fine reading of Wayne Shorter’s Masquelero and both he and Herbie Hancock guest on the track. Again, highly recommended.

Record shop owner Jean Claude of If Music… in Soho, London has long been an enthusiastic champion of vinyl and now he’s brought out a fascinating compilation of tracks from the Black Saint and Soul Note labels out of Milan, Italy. From 1975 onwards, these two affiliated labels released a huge range of music – including key American artists like Archie Shepp, Don Pullen, Oliver Lake and the late Muhal Richard Abrams. When Cam Jazz acquired the label in 2008, they created a series of artist and group box sets that are all worth checking out if you like edgy, avantgarde jazz sounds. This week, we chose a track by the George Adams/Dannie Richmond group from their Soul Note album Hand to Hand. You can read an interview with Jean Claude of If Music… on the Vinyl Thoughts blog here.

The show ended with two contrasting tracks – the first from trance DJ James Holden who has gone on a Moroccan Gnawa music trip and come back with Animal Spirits, a trance jazz album that successfully fuses at least three different musical genres – and finally the aforementioned slice of Brazilian chillout from Troubleman. The ethereal vocals here are by Smoke City’s Nina Miranda.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Desire from Harmony of Difference EP
  2. Avishai Cohen – Will I Die Miss, Will I Die? from Cross My Palm With Silver
  3. Lukasz Korybalski – Taniec Greka from CMM
  4. Blue Note All-Stars – Meanings from Our Point Of View
  5. George Adams and Dannie Richmond – Joobubie from You Need This: an introduction to Black Saint and Soul Note 1975-85.
  6. James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through Fire from The Animal Spirits
  7. Troubleman feat Nina Miranda – Paz from Time Out Of Mind

Neil is listening to…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *