Week ending 09 May 2020: Covid deaths and new music

This week’s Cosmic Jazz stays with the virtual show format – click on the hyperlinks to listen to the show – and open up twice to listen and read simultaneously! This week, six artists from Neil reflect two more sad Covid-19 deaths but also provide music that’s uplifting and spiritual in scope.

First up is one of the most recent deaths from Covid-19 in the UK – Benedict Chijioke, more commonly known as rapper Ty, was one of the most eloquent musicians of his generation with a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his album Upwards in 2004. Check out Groovement (Part 1) and The Willing for an indication of why we think his work is comparable not just with his international peers but with the work of A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul. The latter track features the distinctive trap kit sound of Tony Allen – as unmistakable as ever. You can explore much more of Tony Allen’s music in our previous post.

Detroit DJ Mike Huckaby was another recent Covid-19 victim. The phrase ‘taste maker’ is perhaps used rather too loosely, but Huck’s music choices were remarkably influential, not just in the US but in clubs around the world. Ever keen to encourage new talent, Huckaby ran DJ and production workshops in Detroit and beyond, mentoring upcoming talent with a generosity typical of his approach to music. Have a listen to The Jazz Republic for a taste of his deep house sound.

Sometimes a Twitter post or online article can start a search that yields unexpected rewards. I can’t remember how this one started, but I ended up with Maria Rita Stumpf and her Brasileira remixes. The original Brasileira album, released in 1988 and her first recording, was all but lost but has now been rediscovered and remastered. The music features and is inspired by one of Brazil’s ethnic minorities, the Kamaiura.

The complete album is available here on Bandcamp but have a listen to one of the standout tracks – Cantico Brasileira No. 3 (Kamaiura). This tune in turn led me to the remixes – just two tracks, of which this – the same Cantico Brasileira No.3 – is the second. The remix artist is Carrot Green – and here’s another of his stunning transformations, the hypnotic Ponto Das Caboclas from Camila Costa.

To avoid confusion, Cosmic Jazz points out that Maria Rita Stumpf and Maria Rita are not one and the same. Both are Brazilian singers but Maria Rita (full name Maria Rita Camargo Mariano is the daughter of famed singer Ellis Regina and pianist/arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano. Her self-titled debut album was released to some acclaim in 2004 – here’s the Milton Nascimento album opener, A Festa. Since then she’s released half a dozen albums, with 2008’s Samba Meu perhaps the most worthy of further investigation.

Hard bop tenor player Charlie Rouse had a ten year partnership with pianist Thelonious Monk but his own recordings are often surprisingly good too. A new discovery for me was the album Bossa Nova Bacchanal which – at first glance – might look like an attempt to cash in on that 1960s bossa nova craze. But the album is much more than this. For a start, there’s the players – Kenny Burrell on guitar, Willie Bobo on drums and Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdes on congas. The Haitian-influenced Merci Bon Dieu is a good example of the strengths of this record – it’s much more of a jazz than bossa album. Good luck on finding a vinyl copy of this record! Rouse is there on many of Monk’s classic Columbia recordings, including the superlative Monk’s Dream – an album that belongs in every jazz collection. The album opens with a new recording of the title track – check it out here.

DJ Gilles Peterson’s has been making good use of his lockdown situation by delving deep into his phenomenal record collection and presenting a selection of top 20s on his Worldwide FM radio channel. The Brazilian Jazz 20 was especially rewarding with all tracks worthy of your attention. I’ve listened to the programme four times already since it was broadcast earlier this month. Don’t think you’ve missed it either – you can catch up right here. Standout tracks? Too many to mention – but if you don’t know Dom Um Romao’s superb Spirit of the Times record on the Muse label (1975) then listen to Gilles’ choice The Angels and you’ll want to investigate further. Before this album was released, Romao was performing percussion duties in Weather Report – listen to him here on the sinewy Cucumber Slumber from Mysterious Traveller (1974) and with new bass player Alphonso Johnson up in the mix too.

Finally, in the mix this week was something new from Texan (largely) instrumental trio Khruangbin. With a name taken from the Thai word for airplane, their music can be described as a mix of funk, psychedelia, Iranian and Thai styles and – yes – a little jazz too. Their debut album The Universe Smiles on You was widely acclaimed and their sophomore release Con Todo el Mundo went on to be released in a special dub version Hasta el Cielo last year. Out in a few weeks will be their 2020 album Mordechai – from which the chart friendly Time (You and I) is the first release, out in June. The video features UK comedians Stephen K Amos and Lunda Anele-Skosana making sandcastles in some familiar London streets…

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

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