Cosmic Jazz is back after a few ‘technical difficulties’ with a show that stretches musical boundaries with artists that have a history and tradition of genre stretching.
- KARU – Purulli from An Imaginary Journey
KARU (aka Alberto Brutti) provides an interesting, awakening and unexpected start to the show. There is a lot going on. The music swoops, reverberates and crashes in unpredictable ways. “Pounding double basslines, aberrant guitar riffing, and eccentric, almost shamanic sax outbursts” is how the publicity for the album describes the music. From the evidence of this tune alone, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of what the music is about. KARU explains that he takes on worldwide musical influences to explore the connection between music’s ancestral rhythm in tribal culture and the freedom of jazz.
2. Sunking – Hakim Warrick feat. Raphy from Smug
Do jazz artists usually play long or longish tunes? Yes they do. Do jazz artists have to play long or longish tunes? No they don’t. If you are Sunking you certainly follow the latter and the tune on this show Hakim Warrick is only 1 minute 30 seconds long. Every track on the album Smugis short, sharp and often more frantic than this comparatively mellow offering. The band comprises Antoine Martel and Bobby Granfelt – two members of the Seattle-based collective High Pulp, a band we have featured on Cosmic Jazz previously. High Pulp members make appearances and there are other guests on the album too. Sunking have the brash DIY ethos of an underground punk band and this approach to jazz makes a strong impact. The music may not to the taste of many but it is innovative, challenging, thought-provoking and worth a listen.
3. Jake Aaron – Elvis Has Left the Building feat. Steve Waterman from Elvis Has Left the Building EP
This is a show with surprises. We move from unexpected sounds to an unexpected title. We are not used to seeing Elvis mentioned on the show, although we are not quite sure how Elvis really comes into this tune. It is from an EP which revisits a number from an album of the same name released on the Birnam label from Scotland. Jake Aaron is a guitarist who has moved among both jazz and folk circles and is joined by Davide Mantovani on bass and Marc Parnell on drums and by three outstanding and well-known players from the British jazz scene, two of whom Derek has seen in rather different contexts. They are John Etheridge on guitar and Steve Lodder on Hammond, who Derek remembers seeing with British-based Brazilian singer Monica Vasconcelos and trumpeter Steve Waterman – also featured with Aaron. Derek first remembers seeing him many years ago when he played in a salsa band led by the late and great percussionist Robin Jones.
4. Somi – Mbombela from Zenzile: the Reimagination of Miriam Makeba
We haven’t featured Somi on Cosmic Jazz for some time but arguably it was last year when she made her greatest impact worldwide with the release of the superb album Zenzile: the Reimagination of Miriam Makeba – a celebration of the ‘first lady of African song’. The album features Somi’s reinterpretation of some of Miriam Makeba’s best known recordings, assisted by some impressive guests and is highly recommended by both Neil and Derek here at CJ. More good news is that the album is due to be released as a 2x vinyl record on 10 February 2023. Derek listened to this record again recently and if anything felt it sounded stronger than ever. This really is an album of re-imagination that reinterprets the music in a unique and contemporary musical context, with fine arrangements sitting alongside the clarity of Somi’s voice which ranges from raw emotional power to subtle sensitivity. We leave the last words to Somi who says of Miriam Makeba: Her messages of social justice and the humanity of black lives still encourage us today. This project is about honouring the vast and immeasurable contribution she made to popular, folk and jazz music on behalf of a people, a continent.”
5. Sonny Red – Love Song from Sonny Red/Inner Peace – Rare Spiritual Funk & Jazz Gems
Neil’s selection for this show begins with a reed player who should be better known. Sonny Red is an under-rated alto saxophonist who cut one record for Blue Note before focusing on sideman work with Donald Byrd, Yusef Lateef and others. You can hear him on some great records Byrd made for Blue Note, including two of our favourites – Mustang and Slow Drag. On this rare 1971 Mainstream label album Sonny Red is joined by the great Billy Higgins on drums and Cedar Walton on piano for a beautiful modal piece featuring him on flute too. You can find this track on the Mainstream compilation Inner Peace – a recommended jazz sampler.
6. Cory Henry – Afro Brooklyn (feat. Ohil Lassiter) from First Steps
Neil loved this track on first listening – and (like Derek with Siegfried – see below) the pleasure hasn’t faded. Formerly in the group Snarky Puppy, keyboardist Cory Henry began his career touring with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Michael McDonald but moved in a jazzwise direction with Snarky Puppy before releasing First Steps in 2014. Sadly, the album doesn’t fulfil the promise of this very talented player with Afro Brooklyn being a stand out exception. For more Cory Henry, check out a You tube video that has (to date) been seen 32 million times and features Henry on a stunning solo performance.
7. The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py from Message from the Meters
Ah – the Meters! It’s probably safe to say that funk, R n B, hip hop and – yes – jazz, wouldn’t be the same without them. Formed in 1965 in New Orleans by Zigaboo Modeliste on drums, George Porter Jr. on bass, Leo Nocenelli on guitar and Art Neville oon keyboards, the band released numerous albums as well as delivering backing music for such artists as Lee Dorsey, Dr John and Allen Toussaint. Original songs like Cissy Strut, Just Kissed My Baby and our choice, Look-Ka Py Py are classics. Their sound is immediately recognisable – tight melodic grooves, syncopated New Orleans ‘second line’ rhythms and ‘chicken scratch’ guitar all underpinned by simple, powerful bass lines. The recent compilation from Real Gone Music is a great place to start – 40 singles from the Josie, Reprise and Warner Bros. labels. And if you liked Look-Ky Py Py, then just try Just Kissed My Baby. Impossible not to move to this one…
8. Marcos Valle – Olha Quem Ta Chegando from Sempre
Marcos Valle is a phenomenon. Now 79, he has sustained a career across the generations from his origins as a bossa nova pioneer in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1960s. A prolific songwriter even at the beginning of his career, Valle saw musicians lining up to record songs like, Samba de Verão (known in English as Summer Samba), Deus Brasileiro, and A Resposta. A move to the USA saw him further consolidating his position as one of Brazil’s foremost singer songwriters and a return to Brazil in the 1970s unleashed a new direction with the album Garra (1971) being one of the finest Brazilian records of the decade. Busy writing TV soundtracks and advertising jingle alongside his album and single releases, Valle continued to progress his musical styles with Previsão do Tempo (1973) being another highpoint. The album had a notable jazz fusion feel thanks to Valle’s enthusiasm for the Fender Rhodes and Azymuth keyboardist Jose Roberto Bertrami’s expertise on the Hammond organ and assorted synthesizers such as the Mini-Moog and the ARP Soloist. After another period in the US songwriting with Leon Ware and the group Chicago, Valle returned again to Brazil to release 1981’s Vontade de Rever Você, and 1983’s Marcos Valle. Estrelar from 1982 was his best-selling record ever – but was followed by a fallow period until a return promoted by Joe Davis from Far Out Recordings, which had begun to specialise in Brazilian musicians such as Azymuth and Joyce. Nova Bossa Nova was the first of these and recorded with a special meaning for Neil – see the Cosmic Jazz special 5 from 5. In 2005 came Jet Samba, an all-instrumental collection featuring reworked compositions from past albums, as well as several new songs and in 2010 Valle released Estática, an album which saw him return to a more organic approach, albeit with the use of some analog synthesisers. Valle continues to perform live and will be at Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here festival in August 2023. See him live if you can.
9. Mr. Fingers – Sao Paulo from Cerebral Hemispheres
To complement Marcos Valle we followed up with a track from a recent album by Larry Heard (or Mr Fingers) – truly the godfather of Chicago house, and so listeners might reasonably expect to question his inclusion in Cosmic Jazz. But just listen to the chilled summery vibe of Sao Paulo from his excellent 2018 album Cerebral Hemispheres and you may be converted. Want to find out more about Larry Heard? Here’s a beginner’s guide to the deep house phenomenon which originated in Chicago in the 1980s. And if you don’t think it influences contemporary jazz, then check out pianist V J Iyer talking about his music and influences – including hip hop, house and techno. For Iyer, it’s about the evolution of grooves and spaces and textures and things like that – a pretty good summary of what Heard is doing in deep house music.
10. Erik Truffaz feat. Nya – Siegfried from Bending New Corners
There are several examples of musicians that have played both jazz and classical music at the highest level; Wynton Marsalis and Keith Jarrett come to mind immediately. Derek did not know until recently that trumpeter Erik Truffaz can be included in this group as he was heard on UK’s BBC Radio 3 playing Offenbach. Truffaz is something of a Cosmic Jazz favourite. Derek saw him live a few years ago but, rather sadly, playing to an audience of only twenty-five people at the Norwich Arts Centre – a rather cavernous disused church best experienced when full. But the music was great with Truffaz’s modal sensibility and plangent tone on full display. After the above classical piece it was tempting to return to his jazz and dig out the 1999 Blue Note album Bending New Corners. Inventive and unpredictable, it still sounds fresh and is always worth a listen. The tune Siegfried featuring the rapper Nya is just so good that once you’ve listened, a repeat is unavoidable. That has been Derek’s experience since digging out the record again. Give it a listen here and we are sure the experience will be yours as well. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.