09 August 2021: mixing the jazz grooves

The show this week starts with music inspired by a live performance from Camilla George, through eclectic sounds from Edition Records, to a mix that includes a tribute to Jon Hassell, some funky jazz sounds and an ending in Ghana.

  1. Camilla George – Tappin the Land Turtle from The People Could Fly

Derek has at last seen some live music again. Snape Maltings, the concert venue founded by British composer Benjamin Britten, is running, in conjunction with Serious Music, free, daily, open-air performances  from early July through to the end of August, featuring first-rate musicians from across musical genres. The first show featured alto saxophone player Camilla George and her quintet. Excellent and joyous it was too, with musicians whose serious attention to the music was matched by their obvious enjoyment  in playing together. Except for a quieter duet between Camilla George and keyboard player Sarah Tandy, this was a set of driving music inspired by jazz, west African sounds and hip hop, all with a more electric sound than might have been expected – keyboards, electric bass, guitar and drums. In spite of the east coast wind blowing around the musicians and scattering their score sheets, the sounds came across loud and clear. Camilla George is currently working on a new album and we’ll bring you more news of that when we can. Tappin the Land Turtle from her album The People Could Fly on Ubuntu Music provides a soulful, spiritual uplift to the start of the show. The album is based on a book of African stories – after which the record is named – and this tale goes back to the days of slavery, incorporating several reminders of that era – the hunger, the separation of classes (the turtle and the eagle) and the dream of a life of plenty. In some versions of the story, the distinctive markings on Tappin’s shell are caused by whipping from a cowhide and so – as the liner notes tell us – These tales were created out of sorrow but have been passed on to us  with hearts that are full of love and hope. On vocals for this track is Cherise Adams-Burnett whom Derek will see on the same stage on 25 August. The People Could Fly is still available here on Bandcamp – it’s a Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

 2.  Sarah Tandy – Timelord from Infection in the Sentence 

On keys with Camilla George at Snape and on The People Could Fly album, is Sarah Tandy. It is always wonderful to see her perform, particularly this time as she had to spend some time away through illness. Tandy is just amazing: the music simply flow out of her and she makes it all look so relaxed, easy, and almost nonchalant. Yet sounds that are complex, inventive, funky and ever-surprising appear from the keyboards. To watch her play is something else. On Cosmic Jazz we loved her album Infection in the Sentence and this seemed an appropriate time to re-visit this highly recommended record, this time with Timelord, a measured, deep, funky groove.  Sarah told me at Snape that she has plans for a follow-up release – perhaps by the end of the year, at least. Again, we’ll keep you informed of any release but until then you should really investigate her 2019 release – again, available here on Bandcamp. And check out Sarah Tandy’s mesmerising playing here on this jazzre:freshed video recorded live in 2018.

3.  Binker Golding – I Forgot Santa Monica  from Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers

This sequence ends with a reference to the man on electric bass at Snape and the bass player on Tappin the Land Turtle, Daniel Casimir – a name you will find on many record credits from the current London jazz scene. Among the people he has performed with – as well as Camilla George – are Julian Joseph, Jason Rebello, Nubya Garcia, Lonnie Liston Smith and Ashley Henry. Casimir is a composer and bandleader but features here with tenor player Binker Golding on his album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers. Casimir’s acoustic bass opens I Forgot Santa Monica – the lead in track from an album which we regard as one of the finest to come out of the UK jazz scene in recent years. Binker Golding can be seen with Sarah Tandy on the video above and his album is also available directly from his Bandcamp site here. Note that vinyl is still available, including the gatefold Japanese edition shipped in limited quantities to the US and UK.

4.  Petter Eldh – Goods Yard feat. Richard Spaven from Projekt Drums Vol. 1   

Swedish producer Petter Eldh loves heavy beats and drums so he has compiled an album on Edition Records featuring some top-notch contemporary drummers. Projekt Drums Vol. 1 will be out in September, but on this show you can hear a tune featuring English drummer Richard Spaven, who got a CJ mention on our last blog as a musician on the Alfa Mist album Bring Backs. Spaven is London-based but has gone global in terms of the places he has played. Among the artists he has worked with are Jose James, Flying Lotus, Robert Mitchell, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Gregory Porter, Cinematic Orchestra and Kaidi Tatham. Jose James described him as One of the most unique artists in the world ….. He is the point where jazz meets the world – and Spaven performed kit duties on two of James’ albums including Blackmagic, from which we’ve selected the title track.

5. Slowly Rolling Camera – Lost Orbits from Where the Streets Lead    

And here’s a second new release from Edition Records, fast becoming one of Britain’s most successful new jazz labels with an enviable roster of international names. Where the Streets Lead is the new album from the UK’s Slowly Rolling Camera, and builds on their acclaimed 2018 release Juniper. Inspired by the colliding worlds of jazz, trip-hop, and cinematic soundscapes, SRC have further extended their soundscape with this new record . Recorded through 2020 , it includes an eight-piece string section and contributions from a range of impressive artists including Mark Lockheart, Jasper Høiby, Verneri Pohjola, Chris Potter and Sachal Vasandani, as well as the band’s regular guitarist Stuart McCallum. For the core group of Dave Stapleton, Deri Roberts and Elliot Bennett, it’s a unified take on the journey and the influences that have shaped them all individually and as a collective.

6.  Jon Hassell – Dreaming from Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1)  

Jon Hassell, the creator of what he called Fourth World music, died in June this year and Neil included a tribute with some some Youtube music at the end of the 26 June 2021 show. We’ve featured Jon Hassell’s unique processed trumpet sound before on Cosmic Jazz – way back in May 2008 we played In the City of Red Dust from his City: Works of Fiction album – and his beautifully titled Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street (ECM Records) was included in our 2010 Best of roundup. Appearing after a nine year gap since that ECM record, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1) turned out to be Hassell’s penultimate album: it didn’t expand his sonic world but there’s music here that confirm’s Hassell’s unique approach. Pretty much everything gets processed through effects pedals and computer so that you’re never quite sure what you’re hearing: the result is an impressionistic collage that blurs the listening experience. With Dreaming, the effect is of two tunes slowly gliding into each other. This may sound chaotic, but there’s a logical structure to Hassell’s music that defies detailed description. In this album and its successor, Hassell seems to be remixing his own heavily mixed past and the overall effect is hypnotic. If you’re not familiar with his work, this Guardian obituary should provide a good basic primer to his life, while this feature from the Vinyl Factory will do the same for his music. As we noted in June, Hassell was not a jazz artist but  his influence on musicians in many genres, including jazz, is profound.

7.  Lucien Johnson – Blue Rain from Wax///Wane   

Since we first played this track back in April this year, Lucien Johnson has gone on to win the 2021 Aeotearoa Jazz Composition award for Blue Rain, and we’ve continued to play tracks from his excellent Wax///Wane album. It’s difficult to judge at this halfway stage in the year, but this is likely to be one of Neil’s favourite albums of the year. The writing is consistently strong of course, but it’s more about the atmosphere that Johnson sets up. The music does indeed reflect the moon’s waxing and waning as it ebbs and flows (see the previous blog!) with light groove patterns augmented by vibraphone and harp. Over this,  Johnson’s sax is sometimes Coltrane-deep, sometimes growling like Pharoah Sanders. This is a mesmerising record and it’s thanks to Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) who also led us to the wonderful Fergus McCreadie. Lucien Johnson is actually from Wellington, New Zealand but spent much of his twenties living and working in and out of Paris, meeting and playing with musicians he knew from recordings including drumming legend and long-time Paris resident Sunny Murray, the late pianist Bobby Few and drummer John Betsch’s band.  Another drummer, Makoto Sato introduced Johnson to free jazz bass legend Alan Silva (of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler fame), and they formed a trio, going on to record the album Stinging Nettles. The current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion. We’ll continue to feature the album in upcoming shows. Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

8. The Stan Getz Quartet – Litha from Sweet Rain     

By general consensus, this is a Stan Getz great. With such a prolific recording career it might be difficult to know where to start – but this is a no-brainer. Released in the summer of 1967, Sweet Rain was Getz’s first big post bossa nova album and his partners here are all his juniors: pianist Chick Corea, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate  had honed their skills during  the era of 1960s rhythm-section freedom, and – as the AllMusic review notes – their continually stimulating interplay helps open things up for Getz to embark on some long, soulful explorations. The longer tracks, the choice of material (including two tunes from Chick Corea) and this interplay between the advanced rhythms and Getz’s lyrical passion make for an essential record. Every track is beautifully judged, from Litha, Corea’s opener, to the inclusion of his near-standard Windows, the delicate Jobim composition O Grande Amor, Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma and English big band composer Mike Gibb’s great title tune. This is a subtle, rewarding album that may not be one of Rudy Van Gelder’s best sounding recordings but there’s no doubting the standard of musicianship throughout. It’s a Cosmic Jazz recommended record for your jazz library.

9. Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove – One World Family from Kahil El’Zabar’s “Spirit Groove” feat David Murray    

Up next is Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar on another great quartet album from last year that features El’Zabar’s contemporary, tenor saxophonist David Murray ably supported here by Justin Dillard on piano. El’Zabar performs in various groups including his Ritual Trio and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. He was a member of the Bright Moments collective with Joseph Jarman and Steve Colson back in the day but he’s also worked as a more mainstream sideman with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley and Eddie Harris. The new Spirit Groove band features El’Zabar with Murray, young bassist Emma Dayhuff and Dillard on synth, organ and piano. El’Zabar takes up kalimba, drum kit, congas, shakers, vibes and even has a go at singing on this predominantly spiritual jazz release. Spirit Groove is actually on a new UK label, Spiritmuse, and on vinyl is beautifully produced. As always, your best source for this record is the Bandcamp website – you can find Spirit Groove here in all formats and download. Neil has the vinyl version which is both a good silent pressing and a two LP gatefold edition.

10. Cleveland Eaton – Hamburg 302 from Plenty Good Eaton  

We return to the Real Gone Music re-issues of the complete Black Jazz label with bassist Cleveland Eaton’s Plenty Good Eaton, released originally in 1975. This was to be Eaton’s only album for the label and, indeed, he was to release just a few more albums of his own after this. Prior to his arrival at Black Jazz, Eaton had been bass player for pianist Ramsey Lewis, appearing on 17 of his records, including classics like Wade in the Water, Dancing in the Street and Sun Goddess, one of his last appearances with Lewis. Listening to the title tracks of each (see links) will remind you of how much Eaton was a key part of the band’s sound. Drummer in the original Ramsey Lewis Trio was Maurice White who went on to found Earth, Wind and Fire and who was recruited back into Lewis’s band for the Sun Goddess album – and you can hear it! The superb sax solo on Sun Goddess is by Don Myrick – see this earlier CJ for more on Myrick. Plenty Good Eaton is  regarded as one of the gems of the Black Jazz catalogue and was recorded shortly after Eaton had left Ramsey Lewis in 1974. Then, starting in 1980, Eaton spent a dozen years with Count Basie’s band, and if you can imagine a blend of Lewis’s soul-funk with Basie’s hard-driving swing, you’ll understand what’s on the menu of Plenty Good Eaton – indeed, the album graphics present the credits and songs as if they were menu entries. This truly is fusion cuisine.

 11. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Village from Keeper of my Soul  

There are more re-releases forthcoming in October from Black Jazz Records – this time two more records from Rudolph Johnson and Walter Bishop Jr. This show features Bishop’s Soul Village – a tune he re-recorded on his Soul Village album from 1977 on Muse Records but which here appears on his Keeper of My Soul album from 1973.  This version includes Ronnie Laws on saxophone and flute, whose Pressure Sensitive album includes the much recorded Always There. This was Bishop’s second album for Black Jazz and was more ambitious and free than its predecessor Coral Keys. Keeper of My Soul is remastered and re-released for the first time on vinyl – and in both black and a special edition with black with orange streaks limited to 750 copies worldwide. As with other Black Jazz reissues, there are extensive inner sleeve notes by Pat Thomas. We’ll include the excellent Rudolph Johnson album in future shows.

12. Pat Thomas & the Kwashibu Area Band – Bubu from Obiaa  

A different Pat Thomas ends the show – a musician from Ghana who continues our CJ tradition of ending the show with music that draws upon jazz and jazzy sounds but is not strictly jazz. Thomas is one of the most celebrated of Ghanaian high-life musicians, a music that  frequently features an irresistible mix of horns and percussion to uplift the soul and keep the body moving. He’s has been described as ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’ and since 2015 he has recorded albums for the British label Strut Records and toured extensively in the UK and Europe. Derek caught the band at the Norwich Arts Centre a couple of years ago and remembers the evening as one of highly-charged, danceable music played with passion and skill with musicians crossing age ranges.

Neil adds: A note on why we promote Bandcamp

You’ll have noticed that we often provide artist or label links to the Bandcamp website and may wonder why. The answer is simple – if you buy from Bandcamp, an average of 83% of the price you pay reaches the artist or label (after payment processor fees). On Bandcamp Fridays each month, this rises to 93%.  Where the music we feature is not available on Bandcamp, we may direct you to another independent source – for example the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds or the local record stores that Derek and I buy from – including Soundclash Records in Norwich, Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds, Sounds of the Universe in London and The Jazz Loft, The Analog Vault and Choice Cuts in Singapore. Until legislation forces the majors like Amazon and Spotify to pay taxes and/or performers fairly we will continue to do this. Note that Amazon actually received a US$129 million tax refund in 2018 and Spotify pays artists around US$0.005 per stream… On the artists’ behalf, we thank you for supporting them to create their inspiring music.

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