Trumpet troubadours, modal moments and Latin largesse – 07/03/24

This Cosmic Jazz promises to uplift the soul with a glorious mix of the old and the new. Trumpeters are prominent, there’s powerful new jazz, Latin ensembles and even a touch of poetry!

1. Muriel Grossman – Absolute Truth from Devotion

We’re returning to Muriel Grossman’s excellent new Devotion album because it’s just so good! On this 2CD set there’s a great opportunity for saxophonist Grossman and her group to stretch out – and the 20 minute Absolute Truth more than justifies this approach. The current band includes Belgrade-born guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, Abel Boquera on Hammond B3 and Uros Stamenkovic on drums. Bass is supplied by Grossman herself and she’s added flute, percussion, tambura, kalima and harmonium into the mix. As noted in a previous show, all 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. The opening of Absolute Truth is reminiscent of the Miles Davis classic It’s About That Time – no bad thing – and Abel Boquera goes for a Larry Young vibe throughout. This is wholly convincing, modern music that references the past but extends and deepens the modal mood. 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

2. Lucien Johnson – Satellites from Ancient Relics

It was just great to hear that saxophonist Lucien Johnson is about to release a new album. Neil and Derek are both big fans, having featured this New Zealander back in April 2021 when they came across his excellent Wax///Wane album. Johnson is from Wellington but spent much of his twenties living and working in and out of Paris, meeting and playing with musicians he knew from recordings including drumming legend and long-time Paris resident Sunny Murray, the late pianist Bobby Few and drummer John Betsch’s band. Now Johnson returns with Ancient Relics which will hit the shelves in April. The new record features the Pacific’s leading harpist, Natalia Lagi’itaua Mann, whose swirling textures brings to mind Alice Coltrane and, while there are references to that Impulse! Records vibe, Johnson’s tenor sound is very much his own. The record also has Jonathan Crayford on piano and Wurlitzer, Tom Callwood on bass, Julien Dyne on percussion and Cory Champion on drums. As with Wax///Wane, we know that we’ll come back to this record  time and again. Both Ancient Relics and Wax///Wane are available here on Bandcamp– and they’re on vinyl too.

3. akua naru – Poetry How Does It Feel (All About Love version) feat. Takuya Kuroda & Edson Sean from All About Love: New Visions

This is definitely the sort of thing we like on Cosmic Jazz: akua naru is a poet/hip-hop artist who performs with a musical backing that is strong on jazz but also includes soul and the blues. You can hear that in this single which was released for Valentine’s Day 2024, taken from the forthcoming album All About Love: New Visions to be released in May 2024 in both vinyl and digital formats. You will not fail to notice a stellar contribution to the tune from Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, who we have already featured on Cosmic Jazz, and US singer/emcee Edson Sean is in there too. The American philosopher Cornell West described akua naru as the Toni Morrison of hip-hop and she has collaborated with a range of musical artists including Tony Allen, Christian Scott, Eric Benet, Mulatu Astatke, Angelique Kidjo and Bernard Purdie. She performs with mesmerising lyricism and emotion and, although US-born, is based in Europe. Naru is on tour currently and will be in Europe from April through May. She has several dates in the UK, including The Blues Kitchen in Manchester and The Jazz Café in London. For a taste of how good she is live, check out this earlier stunning live performance of All About Love or head to Bandcamp and download the album that first opened our eyes here at CJ.

4 . Tamba Trio – Influencia Do Jazz from Tamba Trio Classics Disc 1

From the contemporary poetry of akua naru to the legendary 1960s Brazilian multi-instrumentalist bossa nova/samba jazz group  Tamba Trio may seem like quite a cultural shift, yet Derek thinks it works. Tamba Trio were also mesmerising and lyrical, but in a different way. Comprising pianist Luizinho Eça, bassist Bebeto (born Adalberto Castilho), and drummer Helcio Milito, Tamba Trio not only played a wide range of instruments but also contributed close harmony vocals – something unique at the time. They were immensely popular in the 1960s and among their finest moments was their wonderful version of the tune Mas Que Nada which was used in a 1998 commercial featuring the Brazilian football team. Mas Que Nada was written and originally performed by Jorge Ben although the best known version is that by Sergio Mendes. We need look no further than our chosen tune on this Cosmic Jazz show to see the importance of jazz to the band. And don’t be deceived by the lightness of touch that Tamba Trio bring to all their music – at the heart remains a remarkable musicianship – and, as much Brazilian music of the period demonstrates, that engaging lyricism has stood the test of time for decades.

5. jaimie branch  – baba louie from Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Writing about branch in the wake of her early death in August 2023, Pitchfork’s Allison Hussey noted that jaimie branch connected the focus and intensity of high-concept sound artists with the unbridled joy of living in the moment and baba louie absolutely exemplifies that sense of joy, with clean melodic lines and New Orleans-evoking rhythms radiating some deep energy. branch’s Fly Or Die bandmate Lester St. Louis commented that It was clear that this tune was the joyous tune for the record. It was that special jaimie joy, where she’s happy, laughing super loud, cracking jokes, having drinks with the homies, eating pizza… just good vibes all around. branch is on trumpet, voice, keyboard, percussion, Lester St. Louis on cello, voice, flute, marimba, keyboard, Jason Ajemian on double bass, electric bass, voice, marimba and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira, timpani, bells, marimba. This intensely vibrant music is available on Bandcamp right here. Highly recommended.

6. Don Cherry – Race Face from Dona Nostra

Neil has been going back to the music of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman in recent weeks – and here’s a chance to savour both. This ECM outing from 1993 is one of his lesson-known records and here he’s teamed up with five European musicians, including pianist Bob Stenson and multi-reedist Lennart Aberg. Cherry sticks to his pocket trumpet here (no berimbau or doussou n’goni) and includes two Ornette Coleman tunes – with Race Face (which doesn’t appear to have been recorded by Coleman) being our choice for this show. Following his travels to Europe, India, Morocco, South Africa, and elsewhere to explore and play with a variety of musicians, Cherry settled in Sweden with his wife, designer and textile artist Moki Cherry. For ten years, the couple lived and worked collaboratively in an abandoned schoolhouse in Tagarp, exploring their concept of Organic Music Society though collaborations with musicians from all over the world.  We’d recommend his three ECM records with Codona, a trio that also included Naná Vasconcelos and Collin Walcott along with the duo album El Corazon recorded with drummer Ed Blackwell and also on ECM. And how about the wonderful title tune  Brown Rice from Cherry’s funkier 1975 album which includes some powerful saxophone from Frank Lowe?

7. Mario Bauzá & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra – Son Cubano (Yo Soy el Son Cubano) from The Legendary Mambo King

Derek decided to continue his explorations of Afro-Cudan Jazz, inspired by the article Mambo Kings in the February 2024 edition of Jazzwise magazine. Afro-Cuban Jazz owes its origins to multi-instrumentalist, composer and musical director Mario Bauzá. He was born in Cuba in 1911, at the age of seven was studying music at the Municipal Academy of Havana, and by the time he was sixteen was a seasoned oboist and clarinettist. It was then that his future wife Estella introduced him to her brother Machito, who later became a huge Latin bandleader in New York. The two remained friends and colleagues and it was Machito, now making waves in New York, who invited Bauzá to join his band as a trumpeter and settle in the city. Max Salazar, writing in Latin Beat Magazine in February 1992, claimed that Latin jazz began on Sunday evening, 28 May, 1943 at La Conga Club in Manhattan where Machito’s band was playing. In between tunes, the pianist and bassist began to play the intro to the tune El Botellero  and Bauzá listened. The next day at rehearsal, Bauzá got them to play this tune again. He began playing jazz riffs over the top, then summoned the alto sax player to improvise. After two hours Bauza had merged Cuban music with jazz and a new musical genre came into being. Bauzá’s most famous number is the brilliant Tanga – an Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite in five movements which we have featured on the show before. The selection this time – Son Cubano (Yo Soy El Son Cubano) – is from an album recorded in 1992, a year before he died – with Bauzá as musical director and, on this tune, a background vocalist. Featured soloist on trumpet here is Victor Paz.

8. Jesus Alemany’s Cubanismo! – Descarga De Hoy from Cubanismo!

In the last show we played a tune from the Cuban band Sierra Maestra and drew attention to a trumpet blast at the end. That came from Jesus Alemany who had been invited to join the band at the age of fifteen. He was later to form the group Cubanismo! and the tune Descarga De Hoy is from the album Cubanismo! recorded in Havana in 1995 with all star Cuban musicians from several generations. The record provides plenty of opportunities to hear the soaring trumpet of Alemany. Among the over twenty musicians included on the album is pianist Alfredo Rodriguez (1936-2005) who left Cuba in 1960 for New York and Miami. He played with many of the Latin greats, including Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Dizzy Gillespie and the aforementioned Mario Bauzá. This tune is a descarga, which basically means a jam – it’s rooted in Cuban sounds but has the spirit and approach of jazz.

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

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