Week ending 31 March 2018: crossing boundaries

Welcome to this week’s Cosmic Jazz, where just clicking on that Mixcloud tab (left) opens up a world of contemporary jazz. It involves musicians from different countries and continents working together, stretching the boundaries of jazz and creating new sounds as they do so. As always, comments are welcome from our registered users.

For a second week, the show begins with one of our favourite Polish jazz groups of the moment, the Marcin Stefaniak Trio. The combination of sax, drums and bass is familar but here it’s woven into something fresh, sharp and modern.

At last I found time to play something that Neil has recommended for some time – a tune from the recent album Black Notes from the Deep by British sax player Courtney Pine. His lyrical take on Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly features vocalist Omar. Swedish alto player Fredrik Kronkvist (above) is someone who appears regularly on Cosmic Jazz – and rightly so. He has travelled from Sweden to the US where he is now based and – over the years – he’s played with a number of prominent US jazz musicians. To me [writes Neil], his tone and style is sounding even more like one of our CJ favourites – Kenny Garrett. Check this out for yourself by listening to one of Garrett’s earlier recordings in Neil’s listening choices for this week – all of which feature great alto sax performances. Kronkvist’s recent album On the Move features another Swede, Martin Sorjstedt – a bass player who also plays piano. This album also features bass player Ameen Saleem as well as drummer Gregory Hutchinson. There’s more from the first two later in the show.

There were links to these artist on Cosmic Jazz as the show gave further attention to both Sorjstedt and Saleem as band leaders in their own right. Martin Sorjstedt definitely plays piano on his album Whereaboutswith an ensemble that includes musicians from Germany, Denmark and the US as well as Sweden. Check the tune Bueno on the show for some interesting trumpet playing from Axel Schlosser. Sorsjstedt is quite a veteran – more than one hundred record productions and six solo albums – and he’s still only thirty-nine – while bass player Saleem was featured on CJ last year with his 2017 album The Groove Lab. It is a varied record and one that crosses and fuses musical genres – of which more later.

There was a contribution to the show from Cubans who have themselves crossed boundaries. Daymé Arocena is an exciting young Cuban vocalist who recorded her second album Cubafonia for the UK Brownswood label under the direction of DJ Gilles Peterson. She first came to his attention as part of the Havana Club music promotion during Peterson’s first visit to Cuba, that Daymé improvised a head-turning rumba show with Edrey, from Grammy nominated group Ogguere. Two years later, the Havana Cultura Mix: The Soundclash! album saw the beginning of her work with Gilles and the Havana Cultura platform. Arocena also released an EP of cover versions – titled One Takes – in early 2016.

Luis Nubiola is a Cuban-born sax player and composer who moved first to Costa Rica and then to Poland. His album Global Friendship (surely an apt description of his life experiences) was made with Polish musicians. It is essentially a good jazz record with some nods towards Cuba.

Fusion was once a dirty word for many jazz lovers – and perhaps because so many lacklustre records were released by jazz musicians (particularly in the 1970s) as they tried to make jazz ‘relevant to today’ with disco and fusion leanings. The same happened in the 1990s as jazz took on hiphop and rap to ‘stay in tune’. I can remember a presenter of a local radio jazz show railing against Miles Davis when he included rapping from Easy Mo Bee on his Doo-Bop album.

In that case, perhaps justifiably so – but thankfully things have moved on and much of todays new jazz musicians start from the simple premise that they grew up listening to nu-soul, hip hop and rap. It’s not an add on, but rather an integrated part of their cultural and musical development. The result – much of their music is hip, cool and undoubtedly the place to be. From the US the likes of Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, Christian Scott, Keyon Harrold and our bass player Ameen Saleem have attracted new and younger admirers for jazz through their work in these current idioms. We’ll continue to feature the music of these trailblazers in upcoming CJ shows.

And, of course, in the UK there are many young musicians now following the same aesthetic. For those of us UK jazz lovers who like to think we have a progressive and open outlook to the music, these are exciting times. There were two examples in this week’s show to illustrate what is happening. Firstly, drummer, composer, producer  Moses Boyd and then sax/flute player Nubya Garcia, a beneficiary of support from the Foundation set up in memory of drummer Steve Reid. I am looking forward to seeing both of these musicians at the end of May at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival – Moses Boyd with partner Binker Golding and Nubya Garcia as a member of Maisha. Open musicians, with open minds opening further adventurous paths into the music we love.

  1. Marcin Stefaniak – Wheelers from Unveiling
  2. Courtney Pine – Butterfly from Black Notes from the Deep
  3. Fredrik Kronkvist feat Martin Sjostedt, Ameen Saleem & Gregory Hutchinson – Essential from On the Move
  4. Martin Sjostedt – Bueno from Whereabouts
  5. Ameen Saleem – Love Don’t from the Groove Lab
  6. Dayme Arocena – Mambo Na Ma from Cubafonia
  7. Luis Nubiola – The New One from Global Friendships
  8. Moses Boyd – The Balance from We Out Here
  9. Nubya Garcia – When We Are from When We Are EP

Neil is listening to…

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