24 April 2022: music is our sanctuary

Here at Cosmic Jazz, music is very much a sanctuary and the show this week amply demonstrates that. We turn to music that inspires, celebrates, comforts and rewards – and we hope this selection does the same for you. We’ll just add that you might like to explore the excellent Music is My Sanctuary website – you’ll find great music here too.  As always, you’re safe with Cosmic Jazz.

  1. Alfa Mist – First Light from 10 inch vinyl

Derek has long enjoyed the Freddie Hubbard tune First Light which can be found on the CTI album of the same name and so he was surprised to find a version of the same tune just released on a 10 inch record by the young British self-taught pianist/mixer/composer/producer Alfa Mist. As a teenage hip-hop producer, his sampling led him to the jazz sources. His band is a large one, both on this tune and on his album Bring Backs. He  includes many of his regular collaborators  on First Light, but Jas Kayser is on drums, a change from the album. There are, however, two violins, a cello, a viola, a bass clarinet,  trumpet/flugelhorn, percussion and bass.

2. High Pulp – You’ve Got To Pull It Up From The Ground feat. Theo Croker from Pursuit Of Ends 

On the same American independent label (Anti) as Alfa Mist are High Pulp, who have just released their first album Pursuit of Ends for the label. High Pulp are an experimental jazz act who draw upon influences from bebop, punk, hip-hop and electronic music. The Seattle-based collective is based around a core of six members, but this album include sax player Jaleel Shaw, harpist Brandee Younger and trumpeter Theo Croker who provides a warm and sensitive contribution to You’ve Got To Pull It Up From The Ground which features in this week’s show. We’re a bunch of outsiders who refused to be kept out,” states drummer Granfelt. “We’ve never had an academic approach to jazz as most of us grew up playing in DIY bands, so it was the rawness and the energy and the absolute freedom of the music that called to us in the first place.”

3. Nate Smith – Burn For You from Kinfolk 2: See The Birds

Four years after drummer, composer, and bandleader Nate Smith introduced his Grammy-nominated debut, he’s released its thematic follow-up, Kinfolk 2: See The Birds on the British label Edition Records.  We really like this record here at Cosmic Jazz – it’s the it is the sort of genre-extending music we love to select for the show. Saxophonist Jaleel Shaw is here too on saxophone, Fima Ephron on bass, Brad Allen Williams on guitar and Jon Cowherd on keyboards. This record also has guests including guitarist Vernon Reid, violinist Regina Carter, vibes player Joel Ross, rapper Kokayi with the angelic voice of Amma Whatt featured on our choice Burn For You. The album is available from Edition Records or right here on Bandcamp.

4. Cassandra Wilson – You Don’t Know What Love Is from Blue Light ‘Til Dawn   

Singer Cassandra Wilson’s 1993 album Blue Light ‘Til Dawn has just been re-released as part of the Blue Note Classic series curated by label Boss Don Was. It’s a superb production and is undoubtedly Wilson’s artistic breakthrough after being part of saxophonist Steve Coleman’s M Base collective. You can hear her on No Good Time Fairies from his Motherland Pulse album. The re-release notes describe the album as visionary, as Wilson [weaves] an alluring tapestry of jazz, blues, folk, and R&B into a singular sound that opened up new avenues of expression for vocal jazz. Produced by Craig Street, the record broke new territory for Cassandra Wilson with sounds that are minimalist, acoustic and pared down to basics.  This is exemplified on the superb You Don’t Know What Love  Is with Wilson on vocals, Brandon Ross on steel guitar and Charlie Burnham on violin. This is, of course, the jazz standard made famous by Billie Holiday in a vocal version (1958) and Sonny Rollins in an instrumental take (1956). The album also includes two Robert Johnson covers (Come On in My Kitchen and Hellhound on My Trail) and a beautiful take on Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. If you don’t know this record, then the new double album version with remastering by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio is the one to go for.

5. Lucien Johnson – Magnificent Moon from Wax///Wane  

We make no apologies for playing the excellent Lucien Johnson here again on the show. We first featured this New Zealander back in April 2021 when Neil was introduced to his music by Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno). We’ve gone back to this record time and again – and it continues to delight. Johnson is 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. Johnson’s current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion and the music is deep, modal and with more than a touch of Pharoah Sanders too.  Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

6. Antonio Neves – Summertime from A Pegada Agora E Essa (The Sway Now)

Music from Rio de Janeiro continues to surprise. From samba and bossa nova through to baile funk and hip hop, everything is absorbed and remoulded into something unique. And that’s where we are with Antonio Neves, a multi-instrumentalist and arranger whose new album includes contributions from revered musicians Hamilton de Holanda and Leo Gandelman together with new generation stars like Alice Caymmi and Ana Frango Elétrico. A Pegada Agora É Essa (The Sway Now) is Neves’ second album and comes after his work on the acclaimed Little Electric Chicken Heart album by the aforementioned Ana Frango Elétrico. Neves mixes classics like Summertime, Luz Negra and Dorival Caymmi’s Noite de Temporal  with original songs using a range of Brazilian rhythms – partido alto, funk carioca and and the Afro-Brazilian mix of candomblé. Neves began his career as a drummer, before settling on the trombone and playing with some of the biggest names in Brazilian music like Moreno Veloso, Kassin and Elza Soares. A Pegada Agora E Essa is available here on Bandcamp.

  1. Cyminology – Gofteguie Man from Bemun

Cyminology now record for ECM but this tune comes from an earlier record on the Doublemoon label out of Istanbul. Based in Berlin, the lyrics are in Persian and sung by Cymin Samawatie, who has Iranian and German heritage. The music is a fusion of jazz and the unique range of global influences from the other band members – Benedikt Jahnel on piano, Ralf Schwartz on bass and Ketan Bhatti on percussion. Samawatie often using classical Persian poetry as her lyrics and so expect to hear the lyricism of Rumi, Hafez, and Khayyam in the music. Apparently, this incarnation of the band began when she discovered a CD belonging to her aunt featuring medieval verses by the poet Omar Khayyam and presented these to the band members. In an interview, Samawatie recalled that during a tour in Lebanon, three women came up to her and said that Cyminology’s music gives them peace. She realised that “When people who are acquainted neither with jazz nor with Persian poetry understand and feel the music, then what more can you ask for as a musician?” For more background on the band and their music check out this short video.

8Dave Holland Big Band – Last Minute Man from Overtime

Of course, we think of Dave Holland as one of the great bass players in modern jazz, but he’s a fine composer too as evidenced by this tune with his 2005 big band. Holland has had a more than five-decade career from electric bass with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew to flamenco collaborations with guitarist Pepe Habichuela. He’s accompanied the great vocalist Betty Carter and gone avant-garde with the Circle quartet and he’s performed alongside Chick Corea, Stan Getz and Sam Rivers. Now 75, over the years Holland has introduced us to now-leading players like Chris Potter, Robin Eubanks and Steve Coleman.  Both Potter and Eubanks appear on this big band record with its four saxophones, three trumpets and trombones along with vibes as well as bass and drums. The music centres around the opening four-part Monterey Suite, commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival and originally performed there in 2001, but our choice is the closing track Last Minute Man – a colourful and innovative piece with twisting, knotty arrangements that just work. Highly recommended.

9. Piotr Wojtasik – Tribute 3 from Tribute to Akwarium

We have often featured Polish jazz on the programme, thanks to Steve’s Jazz Sounds, a specialist source for Polish jazz and jazz from other continental European countries. One of Derek’s favourite Polish artists is Piotr Wojtasik, a trumpet/flugelhorn player and educator at Katowice Music Academy. He regularly collaborates with a wide range of musicians, including drummer John Betsch and saxophonist Billy Harper. His music is often modal, usually melodic and always uplifting, as you can hear from Tribute 3 featured on the show. The Tribute to Akwarium album  was released in 2017 with a large band comprising some of Poland’s top jazz musicians along with Eric Allen on drums. The Akwarium was a legendary Warsaw jazz club which operated from 1977 to 2000 and this album is a five part suite composed and arranged by Wojtasik and dedicated to the memory of the club.

10. Maisha – Kaa from There Is a Place 

Derek had hoped to be watching live music from UK group Maisha performing with US alto sax legend Gary Bartz. Originally cancelled by the pandemic, the show was then rearranged for April 2022 but, sadly, has been cancelled again – probably for ever. As compensation, Derek chose separate tunes by Maisha and Gary Bartz for the show. Leader and drummer for Maisha, Jake Long assembled a superb combination of musicians from the UK jazz scene for his band, including Nubya Garcia who has gone on to more global fame, recently completing a US tour with Khruagbin. Also included in Maisha are Amané Suganami, Twm Dylan, Tim Doyle and Shirley Tetteh. The tunes are long, intricate and percussive, with fine interplay between Long and percussionist Tim Doyle. Kaa, from the 2018 Brownswood Recordings album There Is A Place, also includes a fine solo from Garcia.

11. Gary Bartz – Music is My Sanctuary from Music is My Sanctuary    

And so we return to the sanctuary of our music. This choice from Gary Bartz is from the album of the same name released in 1977 on Capitol Records, now part of the Universal empire. It’s jazz/funk/soul and the sort of cross-genre record with which we like to end the show. The title tune was written by Bartz and Sigidi  Bashir Abdullah who also wrote hits like (Fallin’ Like) Dominoes for Donald Byrd and Fancy Dancer for Bobbi Humphrey. An unmistakeable Mizell Brothers production, the clever, funky, bass-heavy mix with soulful vocals from Syreeta Wright and chorus is a triumph. Larry Mizell also provided keyboards and vocals and other musicians include Mtume on percussion, George Cables on piano and Eddie Henderson on trumpet. Jazz aficionados may be rather ‘sniffy’ about the Mizell approach to production, but they created records of real beauty and elegance, characterised by soaring horns, cosmic synths, elaborate string arrangements and subtle rhythms. We love their work and their many records remain some of the most sampled and celebrated within contemporary culture. Indeed, in 2007 Larry Mizell was lured back to production duties on the Play With the Changes album from UK group 4hero, from which comes the excellent Morning Child.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

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