12 June 2021: Braziliance – and more!

Brazilian music and music influenced by the country are key elements of this edition of Cosmic Jazz, but there is more too: the sounds of Trinidad and Tobago, a Kiwi in London and an essential Blue Note. More than this, there are links aplenty across the music – as indicated by the (see below) references throughout! Listen to the show by clicking on the Mixcloud button (top left or below):

  1. Sivuca – Ain’t No Sunshine from Sivuca

We begin with a track that’s ironically rather sunny, and a perennial favourite – Sivuca’s take on the Bill Withers classic Ain’t No Sunshine. The self-titled Sivuca re-release from Real Gone Music may still be available in your local record store and, if you’re lucky, in purple or forest green vinyl. The gnomish Severino Dias de Oliveira (aka Sivuca) was a Brazilian virtuoso on accordion, guitar, and keyboards but it’s his singing style that’s so engaging. This album was originally released in 1973 on the Vanguard label and reissued for the first time last year. It’s worth searching for – there’s a great version of Edu Lobo’s classic Ponteio too (and see below).

2 and 3.  Raul De Souza Generations Band – Nethinha Aura/Passarim from Plenitude

Virtuoso trombonist and composer Raul De Souza was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1934 and has had a music career spanning six decades both in Brazil and the US. In his 20s he played with the likes of Sergio Mendes, Milton Nascimento, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. After moving to Los Angeles in 1973 his collaborators included Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Jack DeJohnette, Jaco Pastorius and Herbie Hancock. He has recently been working with a group of younger musicians who bring modern sounds and fresh energy to his new album Plenitude It is an intercontinental group that includes young European musicians alongside the now 86 year old De Souza. The band originally came together in 2017 for a Hamburg jazz festival and has developed a blend of funk with traditional and contemporary Brazilian jazz. The album includes compositions by De Souza, George Duke, Chico Buarque, Airto Moreira and a take on Wayne Shorter’s Beauty and the Beast (more see below).

4.  Joe Barbieri feat. Alberto Massico  – Vedi Napoli E Poi Canta from Tratto Da Una Storia Vera   

You can hear Brazilian influences in the work of Naples-based Italian jazz singer-songwriter Joe Barbieri, whose music we like here at Cosmic Jazz. Translated into English, the album title means ‘Based On A True Story’. Barbieri has created his true story in a personal record based around  great songs that are both richly diverse and deeply intimate. With thirty years of a life as artist and musician there are plenty of stories to tell. The album was released back in April of this year and was preceded by the upbeat single Promemoria which we have already played and enjoyed on the show. Barbieri says “The truth is a treasure chest that is difficult to unlock,” but he’s certainly opened the box on this new record.

5. Da Lata – Jungle Kitten from Jungle Kitten/Asking Eyes

Da Lata (muti-instrumentalist and producer Chris Franck and DJ Patrick Forge) return with a 12in cover of the underground classic Jungle Kitten by Manfredo Fest, featuring Kaidi Tatham on synths. It’s a rare thing, but this version really does improve on the original – check that out here. Previous albums by De Lata include the excellent debut Songs from the Tin (2000) and Serious (2003). Their take on Ponteio was released by Far Out Recordings back in 1998 appearing on the excellent Brazilian Love Affair 2 compilation and the corresponding Love Affair 3 also included a De Lata take on Os Escravos de Jo (Jo’s Slaves), a Milton Nascimento/Fernando Brant composition. It’s worth remembering that Brazil was the last country in the so-called developed world to outlaw slavery (in 1888), having trafficked more than five million slaves over the centuries.  Even today, most African-Brazilians live as second-class citizens, working in service industries that perpetuate their relative poverty while their white counterparts are afforded more opportunities through education and work. It’s a dark legacy and one that is often explored in Brazilian music by artists such as Milton Nascimento and Jorge Ben. The image below shows the enslaved on a fazenda (coffee plantation) in 1885. This excellent Red Bull Music feature is a good introduction to this influence.

6. Milton Nascimento – Ponta de Areio (Epilogo) from Ultimo Trem

Speaking of Milton Nascimento, this beautiful tune is another Brazilian  classic and appears in this version on Nascimento’s Ultimo Trem – a concept album and the soundtrack to a 1981 ballet. Ultimo Trem (or Last Train) deals with the closing of a railroad line connecting the mining communities within the Minas Gerais state – where Nascimento grew up – to the coastal urban centres of Rio and São Paulo. Pianists Wagner Tiso and João Donato both appear on Minas, and vocalist Naná Caymmi is just exquisite on Ponta de Areia, named for the last stop on the train line. There are some train-whistle effects and some spoken-word narration, but really the record is a collection of gorgeous vocals and Brazilian folk melodies. Nascimento and saxophonist Wayne Shorter (see below again) collaborated on the excellent Native Dancer which includes another version of Ponta de Areia. Neil first heard (and bought) this record on its release in 1975 and it’s been a favourite on his turntable ever since. Interestingly, the normally very reliable Penguin Guide to Jazz got their review of the record completely wrong, calling it “a bland samba setting which does more to highlight Nascimento’s vague and uncommitted vocal delivery than the leader’s saxophone playing”! Don’t be influenced by this – the album is just as essential as Shorter’s Juju (see below once more).

7. Myele Manzanza – Portobello Superhero from Crisis & Opportunity Vol 1 – London

New Zealand drummer Myele Manzanza is a jazz artist who dissolves the borders between modern jazz and electronic beat production. He’s previously released three solo albums and racked up tours and collaborations with Jordan Rakei, Theo Parrish, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Recloose and Amp Fiddler amongst others. His base is now London and he’s performed at both The Jazz Café and Ronnie Scott’s. Crisis & Opportunity’ Vol.1 – London features young London based talent including Ashley Henry (piano), James Copus (trumpet), George Crowley (tenor saxophone), Benjamin Muralt (bass) with additional contributions from fellow New Zealander Mark de Clive-Lowe (synths).

8.  Anthony Joseph – Calling England Home from The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for their Lives   

Anthony Joseph is an award winning Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician. He is the author of four poetry collections and three novels including the 2018 novel Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon detailing the life and times of Lord Kitchener – calypso performer, passenger on the Empire Windrush and writer and performer of London Is the Place for Me. Joseph has released seven critically acclaimed records, including his most recent The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives, the title a quote from fellow Trinidadian C L R James’ Black Jacobins, a play about the Haitian revolution. This new 2021 record is a historical interrogation as searing as it is sentimental, in which Joseph details his own struggles along with the tribulations of those who came before him. Ambitious indeed, but the result is a cohesive, forward-looking jazz record that records both crushing oppression and real hope for change. Nowhere is this clearer than on Calling England Home, where Joseph recounts different stories of immigrants who arrived in England at different times. Each person, he says, had a difficult relationship with the idea that England was their home. The haunting instrumentation reflects this with saxophonists Jason Yarde, Colin Webster, and Shabaka Hutchings playing over the powerful rhythm section and Joseph manipulating his voice as he details the experiences of his characters – Black and been here since 1949, I’ve lived here longer than home and How long do you have to live in a place/Before you can call it ‘home’? As well as an obvious link to Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite, Joseph calls up the spirit of Gil Scott Heron on tracks like Swing Praxis and The Gift and indeed Rod Youngs, the drummer on these tracks, collaborated with Gil Scott Heron on his excellent Spirits album – the title track an interpretation of Coltrane’s Spiritual, included here in the epic live version from the Village Vanguard.

9. Anthony Joseph – Milligan (The Ocean) from People of the Sun   

It made sense to include a track from Joseph’s previous album, 2018’s People of the Sun. Joseph is now London-based, but for this record he returned to Trinidad and recorded the album with local Port of Spain musicians.  Rather than jazz, the sounds here are very much of the steelpan, alongside more R&B and soul overtones although UK saxophonist Jason Yarde also appears. Along with longtime cohorts bassist Andrew John and drummer David Bitan, the Ibis String Ensemble add a further richness to some tracks including Milligan (The Ocean) – itself a kind of magic realist poetic narrative about Milligan and a volcanic eruption. Like all of Joseph’s lyrics there’s a poetic sensibility here that bears repeated listening.

10. Jazzmeia Horn – Free Your Mind from Love & Liberation 

Jazzmeia Horn has been busy during lockdown with an online presence and it seemed time to return to her music. Besides, a tune called Free Your Mind from an record entitled Love & Liberation seemed to be an appropriate  way to follow Anthony Joseph. This album, her second, was released in 2020 and contains some original compositions, including Free Your Mind, as opposed to her first album A Social Call released in 2017 which included interpretations of classic tunes. Derek has enjoyed both albums. Horn was born in Dallas, Texas but in 2009 moved to New York, establishing a reputation there as a dynamic singer before her breakthrough as the winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. Both albums received Grammy nominations, and undoubtedly Horn is a singer to watch.

11. Alfa Mist – Run Outs from Bring Backs  

The new Alfa Mist album Bring Backs is a self-written and produced album from the UK producer and self taught pianist who has reached out from his hip-hop background to explore jazz. He has followed his own path over five years to emerge as a distinct talent from among the burgeoning London jazz scene. The album Bring Backs is his most detailed exploration of his London upbringing in musical form. Perhaps the raps, which form an important part of this story,  may not appeal to some jazz listeners but there are instrumental tunes too. Bring Backs was recorded with a core band of long-time collaborators. including Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), with Jamie Houghton on drums and Johnny Woodham on trumpet.

12. Artemis – Goddess of the Hunt from Artemis  

Artemis is a jazz supergroup with a debut Blue Note album released last year and featured on several previous Cosmic Jazz shows. Their musical director is pianist Renee Rosnes and the group includes also clarinetist Anat Cohen, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda, drummer Alison Miller and vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant. They named themselves after the Greek goddess Artemis, the daughter of Zeus and Leto, the twin sister of Apollo, the patron saint and protector of young girls and the goddess of hunting, wild nature and chastity. Their album has been a widely acclaimed, as was their performance at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival – and it’s a recommended buy on vinyl, CD or download.

13. Wayne Shorter – Juju from Juju 

Recent shows have ended with tunes that Derek has classified as ‘jazzy not jazz’ but there was no need to end the show like that this week, as much of the programme confidently veered in that direction. Artemis and Wayne Shorter put that process in reverse by ending Cosmic Jazz with tunes that are solidly jazz. The choice of Wayne Shorter was inspired by what had gone before on the show – particularly the Raul De Souza album, which includes both a short De Souza dedication To Wayne and a Wayne Shorter composition Beauty and the Beast. It was appropriate, therefore, to end the show with the man himself. Shorter’s second album for Blue Note, Juju was the first to showcase both his compositional talents and his developing personal style. Although his backing band here are Coltrane’s then rhythm section (Elvin Jones on drums, Reggie Workman on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano) this is very much Shorter’s album and a clear indication of the direction he would take, both in his work with Miles Davis and string of superlative records for Blue Note. From the African-influenced title track (with its short, hypnotic, repetitive phrases) to the mesmerising interplay between Tyner and Shorter on Mahjong, the album (which is all Shorter originals) is full of ideas that draws on the many influences that make Shorter probably the foremost composer in modern jazz. Incidentally, Shorter’s Beauty and the Beast appeared on the aforementioned Native Dancer record making a fitting end to the many links in this edition of Cosmic Jazz. More great music soon…

Derek is listening to….

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