13 March 2022: featuring Hermeto Pascoal, a Fergus McCreadie exclusive and more

More great new music from Cosmic Jazz on this show: we celebrate the April arrival of Hermeto Pascoal to the UK along with the re-release of two great Pascoal records. His tour with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra reaches our part of the UK on 13 May at St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich to open the 2022 Norfolk & Norwich Festival. We also have an exclusive from Fergus McCreadie’s soon to be released new album, new records from three great US artists and some Ukranian-based music to end the show. Click that Mixcloud button and sit back…

  1. Sergio Mendes – Pipoca from Brasileiro

It seems that Sergio Mendes has always been there. He was hugely popular in the 1960s around the world with his easy listening approach to Brazilian bossa and samba, before something of a late career renaissance with high profile collaborators like the Black Eyed Peas pitched him into a more contemporary spotlight. But there’s more to Mendes than this – take his Brasileiro album as an example. Mendes has attempted something similar with his ground-breaking Primal Roots album back in 1972, but Brasileiro from 1991 upped the rhythms – with much of the new approach due to the influence of Carlinhos Brown and a bunch of Bahian percussionists. The great Brazilian songwriters are in here too – Ivan Linss, Gilberto Gil and Joao Bosca – but Pipoca is all the work of master arranger Hermeto Pascoal. This album is, along with Primal Roots, among the best of Mendes – and, of course, it’s highly recommended.

2. Hermeto Pascoal – Guizos (Bells) from Hermeto

New to Hermeto Pascoal? The problem, then, is where to begin with this now 85 year old Brazilian multi-instrumental iconoclast. Let’s start with his nickname – o Bruxo (the Sorcerer), an indication of the extraordinary sounds he derives from conventional and unconventional instruments. He’ll use children’s toys, teapots and even – on one celebrated record – the squeal of pigs. Pascoal grew up deep in the countryside of north east Brazil and, because his albinism prevented him from working in the fields with his family, he practised the accordion for hours each day along with using these found objects to make his unique music.  And perhaps the fact that his father was a blacksmith first alerted him to ‘found sound’ possibilities. Guizos (Bells) comes from the first record released under his own name in 1970 and was recorded in the US with his compatriot and fellow musician Airto Moreira (see below), Ron Carter on bass, Thad Jones on trumpet, Joe Farrell on saxes and flutes and a 35 piece orchestra – quite a coup for your first solo venture!

3. Quarteto Novo – Vim de Sant’ana from Quarteto Novo/Blue Brazil Vol 1

The influential Quarteto Novo recorded just one self-titled record (released in 1969) and is noted for launching the careers of both Airto Moreira and Hermeto Pascoal, along with the lesser-known Heraldo Do Monte on guitar and and Theo De Barres on bass. The album was one of the earliest to mix influences from traditional Brazilian folk forms with jazz sensibilities and – thanks to the arranging skills of Pascoal – has a samba feel but mixed with the north eastern baião that Pascoal knew from his childhood. Fora taste of the style, listen to this typical song from the baião master Luis Gonzaga – Baião de Dois. Quarteto Novo’s album has been re-released several times in recent years, most recently in 2014 on the Odeon label out of Brazil. The album ends with a bizarre take on Dori Caymmi’s O Cantador but perhaps the two most famous tunes – both of which have gone on to be recorded by numerous artists – are Ponteio and Misturada. Don’t pass up on this record if you see it – it’s an essential album in anyone’s collection. Which brings us back to o Bruxo: if you want to find out more about the sorcerer then this excellent Bandcamp feature will get you started.

4.  Fergus McCreadie Trio – Forest Floor from Forest Floor

If you’re a regular listener and reader here you’ll know all about Fergus McCreadie. We’ve promoted his music for almost a year now and we’re thrilled that his second release for Edition Records will be out next month. We’re indebted to Rob Adams for the title track from Forest Floor about which McCreadie has said In all my music I’m searching for an idea or a theme, that the composition and performance is based on. With this recording, it’s the same studio, same piano and same musicians but I feel the sound we have as a trio has become more developed and rounded somehow. Here at Cosmic Jazz we can only agree – and the new title track is a good example. The Scottish folk influences developed in his previous record Cairn remain central, but there’s a greater depth and range in the new music. With more sheer energy and a lyricism tempered with reflection, Forest Floor is one we’ll be returning to in weeks to come.

5. Kahil El’Zabar Quartet – A Time for Healing from A Time for Healing

Another familiar name on CJ in 2021, Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar is back in 2022 with his new album, A Time for Healing. There’s no David Murray on this recording, but the Spirit Groove band features El’Zabar on kalimba, drum kit, cajon, congas, shakers, vibes and vocals with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, spirit bowls and percussion, Justin Dillard on keys and percussion and Isaiah Collier on tenor and soprano sax, reeds and percussion – and, yes, that instrumentation suggests a heavy degree of Pharonic spirituality… As with previous El’Zabar releases, this double album is on the excellent UK Spiritmuse label and, not surprisingly, our recommendation is to get it on vinyl.

6. Immanuel Wilkins – Fugitive Ritual, Selah from The 7th Hand

The enigmatically titled The 7th Hand is the second release on Blue Note from 24 year-old alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. His first album, Omega, was produced by Cosmic Jazz favourite Jason Moran but this is self produced – and it feels at once more expansive and forward looking. Indeed, Wilkins notes in a recent Downbeat feature that Omega was a response to confronting painful moments in our history to mine these ruins and see what comes out.  The 7th Hand is altogether more exploratory and is the significance of the baptism scene Wilkins creates on the album cover where Wilkins is half-submerged in a river, surrounded by  women, and with his head cradled in the hands of a priestess figure. Wilkins calls this a ‘baptism remix’ and notes that water flows through the vessel but at the moment of vesselhood you are not only a conduit, you are subsumed  too. It’s a powerful image and reflect the recording process: all tracks recorded in the same order they appear o the record, with the extended 26 minute final track something of that mystical experience of immersion in the music. It’s a powerful end to this excellent album which features Wilkins’ regular quartet – Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass and Kweku Sumbry on drums. There are guest appearances  from the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble on one track and from flute player Elena Pinderhughes on two more. The tune selected this week – Fugitive Ritual, Selah – features the quartet and is a beautiful, contemplative, deeply soulful and gospel infused number.

7. Orrin Evans – Libra from The Magic of Now

Wilkins also features on The Magic of Now, a 2021 album from pianist Orrin Evans and his quartet – but there are deeper links too. There’s a similar uplifting spiritual quality to the music, and with three tracks composed by Wilkins it’s not altogether surprising. Vincente Archer, onetime bass player with Robert Glasper, and Bill Stewart on drums complete the quartet. Orrin Evans has been a bandleader for twenty-five years with as many albums to his credit as a solo artist, and he also spent three years with The Bad Plus. Like Wilkins, he’s from Philadelphia and, along with his wife Dawn Warren Evans, has made an important contribution to both veteran and upcoming musicians in that city.

8. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration

There is no need to explain why the Polish/Ukranian harpist Alina Bzhezhinska is included in the show. She was originally a classical musician but has became a leading jazz educator and performer in Scotland, exploring the work of jazz harpists Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby. Now part of the London jazz scene, her 2018 record Inspiration on Ubuntu Records featured both music from Alice Coltrane and this from from John Coltrane, a reflective, trance-like version of his beautiful tune After the Rain.  Bzhezhinska organised and headed a recent concert for Ukraine at the Cockpit Theatre in London and commented My country is burning. As a native Ukrainian and a human being I can not be silent. I wish I could go and fight alongside my family who are all in the resistance, but I have to stay where I am and use my music as my weapon. 

9. Bill Evans – Peace Piece from Everybody Digs Bill Evans

There are similarly poignant and timely reasons for ending the show with Bill Evans and his piano solo improvisation Peace Piece. It has the most wonderful meditative, stillness and calm, invoking both isolation and tranquility. It is simply a piece for peace. Classical influences have been commented on – from Satie to Debussy to Ravel to Messiaen: that may be,  but just immerse yourself into every moment of the tune up to its final flourish and become enraptured in the beauty and the sense of peaceful contemplation it evokes.

More Cosmic Jazz music for body and soul coming soon.

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