Week ending 15 June 2019: from ‘death jazz’ to orchestral grandeur

Sometimes, Cosmic Jazz features themes that focus on an artist, or style of jazz or a particular instrument. Not this week. There’s no theme – just the usual eclectic mix of music and it’s all available via that Mixcloud tab you can see (left).

So – no good reason to  play the first selection – other than that I felt like hearing  Soil and “Pimp” Sessions again. You might think that this band has gone rather quiet in recent years: they certainly don’t have the profile they did in the 2000s when they were a fixture on the club jazz scene worldwide. But they are still active, with a release in 2018 called Dapper. The band is now a more compact trio, but in their heyday they were a five piece band – with President a.ka. Shacho billed as ‘agitator’ on album credits. The music may have some derivative elements but there is no doubt that what they called their ‘death jazz’ style was an influential sound – original, eccentric, entertaining and fun-loving. I was lucky enough to catch them live some years back at the Jazz Cafe – it was quite an experience.

The next tune, particularly the opening bars, had a feel that fitted nicely coming after Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. It was almost back to one of last week’s themes of less familiar jazz instruments – in this case the trombone. Rosie Turton is another of the ever-increasing excellent young jazz musicians coming out of London. Like so many of her fellow performers she can be found playing outside the group she leads. In fact, she is a member of Nerija – which seemed a pretty sound reason for playing the track that was on last week’s show. And you can now checkout the group’s first full length release here on Bandcamp. We’ll be featuring tracks from this new album in upcoming shows.

We are used to playing young jazz musicians from Poland, but this week it was the turn of two long-established Polish musicians – both of whom are musicians, composers and university lecturers in jazz. Leszek Zadlo, a saxophonist, leads a quartet and Exile from Paradise Part 2 comes from an album of great significance to Polish jazz.  Krzysztof Komeda was one of the greats of Polish jazz. The Leszek Zadlo Quartet’s album Komeda, Wygnanie Z Raju is an arrangement of Komeda’s music that had been lost and has been discovered recently. “Melancholic sounding lyricism” is one description that has been given to the record – but, I wonder, is the word melancholy over-used with regard to Polish jazz? I think so.

The other Polish ‘veteran’ was Marcin Gawdzis and his Quartet.  He is a trumpeter and his album Mind Recovery has been described as “Mainstream jazz with the usual Polish twist, adding elements of Slavic melody and lyricism”. Again, a possible point for discussion – and note the repeat from the Leszek Zadlo review of that word “lyricism”.

Then onward to a tune which will no doubt  provoke some divergent views – not least between myself and Neil. The Cinematic Orchestra have a noteworthy legacy of music behind them and the release of a long-awaited new album should be welcomed. Neil likes it and sent the music across. While playing A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life I found myself not sure, becoming interested then ultimately feeling disappointed. Have I got it wrong and what might I be missing? I leave it to to Neil to explain… Well, (writes Neil), I too was initially rather disappointed with To Believe, this new album from the Cinematic Orchestra. It came across as both a reiteration of key elements from their last release some 12 years ago, but also something of a departure. After several listens I changed my mind. The first point to make here is that this is a group of songs that have been put together in a memorably satisfying way. There is a delicacy in each track that is best experienced listening through headphones or a rather good hifi system – and our choice for this week’s show is typical of that attention to detail. Roots Manuva’s vocals on A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life reprise but also extend his All Things to All Men from 12 years ago and end up creating an epic composition that lives in the memory.

Perhaps the best song on the album is actually the only one without vocals – but it’s still a lyrical exploration of contemporary minimalism. Lessons is what the Guardian review calls “nine minutes of murmuring conversation between the players, dominated by Luke Flowers’ gently military drums” and it is, indeed, just this and like much of Cinematic’s work, a soundtrack to an imaginary film. This is an album to spend time with – ideally listening to the whole piece from beginning to end and revelling in the grandeur of a superb mix of the orchestral and electronic.

To end the show this week there was an excerpt from an artist we both admire. Randy Weston was one of the greats whose interest extended beyond jazz to the rhythms from African countries. This is well exemplified in the music of Blue Moses and the title of the album from which the track is taken.

  1. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – A Wheel Within a Wheel from Pimp Sessions
  2. Rosie Turton – Butterfly from Rosie’s 5ive
  3. Nerija – Pinkham from Nerija EP
  4. Leszek Zadlo Quartet Exile from Paradise Part 2 from Komeda, Wygnamie Z Raju
  5. Marcin Gawdzis Quartet – Mind Recovery from Mind Recovery
  6. Cinematic Orchestra – A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life from To Believe
  7. Randy Weston – Blue Moses from The Spirits of our Ancestors (Disc 2)

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

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