20 November 2022: Jaimie Branch, British Jazz, Brazil and more

This show starts with powerful music from the late Jaimie Branch. It then goes back to Detroit’s Tribe, calls into Brazil, features contemporary British jazz and comes up with a surprise at the end.

1. Jaimie Branch – Prayer for Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2 from Fly or Die Live

We start with some really important (and poignant) music from trumpeter and vocalist Jaimie Branch who died in August this year. You can read here comments about her, including her own statement that “I want them to know that I mean every note that I play.” The fire, the intensity, the unpredictability of her music, coupled with political statements – as in this tune – bears all of  this out. That trumpet played music that was free, that was avant-garde, that made statements for our time. The same site contains a significant quote from trumpeter Dave Douglas “She brought us so many insights into how the trumpet could engage in the music differently… She had a vision for synthezising the  voices of her inspirations and taking them to new levels no one had thought possible.” Check out some of the other words people have had to say and, after listening to the music, add your own thoughts in a comment.

2. Tribe – Ode to Black Mothers from Hometown Detroit Sessions 1990-2014

Tribe began as a musical ensemble in 1971 co-founded by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin that soon expanded into a live collective and independent record label. Harrison’s ideas of independence, self-determination and education were central to the Tribe ethos: “I might be possessed with a drive to get the knowledge out,” explained Harrison, “because I see this as sustaining the future of the jazz diaspora, the jazz tradition.” Tribe album releases like Harrison’s An Evening With The Devil (1972) and Harrison and Ranelin’s A Message From The Tribe (1973) became early 1970s milestones in Detroit jazz. This Hometown… compilation places the spotlight on the later years of Tribe and Rebirth Inc., with rare and previously unreleased recordings. Poet Mbiyu Chui (Williams Moore), pianist Pamela Wise and percussionist Djallo Djakate feature on our selection, the uncompromising Ode To Black Mothers. The album comes with sleeve notes by journalist Herb Boyd and photos from Wendell Harrison’s personal archive and you can track it down here on Bandcamp.
3. Sabu Martinez – Hotel Alyssa – Sousse, Tunisia (Danny Krivit edit) from Mr Bongo edits Volume 1 (12in single)

New York-born DJ and remixer Danny Krivit has lived and breathed music all his life. His father managed trumpeter Chet Baker and his mother was an accomplished jazz singer. As a DJ in two NY clubs opened by his father, he met many of the most famous DJs of the day, including Nicky Siano (of the Gallery), Walter Gibbons (of Galaxy 21), and David Mancuso (of The Loft). It was at The Loft that Krivit began his long time friendships with DJs Larry Levan (from Paradise Garage) and Francois Kevorkian. With the arrival of hiphop in the early 1980s, Krivit began scratch mixing and working alongside Grandmaster Flash and Africa Bambaata and his DJing and remixing work has successfully continued through to today. This new reworking of the Sabu Martinez track should send you straight to the original Afro Temple album which has been reissued a number of times over recent years – you can find them here on Discogs. Beware – the only original copy pressing available on Discogs will set you back €500.00 so go for a good repress (like the French Pure label one from  1993) at a much more reasonable £25.00.

4. Joyce with Mauricio Maestro – Moreno from Natureza, arranged and produced by Claus Ogerman

We’ve been waiting for this album for a long time. Recorded in the US in 1977, Natureza has finally been released on the UK’s Far Out Records. Joyce has long been a favourite of Cosmic Jazz and we have featured her music over the years. Despite being declared “one of the greatest singers” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and having recorded over 30 albums, Joyce never quite achieved the international recognition of the likes of Jobim, João Gilberto or Sergio Mendes all of whom had hugely successful international careers. But there was a moment when it seemed Joyce might be on the cusp of an international breakthrough: while living in New York, she met the great German producer Claus Ogerman and ended up recording Natureza. The record features fellow Brazilian musicians Mauricio Maestro (who wrote/co-wrote four of the songs), percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and drummer Tutty Moreno, and some of the most in-demand stateside players including Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell and Buster Williams. But the record was never released and Joyce never had that international career. She returned to Brazil and contact with Ogerman was lost. A few years after the success of her albums Feminina and Agua E Luz in Brazil, Joyce’s music began to find its way to the UK, and Feminina became a hit on  the underground jazz-dance scene of the late 1980s. Thanks to Mr Bongo’s Dave Buttle, import copies of the Feminina album became available – and that’s when both Neil and Derek bought the first of many Joyce recordings.

Joyce in Singapore – July 2022

Coming full circle, Neil was privileged to see Joyce and husband Tutty Moreno perform in Singapore earlier this year in a show that vividly demonstrated her still beautiful voice. So, some 45 years after the initial recording in New York, Natureza is now available. Sadly, only two tracks are from the original master tapes, with the rest being sourced from an unmixed tape copy that Joyce had kept – but overall, the sound quality is fine. A CJ recommended purchase.

5. Gal Costa – Presente Cotidiano from Índia

We stay with Brazil for this masterpiece from the late Gal Costa, one of the most important musicians to emerge from the post-Tropicália scene. Índia features an incredible line-up of Brazil’s finest musicians – including Gilberto Gil, Arthur Verocai, Dominguinhos, Rogério Duprat and Tenorio Jr. amongst others. Costa’s voice is as clear and inviting as always, but it’s the dramatic range of the arrangements here that is the most spectacular aspect with Gil’s arrangements of strings, accordions, horns and reeds all contributing to the unique atmosphere of every song here. Índia was Costa’s most controversial album – probably less for its allegorical lyrics than for its cover image of a woman’s torso with a red thong-like bikini. The military banned the album sleeve and ordered Costa’s record company to sell it only inside an opaque blue plastic cover. As often, this gesture was the best publicity possible and Brazilians queued at record stores to buy it. Meanwhile, Costa emerged as something of a feminist icon… She once told an interviewer: “People have to respect differences. The other doesn’t have to be like you. You have to have freedom to be, to exist, whatever you may be. That’s implicit in me, in my way of being.” This is an album that – like those of Arthur Verocai – that will grow with every listen.

6. Ezra Collective – Welcome to my World from Where I’m Meant To Be

This is Ezra Collective’s finest hour – so far. Released just a few weeks ago, it takes just one listen to the album to be convinced about what a leap forward this is for the band. There’s a new level of maturity in the songs and their arrangements. The snippets of conversation that punctuate some of the songs (and which in the wrong hands can often be merely irritating) here actively contribute to the powerful atmosphere of the album. So, a song called Belonging follows snatches of a phone conversation with the film director Steve McQueen; there’s a nod to Damien Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock and starting No Confusion, the voice of the late Nigerian drummer Tony Allen intones: “I’m playing jazz my way.” Guest vocals come from Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical and Emile Sandé – and each is a substantial contributions to the record. Interestingly, the cover image seems to pay tribute to both Bob Dylan’s The Basement Tapes and Thelonious Monk’s Underground – what do you think?

7. KOKOROKO – War Dance from Could We Be More?

We like to reflect the extent, importance and variety of the current British jazz scene on Cosmic Jazz. So, Ezra Collective are followed by another band, KOKOROKO, who have their first full length album Could We Be More released on the Brownswood label. It is an album with, at times, dreamlike elements and some simply beautiful, melodic tunes. War Dance is one of the more up-tempo numbers that brings into full effect the brass section with bandleader Sheila Maurice-Grey producing soaring trumpet sounds, Cassie Kinoshi on alto saxophone and Richie Seivwright on trombone backed by driving beats from bass guitar, guitar, drums and talking drum. It has the unified sound of a mighty band moving forward in love, togetherness and purpose.

8. Binker Golding – Howling and Drinking in God’s Own Country from Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy

We return to that album of country ‘n’ western jazz… Well, not really, but the interventions of Billy Adamson’s guitar do suggest a certain c & w twang. In fact, this is the latest album by highly respected British jazz saxophonist Binker Golding and our choice of tune really swings, at no time more so than when Cosmic Jazz favourite Sarah Tandy wheels away on her piano break. The record finds Golding moving towards a new sound that incorporates elements of blues, heart-land rock and Americana while remaining firmly rooted in the jazz idiom. It is sharp, incisive, jazz with a purpose, led by a player now well established on the British jazz scene in a number of roles. He is a player who selects long, fascinating and intriguing titles for his albums and in this particular case for the tune as well. Check him out.

9.  Alina Bzhezhinska  & Hip Harp Collective – Afro-Blue from Reflections

It’s always good to hear instruments that are not common in jazz. The harp would come into this category and Ukraine-born harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and her Hip-Harp Collective are now part of the British scene. Alina is also playing an important role in raising funds for Ukranian musicians. Derek saw her playing in August outdoors at Snape Maltings – excellent it was too. The subsequent release Reflections does not quite capture the power of her captivating live performance, but pays important respects to those who have influenced Bzhezhinska, in particular harpists Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. The album includes some original compositions but Afro Blue is a Mongo Santamaria tune of which there have been versions by John Coltrane and Robert Glasper, among others. Alina has gathered some key members of the UK scene musicians to join her Collective and on this number they include Jay Phelps on trumpet, Tony Kofi on saxophone and the impressive Joel Prime on percussion.

10. Val Bennett – Take Five (aka The Russians Are Coming) from Tighten Up Vol 1, Disc 2

We return to a past feature of the show, namely including as the last track something that might be a little different and/or surprising and/or stretches the boundaries of jazz. This time we head to Jamaica and the saxophonist Val Bennett with his excellent version of the tune Take Five – with Bennett’s addition in brackets aka The Russians are Coming. Written originally by sax player Paul Desmond and a chart hit for the Dave Brubeck Quartet, this was the biggest selling jazz single ever. It is not so surprising, though, that a Jamaican version should appear. Several early ska/reggae musicians learnt their instruments through playing jazz-related music, as at the famous Alpha Boys’ School. Val Bennett led a number of bands on the Jamaican hotel circuit from the 1950s and he became a regular session player for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and other Jamaican music producers, including Edward ‘Bunny’ Lee, with whom this tune was made. Both of the Trojan Records Tighten Up compilations are well worth exploring, especially in their deluxe editions on CD which offer a huge number of additional tracks. Here’s the Discogs link for you.

More Cosmic Jazz music soon.


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