Wind your way with us at Cosmic Jazz and we will take you on a path that mixes the contemporary and the past, the upbeat and the becalmed, the dancefloor and the spiritual via this, our latest show.
1. Joshua Redman – Chicago Blues from Where Are We
Saxophonist Joshua Redman has been travelling around the USA and taking some interesting people with him. Or at least, that is what his latest album Where Are We on Blue Note Records would suggest. There are tunes about Philadelphia, New England, San Francisco, New Orleans, Alabama and more – including this one, Chicago Blues, with apologies for not taking ” a boy like you” with me, a number attributed to Count Basie, James Rushing and Sufjan Stevens. The musicians travelling with Joshua on this tour are top-rate and include ones well-known to us here at Cosmic Jazz. Aaron Parks on piano weaves away on a catchy repeating rhythm from start to finish on and there’s a lovely interjection from Joel Ross on vibes. The sextet also includes the fantastic Brian Blade on drums, cool bass from Joe Sanders and vocals that are sultry, mesmerising and enticing from the California-raised Gabrielle Cavassa, someone new to us here at Cosmic Jazz. We await more with real interest and really recommend this album which also achieved the top spot on Jazzwise’s new releases of 2023.
2. Yoni Mayraz – Palms from Dybbuk Tse!
From a different zone of the contemporary jazz spectrum comes the British-based keyboard player and producer Yoni Mayraz. This is the second tune we have played from his Dybbuk Tse album released last year. It’s a short, but intense number where Yoni is joined by Joe Melnicove with some intricate flute playing, Eli Orr on bass and Roy Reemy on drums. If you want to delve into some of the lesser-known contemporary jazz sounds of London from young-ish musicians, Dybbuk Tse is a good place to go and the album and band deserve more attention. They’re appearing live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on Thursday 15 February 2024 but have other forthcoming dates in Sweden and Belgium.
3. Max Roach – Effi from Members, Don’t Git Weary
10 January 2024 marked the centenary of the birth one of the great and most influential. jazz drummers, Max Roach. We may be a little late but his centenary has to be acknowledged on Cosmic Jazz. We are doing this via Effi, an uplifting, spiritual and soulful tune with mind-blowing interplay from sax and trumpet. The tune was written by Roach himself and comes from the 1969 Atlantic Records album Members, Don’t Git Weary. The album was a call for brothers and sisters in the struggle not to be disheartened, not to give up and to carry on even when times get difficult. Max Roach was closely associated with the movement for civil rights and by 1969, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys, there was real cause for pessimism. The album has an astounding line-up of musicians: Gary Bartz on alto sax, Charles Tolliver on trumpet, Stanley Cowell on piano and Jymie Merritt on electric bass. Andy Bey provides vocals on the title tune. This is an absolutely essential album from a band led by an essential jazz artist. If you don’t own a copy of this record then check out the recent reissue from Gilles Peterson’s new imprint Arc Records which appeared late last year. Of course, you can find it here on Bandcamp.
4. Fergus McCreadie – Driftwood from Stream
This is taken from McCreadie’s new full length album Stream – and it’s an exclusive first play of an album not out until May this year. In the meantime, don’t miss out on his solo piano EP (Sketches) released just a couple of months ago. Stream continues the themes established in McCreadie’s previous two releases on Edition Records – Cairn and Forest Floor, both of which have been featured on Cosmic Jazz. We’ve long championed this passionate mix of Celtic-inspired composition and we’ll undoubtedly return to this stunning upcoming release in future shows. With four moths to go before official release, this is a rare opportunity for a first listen to this formidable trio – McCreadie on piano, David Bowden on bass and Stephen Henderson on drums. All three previous albums on Edition are available from the website and can also be bought via Bandcamp. If you’re a vinyl devotee, then the superb coloured pressings of Forest Floor is still available on Edition.
5. John Rae & Ben Wilcock – Apple Road from Splendid Isolation (Special Edition)
It’s thanks again to Scots promoter Rob Adams for this one – the new album from drummer John Rae, here in collaboration with New Zealand pianist Ben Wilcock. Rae moved to New Zealand some 15 years ago and is now based in Wellington where he has become a go-to drummer on the very healthy NZ jazz scene. This new record features a band with some familiar antipodean names – Patrick Bleakley, from Rae’s NZ band the Troubles, is on bass, Scottish guitarist Kevin Murray plays on three tracks and saxophonists Dan Yeabsley and Jabin Ward appear on one track each. The music is a delightful mix of lyrical compositions – as on Apple Road – with more bluesy investigations and an Indian Konnakol rhythmic diversion on the excellent Tak a Minute. You can find the album here on the Thick Records website – and it’s available right now.
6. Aki Takase Trio – Song For Hope from Song for Hope
There’s always been great jazz music from Japan and coming out of the excellent J Jazz anthologies from BBE Records, which we’ve consistently promoted since the arrival of Volume 1 in 2018 . These are all due to the crate digging of Tony Higgins (who has also done a sterling job of revitalising the golden age of British jazz in the 1960-70s) along with his vinyl companion Mike Peden. We’re now on J Jazz Volume 4, but this Aki Takase tune featured on the previous collection. Now it’s time for the complete Song for Hope album from pianist Takase – first released in 1981. Her world of jazz incorporates tributes to jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk but she’s just as happy in more avant-garde environments – for example with her husband, pianist Alex von Schlippenbach, saxophonist and composer John Zorn, or guitarist Eugene Chadbourne. Song for Hope is a live trio recording with Nobuyoshi Ino on bass and the great Takeo Moriyama on drums and is now available to pre-order – you’ve guessed it – here on Bandcamp. Btw – you’ll hear a 5 second drop in sound on this download not apparent on the J Jazz album but we’re sure that will be corrected on release. You can also find many of Takase’s previous releases on the Intakt label on Bandcamp too – check out some of the tribute albums already mentioned along with others. You won’t be disappointed.
7. Michael White – Fiesta Dominical from The Land of Spirit and Light
The tune Fiesta Dominical is from one of those albums that from time to time Derek dusts down from his shelves and plays, often to great delight – and there is no doubt that the 1973 Impulse! album from violinist Michael White brings delight and surprises. This particular tune is a prime example: it’s almost country meets Colombia, folkloric meets jazz, rural acoustic meets the urban avant-garde – a Land of Spirit and Light indeed. Classical guitarist Bob King features along with jazz pioneers Prince Lasha on flute, Cecil McBee on bass and Michael White on violin. Wikipedia suggests that the unidentified vocalists are Stanley Nash, Kenny Jenkins, and an ABC Messenger delivery man. Make of that what you will…
8. Wildflower – Rush from Love
Wildflower might not be a familiar name – but the personnel may be. How about Idris Rahman on saxes, clarinet and flutes, Tom Skinner on drums and Leon Brichard on acoustic and electric bass? This is the trio’s second album and it takes a rather freer approach to the writing process, with simple but effective melodies and bass motifs explored to give dynamic extremes. Skinner uses his minimal kit to good effect and Rahman is better than ever on brass and woodwinds. This is an album that creeps up on you with subtle force, demonstrating a range from heavy spiritual vibes to more groove-based and folk-like tunes. is on fire here whilst Rahman and Brichard trade riffs and push the harmonic and rhythmic boundaries. Rahman’s use of clarinet and bamboo flute plus additional layers of woodwinds, Skinner’s unique approach to stripped-down use of his very personalised kit, and Brichard’s use of both acoustic and electric basses make for a sonic landscape that is both unique and highly approachable. Touching on heavy spiritual vibes whilst taking in dark alternative grooves and delicate folk-like tunes, the music surprises and delights in equal measure. You’ll be very lucky to track down a vinyl copy but the digital album is still available here on Bandcamp.
9. Muriel Grossman – All Heart from Devotion
Saxophonist Muriel Grossman has really dug deep for this new release on Records. It’s a 2CD set that gives Grossman and her group the opportunity to stretch out. She has been based on the Spanish island of Ibiza since 2004 (and from where she sent Neil this excellent new release, apologising for the slight delay) but performs internationally and is now about to embark on a North American tour. Grossmann was born in Paris, raised in Austria, and began classical flute studies at five but didn’t get to the saxophone until she was 21, She has a deeply committed DIY aesthetic and supervises every aspect of recording, production and presentation including often painting her record covers. Her current band includes Belgrade-born guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, Abel Boquera on Hammond B3 and Uros Stamenkovic on drums. Bass is supplied by Grossman herself along with – on the new album – flute, percussion, tambura, kalima and harmonium. All of her albums from 2010’s Birth of the Mystery to the breakthrough excellence of 2018’s Golden Rule are worth investigating. The latter has a strong Coltrane influence – check out her excellent soprano outing, Traneing In, which also featured in another equally powerful version on the later Union album, 2020’s Quiet Earth included four long compositions, two of which were substantially revisioned versions of tunes that originally appeared on the 2013 album Awakening. Devotion is something of a breakthough – it’s on Jack White’s US-based Third Man Records and is titled after Grossmann’s experiences with Buddhist meditation. She says, Just as thoughts are always dissolving into the stillness of our mind, we slowly realize that the essence of our mind is clarity . . . This realization puts us on the path to confidence; it and trust are the basis of devotion. On our choice, All Heart, Latin and African polyrhythms combine in forceful and funky, hard swinging post bop. Other tracks are longer and more modal, but throughout this is the sound of a band working closely together – deep and spiritual indeed. As with all of Grossman’s records then, this new one is highly recommended and is available via Grossman’s own website on vinyl or CD – and, of course, here on Bandcamp.
10. The Freedom Sounds feat. Wayne Henderson – Behold the Day from Late Night Tales: The Cinematic Orchestra
Returning to the theme of dusting down (see Michael White above), Neil has been doing some of that lately and items of music have found their way into Derek’s grateful hands. This is an example. Many artists from a wide range of the world of dance music have been involved in the Late Night Tales compilations – including Groove Armada, Jamiroquai, Fourtet, Air and others. UK’s Cinematic Orchestra created their set in 2010 and included some excellent tunes and Derek selected something new to him – the soulful, funky, danceable Behold the Day from The Freedom Sounds featuring trombonist Wayne Henderson. The sleeve notes explain that the Cinematics first heard this tune spun by Gilles Peterson, a pretty good recommendation, at a small club in Bastille, Paris. They had just finished their live set and this was the first tune that Gilles played. The track actually comes from the excellent 1969 Freedom Sounds album called Soul Sound System – track it down if you can.
11. Ray Munnings – Funky Nassau from Good Times with Joey & Norman Jay
Lord have mercy! We started to get funky with the last tune but this end to the show gets us funkier still. The well-known and hit-making, 1971 version of the tune Funky Nassau was a soulful/funky/Latin piece of dynamism from Beginning of the End. One of the members of this band – which comprised three brothers from the Bahamas – was Ray Munnings, who with Tyrone Fitzgerald wrote the number. Munnings recorded his own solo extended, jazzier, more horn-filled interpretation in 1979. It is great. It is irresistible. The good news is that it can be found on the 2004 Good Times CD compilation from Joey and Norman Jay. This exemplary series of compilations from these London DJs reflects the eclectic range of music we feature here on the show and all seven (or more) of these CD sets are worth tracking down. The bad news is that if you want a vinyl copy – and it sounds as if it really needs to be played on vinyl – you are going to have to pay a lot of money. There’s a signed copy on Discogs for the equivalent of £85! Over to you…