From the contemplative to the avant-garde to jazz funk – 14/06/24

Cosmic Jazz this time begins with tunes of contemplative beauty and then moves through the gears. Along the way there are nods to the avant-garde, ending with funky tunes involving the late David Sanborn.

1.  Charles Lloyd – The Water is Rising from The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow

We begin the show with deep, contemplative music from saxophonist Charles Lloyd, with a wonderful line-up of Jason Moran on piano, Larry Grenadier on double bass and Brian Blade on drums. This comes from the recently released Blue Note album The Sky Will Still Be There Tomorrow. Excellent and highly recommended it is too, like so much of Charles Lloyd’s work which spans a long period – he’s now 86 years old. His first album as leader was released in 1964, when he was also playing with Cannonball Adderley. The list of jazz greats that he has played alongside is endless, but also in the 1970s he worked outside jazz with The Beach Boys and The Doors. He returned to jazz and today he is still playing and touring. His music is something very special and this tune adds to the substantial list of Charles Lloyd music that we have rightly played on Cosmic Jazz.

2. Frank Morgan – Lullaby from A Lovesome Thing

We stay in the realms of the becalmed and the beautiful with alto and soprano saxophonist Frank Morgan. The tune Lullaby is warm and tender and brings a fitting closure to the album A Lovesome Thing. The tune was written by and features pianist George Cables, a name always worth looking out for and the album – released in 1991 – included guest appearances from Roy Hargrove and Abbey Lincoln (although not on this track). Frank Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933 and was inspired by hearing and meeting Charlie Parker. He spent from 1947-1955 in Los Angeles, but from 1955-1985 was in and out of prison, returning to performing and recording in 1985 until his death in 2007. In September 1986 he played at the Monterey Jazz Festival and in December of that year made his first New York appearance at the Village Vanguard. After his death, the author Michael Connelly produced a film Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story, see here for details.

3. Sarah Vaughan – The Mystery Of Man from One World; One Peace/Gilles Peterson Worldwide Vol. II

In the last programme Neil played a new recording of the tune The Mystery of Man by Zara McFarlane. In this show we go back to the original recording by Sarah Vaughan. Quite an orchestral and religious sounding piece it is too, but mixed with a touch of Hollywood and with a dramatic ending – but don’t let this put you off! The religious element is no surprise as it comes from an album where Gene Lees, a Canadian music critic, biographer, lyricist and journalist was commissioned to translate the philosophical poems of Pope John II and set them to music. Sarah Vaughan sang with the backing of a large orchestra and chorus conducted by the great Lalo Schifrin. The reviews of the record were not altogether positive but this tune is a standout.

4. Ambrose Akinmusire – Reset (Quiet Victories & Celebrated Defeats) from On The Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment

We move into the avant-garde phase of the show. There is also a link to the previous Cosmic Jazz show because this recording is on Blue Note Records and was considered for inclusion for out previous label special. The Blue Note albums of Ambrose Akinmusire probably qualified among the longest of album and track titles as exemplified by this tune and the 2020 album it comes from. Perhaps this reflects the complexity of the music. It is certainly, deep, intense and at times heavy music. Akinmusire’s trumpet dominates throughout with a clarion clarity that arrests you into a motionless, contemplative sense of peace and calm and something beautiful. Yet somehow, this is combined with a sense of something powerful and even challenging. The whole record evokes these emotions, a recording of beauty a recording of the deepest intelligence.

5. Mary Halvorson – Ultramarine from Cloudward

We keep it avant-garde with a tune from the latest album Cloudward from guitarist Mary Halvorson and her Amaryllis Sextet. This is serious music, not easy listening, but music with plenty of interesting things going on. Derek saw the group live in Amsterdam where they were performing some of the music on this album pre-release. It was an intense and powerful experience. Six top-rate musicians, with leader Halvorson sat down in the middle saying nothing until the end of the third tune and keeping everything else that was spoken to the minimum necessary. On this tune Ultramarine the reverberating bass of Nick Dunston opens things up, strokes from Mary Halvorson’s guitar join in, then comes the vibraphone of Patricia Brennan gaining in pace and complexity as it goes along followed by a strident, lengthy lead on the trumpet by Adam O’Farrill (from the famous Cuban/Nuyorican musical family). From there, the interweaving of trumpet, vibraphone and guitar takes us through to the end.

6. The Detroit Experiment – Space Odyssey from Gilles Peterson Worldwide Vol. III/The Way We Make Music

We enter the next phase of the programme which takes us across some musical boundaries but with jazz musicians and a jazz sensibility at the heart of things. Derek has only recently found this tune Space Odyssey by The Detroit Experiment and heard it first played as a wedding ceremony was due to begin; it was a good choice for such an occasion. The Detroit Experiment, not surprisingly, featured artists from that city, artists with a range of musical experiences but all had underlying feel for and love of jazz; some were jazz musicians. The original release date was 2003 and this is a version of the 1974 tune Space Odyssey by trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who plays on and is featured in this version. The record was put together by record producer and DJ Carl Craig, and among the artists who made an appearance on the Detroit Experiment album were Regina Carter, Bennie Maupin, Francisco Mora Catlett, Geri Allen and Amp Fiddler.

7. Two Banks Of Four – One Day from Three Street Worlds

Derek is sure he is not alone in having the experience where you hear a tune, you recognise it, like it and even hum along but do not know what it is or where it comes from. This was his experience recently when delving through his shelves and playing One Day from British band Two Banks of Four. The music is very much in the realms of early 21st Century UK urban, jazzy, electronic club culture. Two Banks of Four, taking its name from a football team formation of the time, came from two producers Robert Gallagher a.k.a. Earl Zinger and Dilip Harris a.k.a. Demus and they drew upon a fluid group of musicians, ranging on the album Three Street Worlds from which this track is taken from solo bass on one track to one with a total of nine musicians. One Day features seven with the bass of Andy Hamill featuring prominently, a lead from sax player Chris Bowden towards the end and vocals from Valerie Etienne.

8. The Brecker Brothers – Sneakin’ Up Behind You from East River

The final section of the show gets decidedly funkier and more up-tempo. The Brecker Brothers were the late Michael Brecker on saxophone and trumpet player Randy Brecker. They were born in Philadelphia but moved to New York where they became distinguished jazz musicians, with Michael seen as an important figure in developing the legacy of John Coltrane, Randy became part of the Horace Silver Quartet and both joined up with Billy Cobham and did session work. Each has made important contributions to jazz but from 1974 to 1982 they ran the Brecker Brothers band – a mix of jazz and sophisticated funk. Sneaking Up Behind You, the first single release from the band, was a dancefloor favourite and even a top 40 hit in the UK. It is brass heavy, not only from the Breckers, but also with the inclusion of the late sax player David Sanborn who is co-credited as one of the composers of the tune. He died on 12 May, 2014.

9.    David Sanborn – Bang Bang (mardi gras dance mix) from 12″ single

The programme ends with a bang – well a tune called Bang Bang – to add to our celebration of the work from alto saxophonist David Sanborn. This is the 1992 Mardi Gras Dance 12” mix produced by bass player Marcus Miller, with whom David Sanborn worked extensively. Sanborn included the tune on his 1992 album Upfront but the number was written by Latin artists Jaime Sabater and Joe Cuba and released by the Joe Cuba Sextet in 1966. This illustrates how David Sanborn worked across musical boundaries and this included 1960s/70s rhythm and blues and sessions for, and touring with, pop artists. Sanborn was one of the more commercially successful jazz artists but was (wrongly) accused of promoting dull, unchallenging smooth jazz. In fact, Sanborn was one of the most distinctive alto sax players of the last fifty years and was equally at home in free jazz settings as the more commercial end of the jazz spectrum. Indeed, he studied free jazz in his youth with Julian Hemphill and Roscoe Mitchell and collaborated, with among others, Bobby Hutcherson, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette. This is a joyful way to end the show and to remember this great alto saxophonist.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.


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