#new jazz; #European jazz – 31/05/2024

This Cosmic Jazz is all about new music – new releases from the wide world of jazz. We begin with two of the most anticipated new albums from tenor saxophonists Kamasi Washington and Shabaka – now relinquishing his tenor horn for a range of flutes – and add in music from Scotland, Poland, Russia and Sweden.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Dream State from Fearless Movement

Washington is the man who gave us a 3CD/LP for his debut and then followed it with a double CD with a secret bonus album. Fearless Movement is his third outing – and immediately feels a little more scaled back. Ostensibly more dance orientated, the album features a Zapp funk cover and an appearance from Funkadelic and Parliament’s George Clinton. But much of the music on the new record retains the grand gestures, thunderous climaxes and musical drama of his previous albums. There are guest vocalists aplenty but, at its best, it’s all about sheer excitement throughout. We think the album gets stronger in the second half with the extended Road to Self (KO) and The Garden Path but we’ve gone for Dream State which features André 3000 on flutes…

2. Shabaka – I’ll Do Whatever You Want from Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace

… and which links directly to this new album from Shabaka (now first name only). Shabaka Hutching has been associated with the tenor saxophone since his earliest days in jazz but a surprise  announcement in January 2023 revealed that he would be taking an indefinite hiatus from the tenor and focusing on a range of different flutes. The reason for this volte face was explored in an excellent extended interview with Tidal in 2022 focusing on the release of his Afrikan Culture EP. Shabaka explained that he wanted to create energy without tension noting that The way that a lot of jazz is created, on a technical level, comes from tension. That tension is even in the way that people stand. When you think of the iconography around jazz, you think of someone tensing their body into a shape and then applying more energy to battle the tension that their body’s going through. During a visit to Japan in 2019, Shabaka bought a traditional shakuhachi flute and saw that with the shakuhachi flute, you can’t do that. The instrument doesn’t resonate if your body’s tense. So it’s been a journey of learning how to relax and create enough energy to make that wood vibrate. This really does characterise the new album – Shabaka hasn’t just swapped one signature instrument for another but instead has remade his music from the ground up. We highly recommend this album – it’s a real exploration of a new approach in jazz. And the André 300 link? Well, the former partner with Big Boi in the celebrated Atlanta hip hop duo Outkast also features on I’ll Do Whatever You Want alongside DJ and electronic musician Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) – himself last seen with the late Pharoah Sanders on their 2021 collaboration Promises.

3. Organic Pulse Ensemble – For All the Other Places from A Thousand Hands

Released last year on the Spanish Two Headed Deer label, this fusion of free and spiritual-style jazz comes out of Sweden and is the project of multi-instrumentalist Gustav Horneij. It’s a blend of spiritual and meditative modal jazz grooves, layered percussion, saxophone and flute solos, with pulsing bass lines and (sometimes) an Eastern influence.  Horneij – who is also half of the  jazz-funk duo project Duoya with Dimitrios Karatzios – performs all the music on the session.  Perhaps that’s the illusion of a thousand hands – but, whatever, it’s presented in such an organic way that it’s hard to believe all the composition and performance come from a single artist. Information on Horneij is limited, so it’s thanks to TJ Gorton of BeatCaffeine for this one.

4. Village of the Sun – Ceska from First Light

This late 2022 release may have passed Neil by on release earlier this year, but this is a terrific album from two familiar names – Binker Golding and Moses Boyd who this time pair up with Simon Ratcliffe, one half of 1990s dance music dons Basement Jaxx, Now if Basement Jaxx was in-your-face dance electronica, this is a lot more subtle. The synths create a warm blanket that never dominate the music – this is very much a Binker and Moses record with traces of Alice Coltrane mixed in with some Afro-cuban rhythms that really broaden the scope of the music. Ratcliffe is also responsible for the lovely clattery drums and percussion that add so much to our choice, the first track Ceska. Do check this one out if you can – available on vinyl and CD from your local record store or here on Bandcamp.

5. EABS – Boratka from Reflections of Purple Sun

2023 was a breakthrough year for EABS in many ways. The album In Search of a Better Tomorrow, recorded in collaboration with the Pakistani band Jaubi, provided an opportunity to tour in Europe and China and receive several Best of the Year nominations. Now comes their sixth album released in May 20024, and it’s very much a return to their Polish roots, being a tribute to Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko who released his Purple Sun album back in 1973. Stańko’s original record relies heavily on rhythm, (check out the title track here) and the EABS version is indeed a reflection of Stańko’s superb record. Remarkably, Reflections… was recorded 50 years later in what was Stańko’s apartment in Warsaw – complete with the original piano that Stańko had played. Trumpeter Jakub Kurek even used one of Stańko’s own trumpets for the recording.

6. Svetlana Marinchenko – Berlin Moment from Between the Times

Svetlana Marinchenko is a Russian pianist based in Berlin who shares something of that cinematic approach not dissimilar to EST or Tord Gustavsen – both of whom have featured on Cosmic Jazz in previous shows. Between the Times is her second album and was recorded last year, with Niklas Lukassen on bass and Tobias Backhaus on drums – good examples of the strong musicianship that runs through the current Berlin scene. And it’s a big thanks to promoter Rob Adams for steering us in this very productive direction – we’ll be investigating more of this exciting scene in upcoming shows.

7. Zara McFarlane – The Mystery of Man from Sweet Whispers: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan

This is a really interesting change of direction for singer Zara McFarlane, who we’ve previously championed on CJ. It’s thanks to Julie Allison at R!otsquad Publicity for this one – and it turns out to be a treat. Sweet Whispers is more than a run-through of some of Vaughan’s most popular songs. Through a thoughtfully chosen selection of songs – in collaboration with producer, clarinettist and saxman, Giacomo Smith – McFarlane journeys through the musical life of Sarah Vaughan. There’s some really stunning arrangements of both familiar and less well known songs interpreted by a great cast of musicians – Joe Webb on piano, Ferg Ireland on double bass, Jas Kayser on drums, Marlon Hibbert on steel pan and Gabriella Swallow on cello. Much of this is recorded live with minimal overdubs and the sound is terrific. It’s so good to hear The Mystery of Man: the Sarah Vaughan version (with lyrics by Pope John Paul, of course!) is wonderful and the bold re-versioning from Sonzeira on one of Gilles Peterson’s Brazilian projects is a great listen too. And, by the way, McFarlane’s take on Inner City Blues is a breath of fresh air too. Highly recommended.

8. Gary Brunton – Fort Steven No.5 from Gwawr

More new music and thanks to Rob Adams again for this track and the next one. Bassist Gary Brunton is from the UK but has been based in Paris since he went there to study aged 20 in 1988. As a result, he’s played with lots of musicians on the current European jazz scene –  Bojan Z, Nguyen Le, Adam Nussbaum, Pee Wee Ellis and many more. His latest album, Gwawr (Welsh for dawn or sunrise) was released earlier this year and features the impressive Paul Lay on piano, Francois Jeanneau on soprano saxophone and Andrea Michelutti on drums. For jazz trivia geeks: Brunton was once invited to the great JF Jenny-Clark’s place in Paris for bass lessons (listen to JF J-C’s amazing multi-tracked solo Ozone here) and was also inspired by a workshop he attended given by fusion guitarist Gary Boyle of Brian Auger, Stomu Yamash’ta, Mike Westbrook and Isotope fame.

9. Phil Bancroft & Gyan Singh – Birth & Death from Birth & Death

Saxophonist Phil Bancroft has been one of the major forces on the Scottish scene over the past thirty years and more. He played with Sun Ra during one of Ra’s visits to Scotland and has worked with Kenny Wheeler, Joe Lovano, Oliver Lake and Dutch cellist Ernst Reiseger, amongst others. His long-lost 2004 album, Headlong, is typical of those collaborations. It features Reid Anderson (from The Bad Plus on bass), leading Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen and the Impossible Gentlemen’s Mike Walker on guitar – and we’ll come back to that one in a future show. The other release is a duo album that Phil recorded with the tabla player Gyan Singh, recorded spontaneously initially in Scotland and then in Delhi. Gyan Singh is a musician with wide experience, performing Hindustani classical music for many years with violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastra, but also collaborating with musicians from all over the world. This record is well worth investigating – find out more here at Bancroft’s Myriad Streams platform or here on Bandcamp.

10. Scott Kinsey – Volcano For Hire from Luniwaz LIVE

Recorded live at the the Jazz Dock in Prague, Luniwaz LIVE is the second release by keyboard player Scott Kinsey that is inspired by the music of Joe Zawinul and specifically his group Weather Report. This new release features compositions from later Weather Report albums including 1980’s Night Passage – very much a return to form for the group which included saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bass player Jaco Pastorius. Kinsey retains his bass player Hadrien Feraud along with drummer Gergo Borlai who are joined by Patrick Bartley Jr. on also sax. Also on board are guests Meredith Salimbeni (vocals), Pedro Martins (guitar) and Bobby Thomas Jr. (percussion) on two tracks each. Thomas was a member of Weather Report and Zawinul’s later group the Zawinul Syndicate and is a welcome addition. Neil has strong memories of seeing Weather Report live in the late 1970s and there’s an energy in this live record that really does reflect (and add to) the music of this most inspirational group.

Neil is listening to:

Neil’s choices this week include a selection from David Sanborn who died earlier this month. You could distinguish Sanborn’s distinctive sound on the alto saxophone in seconds, whether on his domination of David Bowie’s Young Americans album or on one of his own many records. Sanborn was a go-to session player and appeared on literally hundreds of records, but perhaps his most famous collaboration was with producer and bass player Marcus Miller. Neil has also included music from André 3000’s own new album and the Record Store Day Jazz Detective special from Sun Ra. Enjoy!

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