06 November 2022: jazz from Britain and New Zealand, electronica from Japan + a soulful end

Your latest Cosmic Jazz majors on contemporary British jazz (and two pioneers from the past), some new jazz from New Zealand, an inventive Japanese take on A Love Supreme and a more soulful end to the show, including a signature tune from  the late Ramsey Lewis.

1.  Binker Golding – (Take me to the) Wide Open Lows from Dream Like A Dogwood Wild Boy

We began the show with Binker Golding – a musician we have followed since his beginnings in Enfield, north London some years ago. Do not be put off by the opening of this tune – Golding is not a country and western artist, nor a rock star – he is a tenor playing jazz musician, and you’ll soon find out after the intro. Golding has recorded five duo albums with drummer Moses Boyd  -all of which we have featured on CJ – but his latest album, Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy, is something of a departure even for a self-confessed ‘line crosser’. The band is familiar though, with the wonderful Sarah Tandy on piano who provides one of her inventive features on this track, Billy Adamson on guitar who definitely adds something different, the excellent double bass player Daniel Casimir and powerful drummer Sam Jones. There’s lots of jazz of course, but don’t be surprised at the hints of Americana, blues and – dare we say it – rock too. Golding will be performing on the opening night of this year’s upcoming London Jazz Festival later this month.

2.  KOKOROKO – Tojo from Could We Be More

Another much-praised 2022 release came from octet KOKOROKO. Could We Be More, their first full length LP following an influential appearance on Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here compilation from 2018 and an EP in 2019. The new record follows the same path as previously – a blend of contemporary jazz, R&B, juju and Afrobeat. The group is led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey and features, saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, trombonlist Richie Seivright, percussionist Onome Edgeworth, keyboardist Yohan Kebede, guitarist Tobi Adenaike-Johnson, bassist Duane Atherley and drummer Ayo Saluwu. The lead in track is Tojo – a blend of ambient sounds, dubwise bass and Afrobeat horns with an excellent trumpet break from Maurice-Grey.

3. Don Rendell Sextet – The Odysseus Suite part 4: Veil of Ino from The Odysseus Suite

Don Rendell was one of the elder statesmen of jazz in the UK. Until his death in 2015, he had worked with the cream of British jazz artists, most notably with trumpeter Ian Carr in the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet. Over many years, we have featured the music of this very special band and included music from seminal albums like Shades of Blue (1965) and Dusk Fire (1966). If you’re familiar with the classic 1970 Lansdowne Recordings Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises by Neil Ardley, Don Rendell and Ian Carr then you’ll recognise the four compositions on this EP from the closing segment of that collection. The versions included here however, are taken from a separate session recorded around the same time and reveal that Rendell had a grander vision for them than simply to round off a collaborative album. Not only are the tracks here nearly 20 min longer in total than the Lansdowne sessions, they also include two additions to the personnel in Peter Shade on vibes and flute, and Rendell’s colleague from the recently-disbanded Rendell/Carr Quintet, Michael Garrick on piano.

4. Elton Dean Quartet – Dede-Bup-Bup from On Italian Roads (Live in Milan, 1979)

This is a really special new release from the excellent British Progressive Jazz label – also responsible for the Don Rendell track above. The 2022 release of On Italian Roads (Live at Teatro Cristallo, Milan, 1979) marks the only official release of saxophonist Elton Dean with the all-star quartet of Keith Tippet on piano, Harry Miller on bass, and Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums. Right from the beginning of this exceptional live album, the quartet plays with a brilliant, edge-of-your-seat ferocity with five original Elton Dean compositions. We’ve chosen one of the shorter ones – Dede-Bup-Bup – but the band on fire nonetheless. Dean is on tenor, alto and the little-played saxello with its wailing tone. The album is well worth looking out for, if only to hear Tippett’s percussive performance on the opening track Oasis.  This one is well worth exploring.

5. Nat Birchall Unity Ensemble – Unity from Spiritual Progressions

Nat Birchall has recorded multi-tracked solo efforts in recent years, but this new release marks his return to group recording with a new band, the Unity Ensemble.  On Spiritual Progressions he’s joined by long time musical partner Adam Fairhall on piano, plus the bassist in Nat’s group for several years, Michael Bardon, with Paul Hession returning on drums (he was part of the group who recorded Live In Larissa a few years ago). The ensemble is completed by percussionist Lascelle Gordon and the result is a really fine album that’s well worth exploring. Birchall has commented that “This particular group of musicians has a very unified sound, each player has a very individual sound and concept but they all come together in this group and blend incredibly well. Making music with this band is pure joy.” Here at CJ we can only agree and the first track Unity endorses that view of a complete group cohesion that’s much more than the sum of their parts. Highly recommended.

6.  Takuru Okada – A Love Supreme from Betsu No Jikan

Now time for a bit more left field music: this is like no other take on Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme. With jittery electronica and percussion effects throughout, the version opens with a chord that could take us to Coltrane’s vocal refrain but instead wanders around a series of recessed sax and keyboard figures before finally closing with a spectral version of the tune. This new 2022 album Betsu no Jikan features artists from both within Japan and abroad including Shun Ishiwaka, Carlos Nino, Sam Gendel, Jim O’Rourke and Marty Holoubek with an appearance from Haroumi Hosono formerly of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Okada’s approach is subtle and with many influences over the course of the whole album. It’s worth checking this one out – you can find it here on Bandcamp.

7. Goldsmith Baynes – Teo Reo from E Rere Rā

Alanna Goldsmith from New Zealand (Aotearoa) and Mark Baynes from the UK have worked together for over ten years and this 2022 project is a celebration of that collaboration. Singer Alanna Goldsmith comes from the Tairawhiti region on the east coast of Aotearoa’s North Island where her former band Wakakura were a favourite at jazz festivals across the region. Pianist Mark Baynes is originally from Hampshire, England  but he’s studied with vibes legend Gary Burton at Berklee and and performed with a wide variety of musicians including saxophonist Eric Marienthal. Nine of the eleven songs on the album are in Māori with lyrics that lean to the poetic and with a deep grounding in Māori culture. Goldsmith notes, for example, that one song, Hei Kawe i a Au is taken from a whakataukī, or proverb, that translates as ‘Let me be carried by the easterly breeze’ and is suggesting that we shouldn’t be in a hurry, but to wait until the time and conditions are right.” The musicians involved in this project are Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa on drums, Alex Griffith on electric bass, Tom Dennison on acoustic bass, Riki Bennett and Cameron Allen on saxophones, with Jono Tan on trombone, Mike Booth on trumpet and Kim Paterson on flugelhorn and trumpet. You can find this intriguing album here on Bandcamp.

8. Oskar Lavën – Cold Old Mould from Questions in Red

The second of our journeys to New Zealand couldn’t be more different. Oscar Lavën is a product of the Wellington jazz scene and has appeared with – among others- John Beasley’s MONK’estra and the Wellington Mingus Ensemble He’s performed worldwide and is a real multi-instrumentalist, being equally adept on trumpet, clarinet and bassoon. On his new album Questions in Red, the focus is on the tenor sax  where he’s accompanied by award winning drummer John Rae, bassist Patrick Bleakley, trumpeter Mike Taylor and pianist Ayrton Foote. The variety of different styles that appear on the album may suggest that Lavēn has still to find his voice, but the the range is typical of his musical searching. Two tunes make reference to, firstly, Ben Webster (Rasp) and then Ornette Coleman (Jesus Saunters Across the Hudson Wielding a Plastic Saxophone)  and there are more styles explored as the album progresses. A digital only release at the moment, this album is worth checking out.

9. Mavis Staples – Why Am I Treated So Bad from Live: Hope at the Hide Out

Released on US Election Day in 2008, this album of freedom songs is a late-period triumph for singer and social activist Mavis Staples. Staples introduces her set with a preacher-like invocation: “We’ve come here tonight to bring you some joy, some happiness, inspiration, and some positive vibrations! We want to leave you with enough to last you for maybe the next six months” and that’s just what the crowd at Chicago nightclub the Hideout get. At the age of 69 when this album was recorded, Staples was still in fine voice: the range isn’t there but she uses what she’s got to excellent effect on a growling version of Ramsey Lewis’s Wade in the Water. There are spirited renditions of I’ll Take You There and Freedom Highway in which the three-piece band of Rick Holmstrom on guitar, Jeff Turnes on  bass and Stephen Hodges on drums are used to great effect. Our choice is Staples’ take on her father Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples’ classic Why Am I Treated So Bad – also made famous by Cannonball Adderley on his album of the same name from 1967 – and featuring Joe Zawinul on Fender Rhodes.

10. Ramsey Lewis – The “In” Crowd (Live) from The In Crowd Anthology

Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis died on 12 September this year. He had a very successful career (too successful it would seem for some  jazz purists), but it is difficult to disregard someone who has recorded  with Max Roach, taught jazz at a Chicago university, hosted a long-running and syndicated jazz show (Legends of Jazz) and received the Jazz Masters Award at the US National Endowment for the Arts. It is true that the quality of his prolific output was variable and his covers of pop tunes may not please every Cosmic Jazz  fan but his crossover successes did, however, have their moments none more so than The “In” Crowd (Live). It became a favourite for jazz dance floors and long before that was a Top Ten hit in the US. (probably not a recommendation in some jazz circles).  Do not be deterred – it’s  upbeat, catchy and atmospheric with the live crowd providing an essential, dynamic input. Recorded in 1965 at the Bohemian Caverns Nightclub in Washington D.C. with drummer Isaac ‘Redd’ Holt and bass player Eldee Young. This is one to enjoy and dance to.

More Cosmic Jazz coming soon.

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