Week ending 23 November 2019: in the tradition?

All is back to normal and this week’s Cosmic Jazz is available via the Mixcloud tab on this site. It is a good one too. It starts with one of our favourites, and a tune that unashamedly I have played before. Piotr Wojtasik is an experienced trumpeter from Poland who has released several albums and if you follow CJ you know where to get them – Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Please do check out this great site for jazz sounds from continental Europe and beyond that often even we here at CJ haven’t heard of. The Wojtasik track Stay in Time of Freedom provided a joyous and uplifting opening to our show this week with its use of two strong vocalists whose delivery matches the power of the lyrics.

To keep the uptempo mood going I veered from my planned selection to slip in another Cosmic Jazz favourite from the Japanese band Sleep Walker. Led by Masato Nakamura on saxophones and Hajime Yoshizawa on keyboards, Sleep Walker were a quartet with a high profile in the 2000s. Their music still sounds fresh and vital today.

From a little further back in our jazz history comes the music of The Tribe,  a legendary collective of jazz musicians based in Detroit and co-founded in 1971 by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin. They released their music independently and, like many of the African-American artists of the time, were ignored by major labels. The good news is that British label Strut has just released on all formats an excellent new compilation called Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014. Also appearing on these recordings are CJ favourites Harold McKinney (piano) and Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) whose own excellent albums have been re-released on UK label SoulJazz. If you have not encountered their music so far then this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with some excellent and accessible tunes. Further reading on The Tribe comes via this excellent New York Times article from 26 November.

Jamie Saft  is a wonderful pianist, keyboardist, composer and producer. Previous credits have included work with the Beastie Boys, the B-52s, John Zorn, John Anderson, Laurie Anderson, Donovan, Antony & the Johnsons and more. He has also scored award-winning films. In addition to edgy new sounds he has also produced some more straight ahead jazz with his quartet. These are exquisite, superbly recorded jazz albums, almost traditional in sound, but with a contemporary feel. Hidden Corners has a spiritual jazz vibe and is highly recommended.

We continued with more new music from Neil’s recent purchases, firstly from British solo multi-instrumentalist Emma Jean Thackeray who is definitely one to watch. Recording with Makaya McCraven has given her music that edgy contemporary sound and the track you heard has recently been issued as a 12in single. Trumpeter Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah has been around rather longer but his new and ninth album Ancestral Recall include more tracks that epitomise his concept of ‘stretch music’ – an attempt not to replace the jazz tradition but acknowledge the contemporary movements in the music that include hip hop beats but also hark back to the great traditions of jazz. This may not be surprising as aTunde Adjuah’s grandfather was the legendary New Orleans big chief Donald Harrison Snr and his uncle the saxophonist Donald Harrison Jnr.  The beautiful melody Songs She Never Heard uses the enhanced tonal range of Tunde Adjuah’s customised trumpet and the album as a whole may be the best realisation so far of his ‘stretch music’ concept.

Excellent jazz music is emerging from all parts of the UK. One of the leaders from the north west of England is saxophonist Nat Birchall and, what’s more, like the presenters of this programme, he shares a passion for both jazz and reggae. His latest offering is a tribute to one of his jazz heroes, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef – who is something of an insider hero to many, including us here at CJ. Birchall’s version of Love Theme from Spartacus is an excellent example of how to bring something new to a tune recorded by many jazz artists. Compare it with this beautiful solo version from pianist Bill Evans. Moreover, Nat Birchall can also be found on the tune from UK drummer Andy Hay on his tribute album to Lonnie Liston Smith. Hay has featured as the drummer in Birchall’s previous quintet, best heard on the albums Creation and Live at Larissa. The latter has just been reissued and you can order it from Birchall’s Bandcamp site.

The show ends with more great music from Sarathy Korwar. We heavily featured Korwar’s live UK recording My East is Your West and he takes his eclecticism a step further with his new recording More Arriving. Recorded over two and a half years in India and the UK, More Arriving draws on the nascent rap scenes of Mumbai and New Delhi, incorporating spoken word and Korwar’s own Indian classical and jazz instrumentation. With this album, Korwar expands his politicised narrative to cover the wider diaspora. “This is a modern brown record. The kind of record that a contemporary Indian living in the UK for the past 10 years would make,” he notes. “This is what Indian music sounds like to me right now.” Check out the complete album on Korwar’s Bandcamp site.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in Time of Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  2. Sleep Walker – Nomadic Tribe from Sleep Walker
  3. Tribe – Hometown from Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990 – 2014
  4. Jamie Saft – Positive Way from Hidden Corners
  5. Emma-Jean Thackeray – Too Shy (12″ version) from Too Shy/Run ‘Dem
  6. Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah feat. Logan Richardson – Songs She Never Heard from Ancestral Recall
  7. The Nat Birchall Quartet – Love Theme from Spartacus from The Storyteller – a Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef
  8. Andy Hay – Lost Lonnie from Many Rivers
  9. Sarathy Korwar – City of Words from More Arriving

Neil is listening to…




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