Week ending 10 February 2018: more 2017 jazz from Poland and the US

In this first live show of 2018, Cosmic Jazz caught up with some great music from the old year. Technical problems aside there was some great music to listen to – click that MixCloud tab (left) and check it out.

Up first was a moving track from one of my favourite discs of 2017. MB Lament from Keyon Harrold’s sophomore release The Mugician is a tribute to Michael Brown, the young man shot dead by police in Harrold’s home town of Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. The Mugician is a good example of the way in which many current jazz artists seek to explore the boundaries of their music: there’s reggae, neo-soul, spoken word and some inspiring orchestration here. Harrold’s sound is close to Terence Blanchard’s and it’s all bound up in a socially conscious framework. This music means something – and that’s Harrold’s intention.

There is still some interesting Polish music to catch up on from 2017. The Improvisation Quartet on their debut album have produced what a Polish critic described as one of the finest moments in Polish jazz for 2017. The musicians play tunes based on folkloric song using clarinet, double bass, drums and piano – and it’s co-ordinated by the  outstanding Dominik Wania, who we have met already on Cosmic Jazz.

Another debut album came from the Patrycjusz Gruzecki Trio. Gruzecki himself is a trumpet/flugelhorn player  and combines with the interesting mix of drums and Hammond organ, which provides both swing and  groove to the music. More conventional is the pianist Kuba Stankiewicz (see photo above) – a more established member of the Polish jazz scene. His record is a dedication to Henryk Wars, a composer of Polish jazz standards. The music is mainstream but has a calming effect especially when played among some of the less conventional material on the programme.

From time to time you hear music that is simply amazing, music that leaves you in awe and wonder, music that moves you physically and spiritually. Neil, my co-presenter of Cosmic Jazz has just introduced me to a new example. Cat Toren is a pianist leading a band which she says is inspired by the jazz of the 60s and 70s but music, though, is so much more than a re-working of the past – it is simply wonderful. So much so, that I will not be able to resist playing the same tune all over again next week and after that I hope Neil will have more of her music available to play. Check out some of her live performances on YouTube (see Neil’s listening selections for the previous week’s show) but – more importantly – go and buy this album. [Neil notes] Joining Toren on keyboards are Xavier Del Castillo on sax, Yoshie Fruchter on guitar and oud, Jake Leckie on bass and Matt Honor on drums. Toren’s liner notes are worth quoting: These compositions are inspired by both the free form jazz of the 1960s and a personal expression of the resurgent civil rights movement that is upon us. Jazz has always been music of expression and of the people. In the late 60s, as John and Alice Coltrane and their contemporaries were bringing jazz to new levels of experimentation and cross-culturalism, the sociopolitical climate was fraught with tension. There were benefits held for the Congress Of Racial Equality (CoRE) at the infamous Five Spot Cafe, Nina Simone was singing Mississippi Goddam at Carnegie Hall and producer/concert promoter Norman Granz was demanding that venues adhere to mixed seating for his Jazz at the Philharmonic tours which featured artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. America has come a long way, but this recent regression is a wake up call that the work is far from over.

And, of course, Toren is right. There’s a long history of jazz addressing civil rights issues and Toren and Harrold are just two of the many current musicians focusing on these issues in their chosen art form. Buy this music and you’ll help to benefit organisations fighting for civil liberties and human rights. Go to this Bandcamp link and download the Human Kind EP – then spread the word!

Also from Neil came Makaya McCraven, who Neil describes as the drummer of the moment. I can see why. His 2CD set In the Moment includes some of Chicago’s finest musicians and the tune on the show is a haunting, percussive piece. His music draws upon different musical genres but the spirit is definitely jazz.

The show ends with a short improvised piece from two British jazz masters – free saxophonist Evan Parker and celebrated bass player Dave Holland. Funds raised from downloads of the tune go to raising funds to save the Vortex Jazz Club in London. You can make your own contribution here.

Parker describes the Vortex as my haven from the demands of the road… the Vortex is for me, a space to play ‘free jazz’ I cannot imagine life without it’  New York-based Holland has dropped into the club on a few occasions to take in the odd Evan Parker gig as well as to take in the unique Vortex vibe created by the musicians who perform here and volunteers who look after the place. He says …the Vortex plays a vital role in the cultural life of London providing performance opportunities for both a UK and international community of musicians… its imaginative programming introduces new listening experiences to its audience. Both jazz greats will play sets live at the Vortex on 02 March 2018, donating 100% of ticket sales to the club.

  1. Keyon Harrold – MB’s Lament from The Mugician
  2. Improvisation Quartet – 193  from Free-Folk-Jazz
  3. Makaya McCraven – In the Moment from In the Moment
  4. Cat Toren’s Human Kind – Soul from Human Kind
  5. Kuba Stankiewicz Trio – Let the Chips Fall from The Music of Henryk Wars
  6. Patrycjusz Gruzecki Trio – First Flight from Something About
  7. Evan Parker and Dave Holland – Bass and Tenor Duet (untitled) – Download

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to..

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