Cosmic Jazz at The Analog Vault: 23 February 2023

Neil from Cosmic Jazz is now back in the UK but he had time before he left the Little Red Dot to record a final set for The Analog Vault – surely one of the best and most eclectic record stores on the island. The seven years in Singapore has been an awesome experience and Neil is very sad to leave all his local friends – including Leon, Hannah and The Analog Vault collective. It’s also time to pay tribute to the other vinyl emporia who have provided so much crate digging pleasure over the years: notably Cliff and Celia at Retrocrates/The Jazz Loft whose jazz reissue choice is absolutely the best, André at Choice Cuts who are the business when it comes to hip hop new and old school, Hear Records who have such a great selection upstairs – and too many others to mention. Singapore is a real haven for crate diggers – long may it continue. So here’s those last ten choices – enjoy.

  1. Ezra Collective – No Confusion (feat. Kojey Radical) from Where I’m Meant to Be (2022)

First up is one of Neil’s favourite releases of the last year – the excellent full length album from Ezra Collective – part of the huge UK jazz scene that’s really flourishing at the moment. Ezra include some outstanding soloists and on this album they’ve got some special guests too. Let’s name check one of the best key players on the scene – Joe Armon-Jones – and give a shout out to the great Kojey Radical on vocals on this track. Elsewhere you’ll hear Sampa the Great and Emilie Sandé on vocals and a blissful mix of dubwise sounds, Afrobeat, R n B and more. The album includes a funky take on that evergreen classic Smile (written by Charlie Chaplin – yes, indeed!) and a great reading of Sun Ra’s Love in Outer Space to close the record. The record really does all hold together and on orange vinyl makes for a treat on the decks. I can’t recommend this album highly enough. I have it on all formats – but vinyl is the one to get.

2. Vibration Black Finger – Blackism from Blackism (2017)

It’s another UK band up next but – oh – so different. Vibration Black Finger aren’t well known, and this second album from them pretty much disappeared when released some five years ago – but it’s well worth a listen. Andy Smart is on treated trumpet as he awakens the ghost of Miles Davis from the revolutionary On the Corner album. The album’s eclectic mood is held together by Lascelle Lascelles’ drumming – part Can and part James Brown – but there’s lots of other stuff in the mix too. Lascelles (real name, Lascelle Gordon) was a founder of the Acid Jazz Pioneers The Brand New Heavies – but this is a whole new order of heaviness. If you like this you’d probably enjoy Sextant – a fabulous and under-rated album by the British band A Certain Ratio (or ACR). It’s just been reissued – and for a taste of the music here’s the excellent Knife Slits Water. You can’t have my original album (a mint copy will set you back over $170 on Discogs!) but you can get Blackism from those excellent guys at Bandcamp. Neil snapped it up at Joo Chiat’s Choice Cuts.

3. Herbie Hancock – Sleeping Giant from Crossings (1972)

Neil’s played Herbie Hancock in an earlier set but there’s no excuses for playing him again. The reissued album on the Speakers Corner label in a lovely gatefold jacket is something of a revelation – the sound on vinyl is way better than on my original copy (and that doesn’t always happen). The remastering is all analogue and it shows. Herbie Hancock had grown up under Miles Davis’s wing but his music here is as abstract as the late quintet but with what we would now call electronica thrown in. Dr Patrick Gleeson was the synthesizer wizard helping Hancock to achieve those other-worldly sounds but on Sleeping Giant it’s the battery of percussion that is the most memorable. This is a 20 minute + track and we played just the first seven minutes – but what a sound!

4. Nujabes – Luv (sic) Pt. 3 from Modal Soul (2005)

Jun Seba (瀬葉), who tragically died in a car accident in 2010, was a Japanese record producer, engineer, DJ and remixer who went by the name Nujabes (his name reversed) and released just two albums in his life time. Mostly instrumental – his music sampled hip hop, soul and jazz cresting a kind of triphop vibe but with breakbeat and downtempo elements too. Every single track on Modal Soul is brilliant. This is music you just want to listen to over again – and its earworm value is very high. There’s a similar tragic story behind the work of the Serbian producer Mitar Subotić who went by the name of Suba and who worked with many Brazilian artists. He tragically died in a fire in his studio but not before completing his wonderful São Paulo Confessions album – try Um Dia Comum (A Normal Day). There are clear links in the production style here.

5. Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti– Eva from Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti (1972)

This is the sunniest music you will hear all year – guaranteed! Neil first came across this great track on a wonderful new compilation from Mr Bongo Records and then tracked down the original album at Retrocrates here in Joo Chiat Road. Compiled by DJ Luke Una this is a great collection – and it wisely kicks off with this cut from Jorge and Olivetti’s self-titled album from 1972. Neil ended up playing it over and again and when he found the re-released album at Retrocrates it was an automatic purchase. Every track is infectious with hooks, synths and great trombone solos. Both Jorge and Olivetti were highly regarded music producers who worked with the best Brazilian musicians – Marcos Valle, Sandra Sa, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and many more. The music is full of those 1980s tropes – synths, drum machines, handclaps and more and some might say its too AOR. Actually, this is music of the highest order – impossible to recommend highly enough. Brazilliance for sure! The album is available here on Bandcamp.

6. STR4TA – Kinshasa FC from Aspects (2021)

STR4TA is the result of a joint collaboration between DJ and uber-influencer Gilles Peterson and Bluey Maunick, leader of the band Incognito (who’ve played twice at the Singapore Jazz Festival) and several other Britfunk groups including Light of the World and Freez. The music is straight out of the early 1980s – acid jazz at its best. Cheesy listening or easy listening? Either way, this is just a delight. And – if you like this – then check out their most recent 2023 release which includes Lazy Days, featuring Emma-Jean Thackray on trumpet and vocals. Like the previous choice, this is sunny summer music but this time with a British twist – the lyrics include the phrases “cotton sheets” and “pots of tea”!

7. Barney Wilen – Zombiezar from Moshi (1972)

In 1970 French saxophonist Barney Wilen got together a team of filmmakers, technicians and musicians to travel to Africa so they could record the music of native tribes. The result emerged two years later – a dark mix of sound effects, background chatter, African rhythms and avantgarde jazz. Zombiezar is absolutely the funkiest track on the album which you can get on Bandcamp  in a fantastic 2LP set along with a CD of the film made about this amazing expedition. Cut with French and African players including guitarist Pierre Chaze, pianist Michel Graillier and percussionist Didier Leon, this is music with few precedents or followers, covering a range from extraterrestrial dissonance to earthbound, streetlegal funk. Wilen pays little heed to conventional structure, assembling tracks like Afrika Freak Out and Zombizar from the bricolage of street sounds, local music and his studio band. At the time of writing, The Analog Vault had a copy of the original release too – check it out if you’re there!

8. Sun Ra Arkestra – Love on a Faraway Planet from Hours After (1989)

Neil had been wanting to play Sun Ra at The Analog Vault for ages and he was pleased to track down this two record set of music recorded back to back in 1986 in Milan, Italy with a version of the Arkestra including Marshall Allen and John Gilmore on tenor saxes. At age 98 Allen still leads the Arkestra on worldwide tours, making him the oldest living jazz musician still playing and touring. So what can we say about Sun Ra? Well, first up, he claimed that he is literally not of this earth but was born on the planet Saturn and was sent to earth to promote world peace. His music ranges from wild keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians. Also in the mix are electronic sounds, chants and spoken word pieces. Neil was lucky enough to see Sun Ra perform in London around the time this record was created – and what an experience! The full band on stage, female vocalists and a huge array of percussionists with Ra controlling everything with sweeps of his free hand while the other one stabs at his keyboards. The music was wild and unruly – free jazz at its best. Here in the UK, Neil has dozens of Sun Ra albums – and he recorded 100s of them, often privately. For an introduction to Ra you can’t get better than Lanquidity from 1978 and the track Where Pathways Meet. Then start exploring…

9. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Exodus from King Scratch (2022)

We’re now into a completely different genre of music but one that’s familiar – reggae. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was without doubt the most influential producer on the island of Jamaica and this is his early take on Bob Marley’s Exodus. It’s typical of his work – lots of studio effects, found sound elements and tape manipulation that create a looser (and better) sound that on the more processed Marley version. Perry was one of the first Jamaican producers to create alternative dub versions of songs and even whole albums. For an introduction to music on vinyl from his complete career, this new King Scratch compilation is a great place to start. Then check out classic albums like Super Ape (1976) and the wonderful Arkology 3CD box set from 1997 that’s still available on Discogs.

10. Etienne de Crécy – Le Patron est Devenu Fou from Super Discount (1996)

We ended the show with something that’s clearly not jazz – but that’s what we like to do! In French the tune’s title means ‘The boss (shop owner) has gone mad’ – referring to the Super Discount of the title. The tracks on this compilation are credited to different French musicians but there’re all produced by Etienne de Crécy who themed the record Super Discount using one of his own DJ names. The music is essentially a French twist on American house music and became known as ‘The French Touch’ and was really popular in the late 1980-90s. Daft Punk, Air, Cassius and others all came out of this scene. De Crécy released Super Discount in 1998 and it’s a great kind of summary of this influential style: samples, repeated hooks and filter and phaser effects all set in a consistent ‘four on the floor’ beat perfect for the clubs of the times. It still sounds great today!

For more updates on what’s happening at TAV don’t forget to check out both their Instagram account and excellent blog. We’ll be sharing regular links on Cosmic Jazz with our friends in Singapore – watch this space for more!

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