All posts by Derek

Cosmic Jazz goes offbeat, upbeat and remembers Carla Bley – 07/11/23

This show started with some blasts that sound wild, offbeat and free, but we included more conventional upbeat jazz from artists past and present. There’s also a feature on the late jazz composer Carla Bley before we end with a chilled Latin groove.

1. Yoni Mayraz – Dybbuk Tse! from Dybbuk Tse!

Derek was introduced to this artist in one of those fruitful music exchanges that it is always good to have. The music is unique and crosses the boundaries of jazz, hip-hop, breakbeats and Middle Eastern sounds. Yoni Mayraz is an skilled keyboard player/accompanist, raised in Tel-Aviv, but now based in London. The album was recorded live in spring 2022 in a dusty wooden studio. The vinyl copies that were released have long sold out. This title track provides a start to the show with sounds that brings us fresh, contemporary, dancefloor orientated jazz, but with a darker side. In fact Dybbuk Tse! relates to ancient Middle Eastern folklore  – the Dybbuk is a wandering malevolent spirit that enters the body of a person until driven out. The title of the tune is an order to remove the spirit and the album is seen as a way to exorcism through music. Sounds heavy? It is, but it also raises the spirit.

2. Luna Horns – Cherry Blossom from Luna Horns Live Sessions

Tim Lowerson, a British soprano saxophonist living in Oslo, has long been a friend of the show and we have been pleased to play the music of the various bands he has been involved with. The music has always been full of surprises, at times chaotic, but always interesting. His latest venture – Luna Horns – is no exception. In spring 2023, after jam sessions in a bar and then a crowded apartment “interpreting Edith Piaf songs in Turkish”, they realised there was a band to be formed – and that band is Luna Horns. They started to write and play together in Tim’s living room – four brass players in a small apartment in downtown Oslo. “When none of the neighbours complained, they agreed that the music must be good”. The next step was to record two tunes live – Baluba and Cherry Blossom, with the latter featured in this show. The session is released on 10 November 2023 and will be available from all the usual sources including Bandcamp, of course.

3. Carla Bley – A.I.R. (All India Radio) from Escalator Over The Hill

An ambitious mess, a bizarre free-improv classic, an all-star ego trip –  Escalator Over the Hill is all of these. At the time of release, it was certainly the longest jazz work ever. Carla Bley and librettist Paul Haines called it a ‘chronotransduction’, a term left undefined but it is certainly a kind of jazz opera. Alternatively, Marcello Carlin, writing for Stylus magazine, said It is literally whatever you want to make of it. It is devoid of every quality which you might assume would qualify it to be the greatest of all records. And yet it is that tabula rasa in its heart, the blank space which may well exist at the very heart of all music, revealing the hard truth that we have to fill in the blanks, we have to interpret what is being played and sung, and our interpretation is the only one which can possibly be valid, as we cannot discern any perspective other than our own. That may be well off the mark, but it does illustrate the range of view still held about this remarkable record. Whatever, there’s rock music, early synthesizer and ring modulator experiments, an Indian section, and repeated outbreaks of Weimar Republic cabaret in 3/4 time that both mock and revere European tradition. The libretto based on poems by Haines is pretty impenetrable and some of the band writing is pretentiously all over the place. But there are great moments in Escalator… – and the evocative A.I.R (All India Radio) is one of them. Don Cherry (who else?) is featured on his pocket trumpet. The three disc original featured an impossibly diverse range of musicians – some of whom include Gato Barbieri, Jack Bruce, Leroy Jenkins, Sheila Jordan, John McLaughlin, Enrico Rava and Linda Ronstadt.  A.I.R. (All India Radio) was later recorded by saxophonist Jan Garbarek on his brilliant Witchi-Tai-To album in 1974 – listen to that version right here.

4. Paul Bley – Ida Lupino from Open, To Love

This is Paul Bley’s version of one of his then wife’s most memorable compositions – named after the British-born Hollywood actress, director, writer, and producer who was certainly one of the most influential feminist filmmakers of the Hollywood era. The first recording of the tune to be released was from Bley’s Closer album in 1966. The Penguin Guide to Jazz claims that The key track here is Carla’s classic ‘Ida Lupino,’ which her former husband turns into a rolling, almost filmic narrative with layers and the music is indeed typical of that lyrical strand in Bley’s compositions. Bley’s subsequent recording of the tune on the ECM Open, To Love album from 1973 offers another take on this wonderful tune. Carla Bley herself featured Ida Lupino in a funky, almost easy listening variant on her Dinner Music album with an immediately recognisable guitar solo from Eric Gale. For more on Ida Lupino and the music, check out this short Jazziz magazine feature.

5. Charlie Haden – This Is Not America from Not In Our Name

In 2005, former Ornette Coleman bass player Charlie Haden gave us another incarnation of the Liberation Music Orchestra that had first appeared in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War on that first essential self-titled Impulse! label Liberation Music Orchestra record. Along with Haden, Carla Bley was the only constant fixture in the project and on this record she played piano and arranged all eight tunes.  Also on board were trumpeter MIchael Rodriguez, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, guitarist Steve Cardenas, and Miguel Zenon on alto sax.  We featured a reggae-tinged version of David Bowie and Pat Metheny’s composition This Is Not America – including a sardonic quote from the Battle Hymn of the Republic at the very end. Bley’s arrangements of tunes like America The Beautiful, Dvorak’s largo theme Going Home and Lift Every Voice and Sing are just spectacular on this moving reflection on the destruction of the American dream. This music is really neither jazz nor the inappropriately named world music, but rather a reflection on the kind of global folk ethic espoused by trumpet player Don Cherry.

6. Johnathan Blake – West Berkley St. from Passage

The record Passage is a Blue Note debut for the accomplished and widely experienced drummer Johnathan Blake, although he has played on a number of Blue Note records previously.  In fact, he’s been featured with many well-known artists loved by us here at Cosmic Jazz, including Pharaoh Sanders,  Ravi Coltrane, Avishai Cohen, Donny McCaslin, Maria Schneider and Chris Potter. Passage is a tribute to his father, the jazz violinist John Blake Jr.. The music is inventive, warm and at times funky, with an impressive line-up in the quintet – Cuban pianist David Virelles, from whom you can hear some wonderful, delicate flowing notes on this tune West Berkley St., Immanuel Wilkins, one of the young jazz players of the moment, on alto saxophone, Joel Ross on vibraphone – another noticeable presence on this tune – and Dezron Douglas on acoustic bass.

7. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Funky from Timba A La Americana

More new music – this time from Cuban pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa who last year left Cuba with his family to live in Toulouse, South-West France, where the album Timba A La Americana was recorded and released this year. He describes the album as very different from my previous ones and certainly it is different to the trio album Un Dia Cualquiero which we have previously featured on the show. For example, there’s a quintet of musicians creating a more spontaneous feel to the music. There is some continuity with the earlier record though as his brother Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa plays drums on both albums and both also retain the influence of Lopez-Nussa’s Cuban heritage – the word Timba used in the title of the album refers to a Cuban musical genre. Indeed, from the opening bars of this tune Funky there are unmistakeable Cuban sounds coming from the piano of Lopez-Nussa. As with Johnathan Blake, this is a Blue Note debut.

8. Yussef Dayes – Black Classical Music (feat. Venna & Charlie Stacey) from Black Classical Music

One of most eagerly anticipated jazz releases of 2023, the new Yussef Dayes album continues to delight. The first time Neil heard this opening track he was immediately reminded of our next choice, McCoy Tyner’s Ebony Queen, and he commented on this in our previous blog post. Now you get a chance to hear the two tracks side by side – so what do you think? This ambitious full length debut record is a sprawling, 19-track debut opus which self-consciously straddles all kinds of musical influences. As a result, it touches on spiritual jazz, dub music, reggae, jazz funk, R&B, drum and bass and more, but somehow manages to hold this together to create a cohesive whole – all underpinned by Dayes’ frenetic drumming style.

9. McCoy Tyner – Ebony Queen from Sahara

Ah – how great to hear this on the show! Many years ago, this was an early introduction for Neil to the music of McCoy Tyner. Probably Tyner’s greatest album of many recorded for Milestone Records, Sahara is a triumph from start to finish. Tyner’s piano work is even more explosive than usual and every member of the quartet here are on fire. Just listen to Sonny Fortune’s soprano sax on Ebony Queen – the opening track on this record – and the sheer power of Alphonse Mouzon’s incendiary drum work. Neil has lost count of the number of times he has listened to this record – and each listening brings new insights into the music. The title track Sahara is a side-long exploration that contrasts with the ferocity of Ebony Queen and Rebirth and over the course of its 23 minutes has beautiful percussion and flute interludes alongside some of Tyner’s very best playing on record. Even Valley of Life – a solo performance by Tyner on the Japanese koto (as seen on the record cover) – has complete commitment rather a cursory orientalism. As the Allmusic review notes, Sahara is an astonishingly good record and belongs in every jazz fan’s collection.

10. Raul De Souza – Funk Das Meninas from Plenitude

Derek is sure there are some musicians who don’t get noticed as much as they deserve because of the instrument they play. For example, trombonists might come into this category – which is why it took the 2021 release Plenitude by veteran trombonist Raul De Souza before we realised what an important contribution he had made to Brazilian music, often through the recordings of his many compatriots. We are talking here of the likes of Sergio Mendes, Milton Nascimento, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Tom Jobim as well as jazz artists such as Herbie Hancock, Jack De Johnette, Jaco Pastorius, Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins. Sadly, De Souza died in Paris shortly after Plenitude album was released but it had already marked a new phase in his career as it was recorded with his Generations Band, comprising European musicians much younger than himself – the youngest being aged 24 while De Souza was 86. At the time of its release in 2021, we featured the record on Cosmic Jazz but, as we have the freedom to return at any time to music we like it deserves another outing. The tune Funk Das Meninas provides a serious, deep, yet somehow relaxing and satisfying way in which to end this edition of the show. More Cosmic Jazz coming your way soon. Now, have a listen to a little of the music we have both been checking out this week.

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Spiritual and transcendent jazz from Impulse! Records – 05/09/23

Cosmic Jazz shows of late have journeyed among the elements of life, stoked the fires of  jazz dancefloors and, for this show, we’ve ascended into spiritual and transcendent realms. Be prepared for some serious and intense music.

1. John Coltrane – Seraphic Light from Stellar Regions

Derek’s copy of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary Vol. II (1933 edition) provides a 1668 definition of seraphic as Of discourse, actions, appearance: Showing ecstasy of devout contemplation. It’s certainly an appropriate description for John Coltrane’s Seraphic Light – indeed, as it is for much of John Coltrane’s later work. It’s also a pretty useful guide to the discourse, actions and appearance of this current Cosmic Jazz show as we reached out to those higher musical planes. Stellar Regions was recorded on 15 February 1967 near the end of John Coltrane’s life and it was one of the recordings unearthed after his death from liver cancer by his wife Alice Coltrane and son Ravi. Alice is significant for this recording in two other ways: it was she who provided the title for the tune Seraphic Light which was untitled when recorded and – from 1965 – she had become the pianist in the quartet.  Her freer approach was more suited to these new exploratory sounds than the more conventionally rooted McCoy Tyner, who had been a stalwart of the classic Coltrane quartet since its inception in 1960.  Indeed, when Rashied Ali was recruited as a second drummer, Tyner commented that he couldn’t hear himself above the two drummers and so left the group in late 1965. He was followed by original drummer Elvin Jones shortly afterwards. The new quartet was taking shape. Tyner had commented that Coltrane was always searching, like a scientist in a lab, looking for something new, a different direction… He kept hearing these sounds in his head and, indeed, the music was to become much more free as Coltrane began to be influenced by many of the younger Impulse! players he was listening to – Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler among them. In the album liner notes David Wild, the writer and critic for Rolling Stone, noted that These recordings all have a similar aura. Among Coltrane’s final phrases, they are almost the last notes to be captured on tape, performances thus haunted by our foreknowledge that what will follow them is silence. More importantly and perhaps even more compelling, they represent a suggestion of the evolution his music would have taken had his life not been cut so short, a tantalizing glimpse of an unrealized future. There could be no better way to open a programme around spiritual and transcendent themes.

2. Alice Coltrane with Strings – Galaxy in Satchidananda from World Galaxy

It seemed natural to follow John with Alice. World Galaxy comes from 1972 when Coltrane was developing in a new direction, much like her husband had done previously. The expanded group, now including Frank Lowe on tenor saxophone and Leroy Jenkins on violin, was augmented by by a full string orchestra and the voice of Swami Satchidananda who had achieved fame in the west as a ‘go-to guru’ for the new generation, appearing to rapturous acclaim at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. The music on World Galaxy is bookended by versions of My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme but these are not mere recreations of the John Coltrane versions. Alice Coltrane’s vision here is entirely her own – there truly is nothing else like this in jazz – and the three original Galaxy… compositions on the album have a mesmerising, immersive quality as Coltrane moves from Wurlitzer organ, piano and harp to create a unique soundscape that feels genuinely otherworldly.

3. Pharaoh Sanders – Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah from Jewels of Thought

And so on to another John Coltrane acolyte, Ferrell Sanders who was given the name Pharoah by none other than Sun Ra. Hum-Allah-Hum Allah-Hum-Allah comes from Sanders 1969 album on Impulse! Jewels of Thought and features one of his most hypnotic grooves over 15 minutes of saxophone and piano improvisations from Sanders and Lonnie Liston Smith who lays down one of his best performances on record. Leon Thomas adds his distinctive vocals with Cecil McBee on bass and the great Roy Haynes on drums. The excellent Aquarium Drunkard blog review emphasises the sheet joyousness of this music: On… ‘Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah,’ [Smith] gives Sanders a spruced-up base from which to launch, but Sanders seems just as happy to follow his pianist. The two play around one another cheerfully, each occasionally departing to take a solo trip through the sky before returning to the ground. Around them, the song develops with the same natural grace. Lonnie Liston Smith would go on to record the much-loved Astral Travelling album in 1973 which also featured Cecil McBee and little-known soprano saxophonist George Barron – here’s the magical title track.

4. Albert Ayler – Music is the Healing Force of the Universe from Music is the Healing Force of the Universe

Our cosmic journey continues with Albert Ayler’s extraordinary Music is the Healing Force of the Universe, recorded shortly before his early death in 1970. The album is complete with a bagpipes solo from Ayler, a spiritual recitation from his wife Mary Maria Parks (who wrote all the compositions) and contributions from former Mothers Of Invention/Canned Heat guitarist Henry Vestine playing his take on electric free blues. Much as on his previous record New Grass, Ayler’s raw sound attempts to integrate the worlds of R&B and free jazz: it’s not always successful but it is again unique – there was nothing else much like this in jazz either before or since. “Life is music” and is “sometimes not understood” as Mary Parks sings on this title track.

5. Michael White – Fatima’s Garden from The Land of Spirit and Light

Violinist Michael White maybe under-recorded compared with our other jazz artists but there should be no chance of this one getting away. Not only Michael White’s best album but one of the finest on the Impulse! label. It’s an unusual group too – classical guitarist Bob King, the aforementioned Cecil McBee on bass, percussionist Kenneth Nash, pianist Ed Kelley and the great Prince Lasha on woodwinds.  The ten-minute Fatima’s Garden has piano, bass, shimmering bells, and violin treading a  gently modal path until the introduction of Lasha’s atmospheric flute. This is a truly joyous recording and one that should be much better known. And the cover art is magnificent too.

6. Gato Barbieri – Encontros Part Three from Chapter Two: Hasta Siempre

Fiery Argentinian tenor saxophonist Leandro ‘Gato’ Barbieri might look like the outlier in this show but he’s more linked to this august company than you might think. For one thing, he had a central rôle in Michael Mantler’s Jazz Composers Orchestra epic release of 1968 – as did Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry and the rather forgotten George Barrow (see above). The whole shebang was something of a prelude to the epic Escalator Over the Hill three record set from 1971 and which had an even more expansive lineup. Check out the wonderful A.I.R (All India Radio) here. Encontros Part Three comes from a series of four ‘Chapters’ recorded for Impulse! between 1973 and 1975. All four records are highly recommended and great places to start with Barbieri’s music. As we’ve noted on the show before, Barbieri subsequently went straight down the middle of the jazz road, embracing the disco bubble with enthusiasm but much weaker material (and, it must be said, some rather dodgy album covers). Perhaps the starting point for this decline was the 1978  album Tropico which allied his distinctive rasping tone to lush string and wordless vocals. However, most of these later albums are often redeemed by that uniquely recognisable tone and so are still worth a listen.

Now, if this show has whetted your appetite for more jazz on the Impulse! label (and, yes, it’s always written with that exclamation mark) then check out some of the many compilations that have been issued over the years. We’ll begin with Transcendence, one of a series of records issued by the label in the 1990s, and compiled by DJ Patrick Forge and music promoter Kerstan Mackness. As the title suggests, this tends toward the spiritual end of the jazz spectrum and includes some of the artists we’ve featured – for example, the Coltranes, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler. Never released on vinyl, you can find the CD on Discogs right here – it’s a great starter selection. Also highly recommended is the First Impulse: Creed Taylor 50th Anniversary 4CD set released in 1998 – and there are copies here on Discogs. Neil thinks that another (and even better) place to start is the book and CD combination of The House That Trane Built, released in the wake of Ashley Kahn’s excellent label biography. You can find the book here on Amazon and the 4CD set with liner notes by Kahn again here on Discogs – this one’s a bargain!

The mega-label Universal covers Verve, Impulse! ECM and, thanks to the ongoing vinyl renaissance, several select titles are now being reissued on high quality 18gram vinyl. in association with the audiophile label Acoustic Sounds. You’d do well by starting with Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda from 1971 which sounds superb on the black stuff and comes in an authentic classic Impulse! gatefold too. Many of these reissues are limited editions so buy now… Finally – and soon to be released in a lavish box set – is another superb compilation, this time on both vinyl and CD. There are eight records in the set:  John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass (1961); Passin’ Thru by Chico Hamilton (1963); singer Lorez Alexandria’s Alexandria the Great (1964); Charles Mingus’ 1964 classic Mingus Plays Piano; Hungarian guitar master Gabor Szabó’s Jazz Raga (1967); Chicken Fat by Mel Brown (1967); Pharoah Sanders’ Karma (1969) and, last but not least, from 1970, Alice Coltrane’s Ptah the El Daoud. All albums come on 180g black vinyl, packaged in facsimile sleeves and most are mastered from the original analogue sources. Check out the promo details from Jazzwise magazine right here.

Neil is listening to…

This selection is partly informed by the X platform choices of micro-chop (or Gino Sorchinelli). Follow this guy on Twitter/X and get access to a really informed music selection across many genres. We featured two versions of The World is a Ghetto, Mongo Santamaria, Raphael Saadiq and Norman Connors. “Music for grown folks” indeed! There’s also a nod to the amazing lineup at the 2023 London Jazz Festival beginning in November with music from Makaya McCraven, and great new albums from Yussef Dayes and Matthew Halsall. Brazilian superstar Joyce is about to start a European tour and, finally, we celebrate the music of the late bassist Richard Davis who played with so many artists over the years. He’s represented here by a superb version of Everything Happens to Me from Elvin Jones’ tribute album to John Coltrane.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon…

Jazz with beats; jazz for dancers – 05/08/23

Despite the gloomy UK weather, this time Cosmic Jazz is in a summer party mood. The mix includes contemporary and classic tunes all designed to make you move and feel good.

1. Kenny Garrett – Backyard Groove from Do Your Dance

Alto sax player Kenny Garrett is one of the jazz greats and a CJ favourite. We have featured much of his music on the show over the years – from a stunning solo playing with Miles Davis to several of his own releases. His influences and tastes are eclectic. The 2016 album Do Your Dance draws upon the many dance styles that have influenced him and, by association, it recognises their links to jazz. Philly soul, bossa, calypso, waltz and Persian steps are the ones acknowledged in the track titles. The tune selected here, Backyard Groove, is a driving, heavy number in which drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. (brother of bassisit Thundercat) forcefully and powerfully leads us through an urban-sounding landscape.

2.  Roy Haynes – Quiet Fire from Quiet Fire

This a jazz dance favourite from one of jazz music’s greatest legends. Now aged 98, drummer Roy Haynes has been a major player since the 1940s. He was a member of Charlie Parker’s celebrated quintet, played with Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny – and hundreds more jazz greats. His son Graham is a well known cornetist and his grandson Marcus Gilmore has followed in Haynes’ footsteps as a drummer. Quiet Fire is a compilation of two 1970s releases on the Galaxy label and is well worth looking out for on CD. Neither have appeared as a vinyl reissue – yet. On Quiet Fire (what an appropriate title!) Cecil McBee provides the propulsive bass and the great George Cables is on piano.

3.  Herbie Hancock – Actual Proof (live) from Flood

Herbie Hancock is a true elder statesman of jazz. Always at the forefront of innovation in the music, he has (like his old boss Miles Davis) championed the new and the experimental. Currently on tour with a hot new group that includes Lionel Loueke on guitar, Terence Blanchard on trumpet and James Genus on bass, he’s been joined by young drummer Jaylen Petinaud.  Neil was lucky enough to see him in London in late July where he delivered a terrific show. This take on Actual Proof (originally on the 1974 album Thrust) comes from what was for many years a Japanese only release. It’s a live version from 1975 concerts in Tokyo and it’s close to what Neil heard in London just a few weeks ago.

4. The Crusaders – Stomp & Buck Dance from Southern Comfort

Neil first heard this tune on the Somethin’ Else radio show way back in the 1980s. It comes from what is often acknowledged as the Crusaders’ best album – Southern Comfort, and also released in 1974. Neil featured it on his Neil is listening to… selection in last show’s blogpost – you can still access all ten choices right here. Stomp… is a composition by trombonist Wayne Henderson who is joined by the Crusader regulars – Joe Sample on piano and keys, Wilton Felder on bass and sax and Stix Hooper on drums. For this album they were joined by guitarist Larry Carlton – who played on Steely Dan’s Aja album, including on Home at Last.

5. Sarah Tandy – Bradbury Street from Infection in the Sentence

We move to contemporary London for our next two tunes. Sarah Tandy is a piano/keyboards player we love and make no apologies for returning  to her album – named after a poem by Emily Dickinson. Sarah combines her love of music – which made a journey from classical to jazz – with a love of literature drawn from her Cambridge degree studies.  Infection in the Sentence emerged in 2019 on the jazzre:freshed label and Bradbury Street is the location of Servant Jazz Quarters, the London club where she first started playing jazz once she returned to London following university. Check out this feature on the launch of that album. We eagerly await news of a follow-up record (Sarah informs us there is one on the way), but in the meantime you can find her playing in groups led by Camilla George and Binker Golding among others. She is an incredible talent and watching the seemingly effortless spontaneity of her playing is very special.

6. Kokoroko – War Dance from Could We Be More

Kokoroko, whose name means ‘be strong’  are a London-based eight-piece band,  whose album Could We Be More was released on Brownswood Records in 2022.  West African Afrobeat and Highlife coalesce with jazz but with  a sound that feels spontaneous and free to fit in with the contemporary London scene. Up front is the horn section of Sheila Maurice-Grey on trumpet, Cassie Kinoshi on alto saxophone and Richie Seivwright on trombone but throughout there are strong rhythmic beats from Onome Edgeworth on percussion and Ayo Salami on drums. It’s music that fits in with the feel of this Cosmic Jazz programme – uplifting for body and soul at any time and place.

7. Sleep Walker – Eclipse from Into The Sun

The Japanese band Sleep Walker were long favourites of the show until their disbanding in 2009. Indeed, we were lucky enough to see them at London’s Jazz Café a few years ago. Into the Sun features a guest contribution from Pharoah Sanders and is a consistently entertaining record, full of good danceable tunes and lively soloing – especially from saxophonist Masato Nakamura and group founder Hajime Yoshizawa on piano and keys. Yoshizawa went on to release several records under his own name including the recent Double Moon from 2017. Here’s Minna No Jazz from that album which features Tomiko Sanders on tenor sax – and, yes, that is Pharoah’s son!

8. Metropolitan Jazz Affair – Escapism from Saint-Germain-des-Prés Cafe 7 

The mention of the Paris neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés conjures up images of cool,  hip cafés, bars and small jazz clubs frequented by pre- and postwar avantgarde artists and intellectuals.  A series of CD compilations emerged in the 1980s designed to (vaguely) invoke the essence of the place. This tune comes from Volume 7, released in 2005. The musical medium chosen to evoke Saint-Germain-des-Prés was nu-jazz with attitude through both contemporary compositions and remixes of classic jazz artists. Metropolitan Jazz Affair is a band from Lyon France created in 2002 and their measured up-tempo sounds of percussion and Hammond organ lets us dance the show away – until next time.

Neil is listening to…

My top ten tunes for this CJ checks out some great new vinyl reissues from the Jazz dispensary label and Blue Note’s Tone Poets; a couple of tunes that didn’t make it into our summer funk set above; two great Coltrane versions from Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires group (featuring the twin guitar lineup of Bill Frisell and John Scofield) and Wes Mongomery; another tune featured in Herbie’s London show; Miles at his funkiest from the 1971 Live/Evil set; and a Chaz Jankel Compass Point recording that will leave you dancing.


Jazz for the spirit, the hours & the elements – 23/07/23

Cosmic Jazz this time truly lives up to its name. The music explores sounds that are spiritual, reflect the changing moods of the day and night, then reaching into the cosmos to draw upon the elements of life.

  1. Lakecia Benjamin – New Mornings from Phoenix

We start, as seems appropriate for the theme of this show, with a tune about new mornings. It is from the New York born and raised alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin and this particular number was the first single from her album Phoenix released in  January 2023 on the British label Whirlwind Recordings. The label is building up an an enviable roster of international jazz talent – including Antonio Sanchez, Gilad Hekselman, Julian Siegel and Samara Joy. Lakecia has played with a variety of  soul and jazz artists including Clark Terry, Reggie Workman, Rashied Ali James ‘Blood’ Ulmer, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and The Roots. This album includes distinguished guests like Patrice Rushen on piano and Wayne Shorter providing spoken word.  Lakecia’s clear, upfront  tone is a feature of New Mornings but listen out also for the constant, subtle rhythms from guest bassist Jahmal Nichols that permeate the tune.

2. Fergus McCreadie  Trio – Morning Moon from Forest Floor

Here on Cosmic Jazz we have been singing the praises of Fergus McCreadie and his trio for a few years now. They record for another leading British jazz label – Edition Records who, like Whirlwind, continue to grow their jazz signings. The McCreadie Trio are from Scotland and met at college when bass player David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson were trying to find a pianist – then Fergus McCreadie arrived. The trio have grown in strength and fame and now attract widespread praise and sell-out crowds at their live performances. On 11 July they played live on the BBC Radio 3 In Tune programme and they’ve also been honoured by the BBC as New Generation artists.  Morning Moon was one of the tunes they played in that R3 live session and Fergus explained it was inspired by the sensation of walking out on a cold winter’s morning and seeing the moon still there in the sky. The result is a magical and beautiful tune, inspired, like so much of his music, by the Scottish countryside. The piano playing of McCreadie on this tune is intricate, delicate and beautiful but listen out too for the imaginative and essential contributions from bass and drums.

3. Fraser Fifield – A Day Like Any Other from Secret Path

This one comes courtesy of Rob Adams and is also a north of the border creation. Scottish multi-instrumentalist Fraser Fifield has worked with Indian percussion master Zakir Hussain (cf John McLaughlin’s Shakti and much more), the ground-breaking cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson and the Dutch jazz-world music virtuosi Nordanians – and has appeared at the London Jazz Festival. He’s schooled in both the piping tradition and the soprano saxophone, but on this new release he’s transferred his skills on to the low D whistle and Secret Path is a showcase for expressive playing on this unique instrument. As Fifield himself notes: My low whistle playing has undergone quite a journey since those early teenage years – who knew so much was possible on such a simple instrument?! Secret Path was recorded in trio with Tom Bancroft on drums and Paul Harrison on Wurlitzer piano and the album is available – of course! – on Bandcamp. Check it out here, read the excellent notes by Rob Adams and then just buy the download!

4. The Circling Sun – Spirits (Part 2) from Spirits

Some of New Zealand’s jazz luminaries have assembled to form this all-star cluster: The Circling Sun. Channeling spiritual/modal jazz and Latin rhythms, they simultaneously echo the greats such as Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane, while maintaining a fresh perspective on ensemble dynamics. There’s a bunch of keyboards, skilfully manned by the likes of Guy Harrison and Cory Champion, along with solid horn choruses throughout. Meanwhile, providing vital foundational support are the percussion (Soundway alumnus Julien Dyne), vibraphone, acoustic bass and full choir arranged by Matt Hunter. This feels like a group that have made music over a decade or more rather than one that’s been recently formed. We love this record here on CJ and recommend buying the very nicely presented vinyl version complete with its Stoughton tip on jacket. You can track it down here on Bandcamp. Highly recommended.

5. Mark de Clive-Lowe, Shigeto & Melanie Charles – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Hotel San Claudio

Composer, pianist, DJ and two decade-long bridge between jazz, dance and hip-hop, Mark de Clive-Lowe (MdCL), is no stranger to Cosmic Jazz. On this new release, he hooks up with influential drummer/producer/DJ, Shigeto and Brooklyn-based, Haitian-rooted, flautist/songwriter and Verve Records artist Melanie Charles on Hotel San Claudio, a collaborative LP of spiritual jazz, live deconstructed beats, and a three-track set of Pharoah Sanders reinterpretations including the iconic The Creator Has a Master Plan. The two-part take on Sanders’ 30 minute long track as well as his iconic Love Is Everywhere are the indeed the centrepieces of Hotel San Claudio. Nothing will take the place of the original of course, but this is a bold retread that retains the blissful aura of the original.

6. Noga Ritter – To The Distance from Ima

This one is a real surprise. Noga Ritter is an Israeli singer and songwriter now based in London whose debut release channels a diverse range of sources from Jewish melodies to Gnawa grooves all held together by an accomplished jazz sensibility. Fellow Israeli bass player and composer Liran Donin (from Led Bib) co-produces and is joined by premier English horn players Tony Kofi (tenor sax) and Byron Wallen (trumpet) to provide real muscle. The result is a really accomplished album with some cracking tunes and solos – including our choice of To the Distance, which features Patrick Kenny on trombone. Elsewhere there’s Senegalese sabar drums and kora from Seckou Keita on the title track along with a spoken word recital by Ritter on Crack the Shell. You can catch Noga Ritter live at the EFG London Jazz Festival in November and other tour dates can be found here. Both Ritter and her excellent band are well worth checking out if you get the opportunity. A Cosmic Jazz recommendation

7. Keith Tippett – Green & Orange Night Park from How Long This Time?…

We’ve been watching the development of the new British jazz reissue label British Progressive Jazz (BPJ) since their inception early in 2022. This record is one of their best. It features the classic Keith Tippett Group frontline of Marc Charig, Nick Evans and Elton Dean with rhythm section appearances by British jazz luminaries Jeff Clyne, Trevor Tomkins, Roy Babbington and Bryan Spring. These six previously unreleased live studio tracks were recorded in 1970, and Green & Orange Night Park would be recorded again for the brilliantly named album Dedicated To You, But You Weren’t Listening. Only 23 years old when this great music was recording, Tippett would remain something of outlier in the British jazz scene of the time.  At the time of writing, there were just 8 copies of the vinyl record left – the CD is already sold out. Head to the Bandcamp site here for more details. This is a riotous but joyful noise – check out the complete record and snap up one of the remaining vinyl copies if you can.

8. Ezra Collective – Love In Outer Space from Where I’m Meant To Be

Any jazz programme inspired by the elements has to make reference to Sun Ra and so we offer a double dose of Ra-ness to end the show. Significantly though, neither of these tracks feature Sun Ra himself. The first is from the wonderful Ezra Collective – another new London jazz scene act that we’ve been championing in recent years – and comes from their first full length album Where I’m Meant to Be. Ezra include some outstanding soloists all led by drummer Femi Koleoso, and this album is a must if you want to check out one of the most mature bands in this vibrant scene. The album includes a funky take on that evergreen classic Smile (written by Charlie Chaplin – yes, indeed!), Kojey Radical and others on vocal duties and it all ends with a great reading of Sun Ra’s Love in Outer Space. The record really does all hold together and on orange vinyl makes for a treat on the decks. We can’t recommend this one highly enough.

9. Sun Ra Arkestra – Watch The Sunshine from A Song For The Sun 

No Sun Ra here either – this record comes from 1999, some six years after the death of Sun Ra and is not to be confused with Sun Song, a 1967 title from Ra’s huge oeuvre. It’s not an easy one to find now so check out Discogs if you’d like a copy.  Perhaps unexpectedly, the Arkestra have continued since Ra’s death under the leadership of 99 year old alto sax player Marshall Allen and, indeed, they’re currently on a North American tour. It was Allen who composed and arranged Watch The Sunshine – a relaxed, if slightly chaotic number that chugs along with a minimalist, percussive, acoustic feel. There’s powerful sax from Marshall Allen, soothing vibes from Damon Choice and warming contributions in turn from trumpeter David Gordon, trombonist Tyrone Hill and guitarist Bruce Edwards. Vocalist Arnold ‘Art’ Jenkins invokes you to be yourself, free your mind and all you have to do is Watch the Sunshine. Global warming notwithstanding, it’s something we’re happy to do.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon – but in the meantime check out Neil’s Youtube selection below:

Neil is listening to… the usual eclectic mix. This week my ten track choice is informed by the new Blossom Dearie reissue, a clutch of the latest Blue Note Tone Poets, a collection of River Nile titled music I’ve assembled and an amazing live take on Africa from the newly issued John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Evenings at the Village Gate album. Also in the mix for this selection is some rap music from Mexico, a replay of the Crusaders’ best album and some Brazilian favourites that didn’t make the cut in our last show – including more Marcos Valle, currently on a live tour around the world. Enjoy – and let us know what you think of the choices!

Deep jazz from Edition Records and others – 07/06/2023

Cosmic Jazz this time deals out some serious and deep jazz. Expect Norman Connors (in a guise you may not recognise), a slew of contemporary artists on the Edition Records label and two artists of Latin heritage.

  1. Norman Connors – Morning Change from Dance of Magic

There are a couple of examples in this show of artists not doing what you might expect. Drummer Norman Connors is probably best known for his jazz/funk work beloved of soul and jazz clubbers. But before this he was a serious jazz musician playing with some heavyweight jazz musicians. The album Dance of Magic was his first as leader, but before that he had played with the likes of Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Sam Rivers, Jackie McLean and Pharaoh Sanders. There is also an impressive roster of jazz greats on Dance of Magic – Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Cecil McBee, Stanley Clarke, Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Hart, Airto Moreira and more. Our choice for this show, Morning Change, has a terrific soprano sax solo from the late Carlos Garnett, whose life we celebrated recently on Cosmic Jazz. Norman Connors was featured on Garnett’s Black Love album – the two musicians were close friends and mutually supportive. Morning Change is a tune full of mystery, deep in spiritual and contemplative sounds and definitely one for the heart and soul rather than the dancefloor.

2. Antōnio Neves and Thiaguino Silva – Das Neves from Hidden Waters: Strange and Sublime Sounds of Rio de Janeiro

This great new crowd-funded Brazilian compilation is now available on Bandcamp – check it out right here. Neil was pleased to support the project – and will receive his 2LP set in coming weeks. In the meantime, listen to this example of the endless variety of new music coming out Rio de Janeiro. Featuring 20+ artists from Rio’s resurgent music scene, each bringing an avant-garde edge to bossa nova, samba, jazz and funk. This is the sound of contemporary Rio – a melting pot that pools popular and avant-garde, cutting-edge and traditional, with echoes of everything from Tropicália, samba, disco and Candomblé to lo-fi rock, bossa nova,  experimental electronics and – yes – even jazz. We’ve chosen  jazz upstart Antônio Neves – here alongside Thiaguino Silva. Hidden Waters is compiled by Joe Osborne and Russ Slater,  with artwork by Rio’s much-loved album cover designer Caio Paiva, a sleeve insert of two essays written by eminent music journalist Leonardo Lichote and professor and critic Bernardo Oliveira, and extensive track-by-track notes written by the participating artists themselves. We’ll dip into this collection more on release later this month.

3. Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke – Akwe from Lean In

This is the first track in our sequence of music from the endlessly inventive Edition Records label. Founded by pianist and producer Dave Stapleton, Edition is fast becoming one of the most diverse labels around – with these three choices amply demonstrating this truth. We loved Gretchen Parlato’s last album – 2021’s Flor – which saw her exploring both Bach and Bowie’s posthumous No Plan album. Sure, Lean In is less musically adventurous that that exceptional previous record but it’s full of little joys – including Akwe on which she’s joined by the guitar and voice of Lionel Loueke. On drums and percussion is Mark Guiliana (Parlato’s husband)…

4. Mark Guiliana – Mischief from Mischief

... which leads us nicely into this track from Guiliana himself. Coming hard on the heels of his last record for Edition, Mischief is cut from the same sessions as this record. But it’s even more loose, spontaneous and exploratory with bassist Chris Morrisey, pianist Shai Maestro, and tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby holding down the complex rhythms and wispy melodies. One review noted a comparison with Keith Jarrett’s American quartet – Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian along with Jarrett himself – and it’s not wide of the mark. This is not easy listening but do check out this unique drummer here and on other idiosyncratic recent releases.

5. Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter – Boogie Down from Guilty Pleasures (feat. Nate Smith)

Another Edition partnership and one that, again, really works.  Charlie Hunter has an extraordinary command of the custom eight string guitar he uses – and it’s great in this combination with Grammy-award winning vocalist Kurt Elling. Like Mischief, this EP follows on from a previous record – the excellent SuperBlue album – with this one being released in February 2023. Chicagoan Elling is one of the most thoughtful jazz vocalists around today with the knack of mining lyric sources as diverse as Persian mystic Rumi and beat poet Jack Kerouac. This choice is a little more conventional though – Al Jarreau’s  Boogie Down. On drums throughout is the great Nate Smith whose own Edition records are well worth checking out.

6. Kenny Wheeler – Smatter from Gnu High

ECM (Editions of Contemporary Music) has been a go-to label for jazz enthusiasts since their inception by producer Manfred Eicher in the 1970s. Neil remembers his first ECM purchase very clearly: the superb Keith Jarrett solo piano Bremen/Lausanne box set which he bought in Zurich in 1973. Kenny Wheeler’s Gnu High features Jarrett on piano along with Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The longest track is Heyoke at 22 minutes – fresh and inventive throughout with wonderful drumming from DeJohnette – but we chose Smatter, the shortest piece at just under six minutes. It showcases Wheeler’s supremely melodic approach to the flugelhorn, emphasising what the Allmusic review noted as the warm and cool stance only Wheeler wields, making seemingly simple music deep and profound. Exactly.

7. Arturo O’Farrill & Chucho Valdes – Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters from Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico

Our second challenge to preconceptions comes with the next two tunes which include prominent contributions from trumpeter Adam O’Farrill. His grandfather was the Cuban composer and arranger Chico O’Farrill and his father the composer and pianist Arturo O’Farrill who has played with many Latin and jazz musicians in New York. In 2017 Arturo O’Farrill worked with veteran Cuban pianist, arranger and bandleader Chucho Valdes to produce the album Familia – not only a tribute to their fathers (both prominent Cuban musicians), but – as the title suggests – something of a family affair with contributions from several members of their own current families. Our choice of  Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters includes Adam O’Farrill as a featured soloist. The cover of the CD makes a forthright statement: This recording is not about piano, Latin jazz or Cuba and this tune (although with a trace of Latin influence) proves that point.

8. Mary Halvorson – Amaryllis from Amaryllis

Adam O’Farrill is also featured on this tune providing a fierce solo as a member of the avant-garde New York jazz group led by Mary Halvorson. Derek was fortunate to see  the group with Adam O’Farrill on trumpet at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam earlier this year. They are definitely not a Latin jazz outfit. They provide a challenging but engrossing and enriching listening experience. It is not surprising to find Adam O’Farrill in this band. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York among a rich variety of musical experiences, with both parents as musicians – his mother Alison Deane is a classical pianist. He leads his own band Stranger Days which includes his brother Zack O’Farrill as drummer – check out the self-titled album here on their Bandcamp page.  O’Farrill’s website bio describes his music as both abstract and personal, writing compositions that reflect subjects such as being mixed race, growing up in New York, family history, and spirituality. The people he has performed with make for an impressive list and  include Vijay Iyer, Hiromi, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Samora Pinderhughes and Mulatu Astatke.

9.    Oded Tzur – Noam from Isabela

2022’s Isabela is the second ECM album from New York-based saxophonist/composer Oded Tzur and his quartet. His first album for the label identified Tzur’s consummate ability to meld Eastern and Western traditions while exploring new connections between American jazz, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Israeli traditions. Here, the saxophonist constructs a suite-like sequence across the different tracks, balancing restrained meditative sounds with more powerful statements. Our choice of Noam is perhaps the most hymn-like – only towards the end showing some grain in the saxophone voice. The quartet is Nitai Hershkovits on piano, Petros Klampanis on bass and the better known Johnathon Blake on drums. They’ve worked with Tzur for over five years now – and it shows.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

From the spiritual to jazz fusion – 08/05/23

Here at Cosmic Jazz we have an annual outing for Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance and we have more three tunes featuring Whitaker. There’s also a rare Michael Garrick 7 inch, Latin Jazz from Anita O’Day and Tania Maria plus a tribute to Jah Shaka.

1. Garrick’s Fairground with Norma Winstone – Epiphany from 7 inch single

Derek has a copy of this incredibly rare 7 inch single with the sleeve signed by Michael Garrick. It was recorded in 1971 in the same session that produced the Mr. Smith’s Apocalypse album. It featured some of the major British artists of the time – Michael Garrick on piano, Norma Winstone on vocals, Don Rendell and Art Themen on saxes and reeds, Dave Green on double bass and Henry Lowther on trumpet and flugelhorn. The spiritual-sounding title followed from Michael Garrick’s Jazz Praises at St. Paul’s recorded in the Cathedral in 1968 – and of which Derek also has a signed copy after seeing Michael Garrick perform on the organ at Norwich Cathedral in 1972.  In using these religious themes Garrick said The intention is not simply to gee-up religious music, or, belatedly, to make jazz respectable: it is: on the contrary, to draw straightforwardly on the natural resources of all participants so that there may be some emotional and musical gain. Garrick is one of the great figures of modern British jazz – check out his wonderful album Black Marigolds (1966) and the jazz waltz Ursula, featuring Don Rendell on soprano sax.

2.  Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind & Spirit

The spiritual feel continues with what has become an annual tradition on Cosmic Jazz to play pianist Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance. It is a tune with a deeply religious sense of Black empowerment and Afrocentric spirituality, recorded in New York City on 15 January 1976 – Martin Luther King Day. There is jazz, there is soul, there is poetry, there is rap before rap was known widely. The record is essentially a jam featuring some top-level musicians – Woody Shaw on trumpet, Azar Lawrence on tenor and soprano sax, David Schnitter on tenor sax, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Hart on drums and Mtume and Earl Barrett on percussion  with further contributors providing singing and speaking voices. For many years it was a lost masterpiece until it was found and released by LuvN’ Haight for Ubiquity Recordings in California in 2002. An essential tune for us here on the show.

3.  Roy Ayers – He’s A Superstar from He’s Coming

The next three selections all contain a contribution from Harry Whitaker. The record output may have been limited under his own leadership, but Whitaker did work with several other artists including as musical director on Roberta Flack’s I Feel Like Making Love. He also spent four years with Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity and made an important contribution to the tune He’s A Superstar, a soul-jazz-fusion classic. The album He’s Coming – from which the tune is taken – was recorded in 1972 at no less than the Van Gelder Studio with the man himself as recording engineer. Whitaker plays electric piano, organ and also contributed vocals but it’s the superb co-arrangement with Roy Ayers that is so memorable. Other well-known names are involved in the project too, including Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums and percussion and Sonny Fortune on soprano saxophone and flute.

4.  Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes from Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse

Here is another example of Harry Whitaker as musical director/arranger as well as playing piano for Kansas City-born vocalist  Eugene McDaniels on his 1970 release Headless |Heroes of the Apocalypse. To quote McDaniels: Harry Whitaker did the arrangements and God loves him, I just really appreciate him so much because his sound is a sound that I really relate to. Its got that Miles-ian kind of quality. There were other quality musicians present at the session as well – Gary King on electric bass, Miroslav Vitous on acoustic bass, Alphonse Mouzon on drums and Richie Resnikoff on guitar. Lyrically, the album was a savage indictment of American society and touched a raw nerve in some. Indeed, President Richard Nixon’s deputy Spiro Agnew rang up Atlantic Records to complain! McDaniels was the writer of Compared to What – a hit for Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their album Swiss Movement recorded live at the Montreux Festival in 1969. The lyrics included the lines The president, he’s got his war / Folks don’t know just what it’s for / Nobody gives us rhyme or reason / Have one doubt, they call it treason. When released as a single, the song sold over a million copies and reached No. 35 on Billboard’sR&B chart. Here’s the grainy b/w footage from that very Montreux show.

5.  Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Old Devil Moon

The final selection to which Harry Whitaker made a contribution is a tune that Derek makes no apologies for having played more than once already on Cosmic Jazz. It is You’re Not In Love from the 1997 album Old Devil Moon by vocalist/composer Carmen Lundy. Quite simply, this is a gorgeous, luscious tune whose sound radiates deep warmth. Emotion comes out of every note and – despite the vitriol in the lyrics – there’s passion, determination and feeling in Lundy voice. You’re Not In Love is certainly up there with Black Renaissance as an essential Cosmic Jazz tune. On the back of the CD sleeve Harry Whitaker is credited with keyboards, while inside for the individual track listing he is credited with synthesiser. Does it matter? Also present are Billy Childs on piano, Victor Bailey on electric bass, Omar Hakim on drums, Mayra Casales on percussion and the great Randy Brecker on flugelhorn. Here at Cosmic Jazz think Carmen Lundy is one the most underrated jazz singers today: also an accomplished songwriter and exhibited artist, she usually surrounds herself with celebrated musicians too – Geri Allen, Robert Glasper, Phil Upchurch and others.  It’s worth checking out her recent releases on her own Afrasia label beginning with the excellent 2CD set Jazz and the New Songbook: Live from the Madrid (2005) – listen to In Love Again from the accompanying DVD.

6.  Anita O’Day – Peanut Vendor from Anita Sings the WinnersCafé Latino

Have you ever got a record out to play that you have not heard for some time and then discovered on it a tune that has gone unnoticed by you in the past? and to your delight you love it. This happened recently to Derek when he was searching through the Café Latino compilation and found Anita O’Day’s version – from her 1958 album Anita Sings the Winners – of Peanut Vendor or El manisero to give its original Spanish title. The original was written in 1930  by the Cuban Moises Simons, sold over a million copies in sheet music and has been recorded over 160 times – probably the most recorded tune ever. The first best-selling recording and the first Cuban million seller was made in New York in 1930 by Don Azpiazu and His Havana Casino Orchestra with Antonio Machin as the vocalist who you can see here. It was later  translated into English and that’s what you here on the show – sung with great relish and verve by Anita O’Day. She was a singer with an eventful – to put it mildly – life story. She performed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and appears in the remarkable 1960 film and recording of the event Jazz On A Summer’s Day.

7.  Tania Maria – Come With Me from Come With Me

Tania Maria’s1983 jazz-fusion recording Come With Me from her 1983 album of the same name for Concord Jazz is one of those understated classics. A tune you know, but a tune it may take you some time to realise just how good it is, or at least that has been Derek’s experience. Tania Maria is a Brazilian-born singer, composer, keyboard player and composer with a degree in law. She moved to France in 1974 where she gained international recognition before moving to New York where – from the early 1980s – she made an impact on the club and radio scene. Come With Me became a staple of  soul clubs and jazz dancers worldwide – thanks as much to John Pēna’s hypnotic bass line as Maria’s vocals. She has since made numerous albums and appeared at some of the most important jazz festivals around the world including Monterey, Montreux and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

8.  Jah Shaka Meets Fire House Crew – Dub For Everyone from Authentic Dubwise

We have a tradition at Cosmic Jazz of ending the show with a tune that somewhat stretches the boundaries of jazz, but which we feel is a tune that any jazz lover will enjoy and respect. This time it is from the late dub pioneer and sound system man Jah Shaka – also known as the Zulu Warrior – who died on 12 April 2023. He was born in Jamaica but came to South London in the 1950s. Derek has witnessed him at work and has memories of a slight man, totally immersed in what he is playing  and bouncing gently to the music in dimly-lit, even totally dark, settings. That music was something else. It was spiritual and intense with a bass that was very, very  heavy played on a system – certainly back in the early 1980s – which still used valves. Hearing Shaka was an experience. There was something special, something unique and something religious that set him apart from other sound systems.  The title of the tune Dub For Everyone summed up his approach: his music was a symbol of peace and at his dances everyone was invited. This Cosmic Jazz show began and ended with a spiritual feel, but for this last number to get the full effect, just turn up the  bass, let your speakers and anything around vibrate and become totally immersed in the sounds.

Remembering Ahmad Jamal, Tito Puente, Ivan Conti and Simon Emmerson – 23/04/23

Cosmic Jazz remembers  and celebrates, with some joyous tunes from the music of three musicians we respect who died recently and one musician who died in the year 2000 but whom we need to remember at the centenary of his birth.

1. Ahmad Jamal – Dynamo from Live in Marciac

Some years ago now Derek was in south-west France and, during a conversation about jazz, a local informed him of the jazz festival held annually in the region in the town of Marciac. It’s a significant festival – this year lasting from 20 July to 5 August. Check out Jazz in Marciac 2023 – there’s an impressive line-up.  On 5 August 2014 a very distinguished guest headlined the programme – pianist Ahmad Jamal who sadly died earlier this month at the age of 92. The live  CD recording from that date is a great favourite of Derek’s and is accompanied by an equally excellent DVD – check out their take on Blue Moon right here. Ahmad Jamal is joined by Reginald Veal on bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion. The use of both drums and percussion responding to the piano is a strong feature of the tune Dynamo and throughout there is repetition of four strident notes from Jamal on the piano followed by a drum response before he sails off with intricate free-flowing piano interludes. Catherine Vallon-Barry, one of the co-producers of the CD, wrote in the sleeve notes to Monsieur Ahmad Jamal Just one word: merci… Thank you for that fiery energy, that power, that knowledge of harmony of sound, touch, voice, colour – and the understanding smiles. This is all there in Dynamo – enjoy.

2. The Ahmad Jamal Trio  – Poinciana (The Song of the Tree)  from Pavanne for Ahmad

I live until he makes another record commented Miles Davis of Ahmad Jamal. From  the other end of Ahmad Jamal’s career comes his tune Poinciana  recorded in New York on 25 October 1955 with Ray Crawford on guitar and Israel  Crosby on bass and re-released by Cherry Red Records in 2006.  Jamal (born 1930) began to play the piano at the age of three and made his professional debut at the age of eleven. Ironically, the Cherry Red release notes claim that  by the late fifties and sixties he was one of the most popular jazz acts. As we can see from the track above and the live response to it,  that popularity continued long after then. His version of the tune Poinciana became a hit when released on his album Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing in 1958 and it remained a signature tune  for him.  The Cherry Red CD notes describe this music as profoundly elegant , inspirational and full of quiet joy.  Jamal’s use of space  and silence are usually among some of the first words used to describe his music, but if you want to find out more  we recommend  this recent tribute by fellow pianist Liam Noble in London Jazz News. So where to start with Jamal? How about the record that Noble refers to – Digital Works from 1985 and that more contemporary take on Poinciana? Even better is the superb Impulse! album from 1970 The Awakening. This has just been re-released on vinyl via Jack White’s Third Man Records – and it sounds great. Neil’s favourite is an easy choice – Jamal’s perfect version of Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments. In his book The House That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records, Ashley Kahn writes that The Impulse titles caught Jamal in stylistic transition, fusing his signature characteristics of the Fifties—elegance, economy, and shifting rhythms—with more contemporary approaches to jazz piano. This included choosing more up-to-date material, like tunes from McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock. For this second great trio, Jamal is joined byJamil Nasser on bass and Frank Gant on drums. Interestingly, this album has become heavily plundered for hip-hop samples – Naz, DJ Premier/Gang Starr and Common all borrowing riffs and loops from this wonderful record.

3. Tito Puente – Oye Como Va from El Rey Bravo

If you have ever attended a salsa event or even if you have followed US rock music from the early 1970s, you have probably heard a version of the cha-cha-cha  tune Oye Como Va – written and first released in 1962 by Tito Puente, the American (of Puerto Rican descent)  timbales player, bandleader and composer. It was popularised for rock audiences by Carlos Santana on the best-selling Abraxas album and there have been many other versions from Julio Iglesias, Irakere and Celia Cruz among others. Try this live version from Santana at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2011. There are always good reasons to play this tune but this time it’s in celebration of the centenary of Puente’s birth on 20 April 1923. Playing right up to the end, he died in 2000 after a live performance. Oye Como Va is indeed a classic: the pace is restrained by typical Latin standards, but from the opening notes the groove is deep and constant with the full effect of Tito Puente’s Latin orchestra allowing the tune to build and build so it always became  a sure-fire hit on any dancefloor. Oye como va, mi ritmo (Listen how it goes, my rhythm) is what the chorus sings – and, indeed, it’s a rhythm guaranteed to get the body moving.

4. Tito Puente – Be-Bop feat. Maynard Ferguson from Flavours of Latin Jazz/Special Delivery

Jazz is such an important element in Latin music and Latin Jazz is a well-established music category in its own right. In case further evidence is required look no further than this tune, a Tito Puente version of a Dizzy Gillespie number featuring Canadian jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson recorded in 1996 for the jazz label Concord Picante. This album – Special Delivery – is recommended as a great place to start with Puente and jazz – Hilton Ruiz features on some tracks and Puente can be heard on vibes too. With Puente jazz elements were everywhere in his music: the Latin Jazz compilation from which this track is taken includes Puente’s version of tunes by Sonny Rollins (Airegin) and Miles Davis (All Blues). Puente’s version of Paul Desmond’s Take Five from his Concord Picante record Mambo Diablo (1985) is another starting point. This great record is just about to be re-released on vinyl so get it while you can. All of these tunes have that Nuyorican Latin interpretation of jazz music – not surprising, as Puente grew up largely in New York’s Spanish Harlem and remained rooted in  the life and culture of that community.

5. Azymuth – Roda Pião (Spiritual South mix) from Gilles Peterson Back in Brazil/Brazilian Soul

Ivan Conti (aka Mamao) who died earlier this month was the drummer for Brazilian jazz/funk/samba trio Azymuth. He was widely regarded as one of the great contemporary Brazilian drummers and also a composer and arranger/producer. He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1946 and was part of the bossa nova/samba scene of the 1960s but it was as a founder member of the trio Azymuth that he will be best known for. Formed in 1973, Azymuth recorded for the US label Milestone but then transferred to the British Far Out label, reviving their fortunes for new, younger listeners. They’ve been favourites among the British jazz dance scene and tracks from the group can be found on compilations from DJs such as Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge. Mamao also made solo albums and collaborated with hip-hop artist Madlib via the Jackson Conti moniker (Madlib’s real name is Otis Jackson) – here’s Praca de Republica from their album Sujinho. Azymuth’s music  has been regularly remixed by DJs and so we chose a Spiritual South remix of a tune from the Brazilian Soul album on Far Out but also on Gilles Peterson’s excellent Back in Brazil compilation from 2006.

6. Working Week – Venceremos (We Will Win) (Jazz Dance Special 12″ Version) from Working Nights

The British guitarist.DJ/producer Simon Emmerson (aka Simon Booth with Working Week) died on 12 March 2013. Among the groups he played in were the Afro-Celt Sound System, The Imagined Village with notable production duties included the impressive Firin’ in Fouta for the Senegalese artist Baaba Maal.  It was, however, his work with the group Working Week that most attunes with Cosmic Jazz. Essentially a trio with Julie Roberts on vocals and saxophone/flute player Larry Stabbins, this core were joined by guests including Louis Moholo, Julie Tippetts, Guy Barker, Ray Warleigh, Harry Beckett, Annie Whitehead and Malcolm Griffiths. The group’s first single Venceremos (We Will Win) with its militant lyrics of resistance and dedicated to the Chilean singer Victor Jara – tragically murdered by the CIA – was released originally as a 7″ single with vocals from Tracy Thorn, Robert Wyatt and Chilean Claudia Figueroa. The ten minute 12″ version though is the one that really demands attention with its driving, relentless Latin beat, strong percussive grooves and fiery solos from Larry Stabbins and Harry Beckett. Truly a dancefloor hit that still moves body and soul.

More from Cosmic Jazz very soon.


Carlos Garnett, new music, and more – 09/04/23

On this show we have a Carlos Garnett tribute, new music from the USA,  a Japanese classic and more. All in your latest Cosmic Jazz.

1.    Carlos Garnett – Mother of the Future from Black Love

Panamanian-born saxophone player Carlos Garnett died on 3 March, 2023. His music is much enjoyed at Cosmic Jazz and so an appreciation was much needed. Black Love, released  on Muse Records in 1974, was his first album as leader but before then Garnett had played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Gary Bartz, Miles Davis, Pharaoh Sanders and Norman Connors, who played onBlack Love and released his own version of Mother of the Future with Jean Carn(e) on vocals. The tune was composed by Carlos Garnett and for his album version Ayodele Jenkins and Dee Dee Bridgewater are on vocals. Other musicians include Mtume, Billy Hart, Buster Williams, Guilherme Franco, Reggie Lucas and Carlos Chambers who provided yodelling! Mother of the Future is just a great tune, with intense blowing from Garnett, soaring vocals and deep and immersive percussion. It is spiritual jazz , but is also music that has been loved in clubs by jazz dancers and should continue to be danced to.

2.    Carlos Garnett – Love Flower from Journey to Enlightenment

Later in September 1974, eight months after Black Love,  Carlos Garnett recorded another album for Muse Records –  Journey to Enlightenment. The only two  musicians retained from Black Love were Reggie Lucas on guitar and vocalist Ayodele Jenkins. Both feature strongly on the tune Love Flower – Reggie Lucas with a guitar solo and Ayodele Jenkins with a powerful and impressive vocal. Among the additional musicians were long time associates Hubert Eaves (from Gary Bartz) on piano and Howard King on drums. The album continues the duality of the first album combining spiritual music, sentiments and emotions with danceable rhythms: the tune on this show, Love Flower, is, in fact, pretty funky with a driving beat, strong percussion but also with lyrics rooted in spirituality – almost in West Coast underground terms. It is interesting that Derek could not find Carlos Garnett mentioned in any of his classic jazz guide books: has probably over the years been  under-appreciated. Luckily for us all, interest was boosted – like a number of jazz and Brazilian artists – by having their music re-released by a British record label – in this case by Soul Brother in 2014, who re-released five of his albums. Look out for them.

3.     Art Blakey – Free For All from Free For All/The Best of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

This tune links with another sad death that we acknowledged in our last show, that of the  defining sax player and composer Wayne Shorter. He was thirty years old when his tune Free For All was recorded as the title track of an Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers album for Blue Note Records in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on 10 February 1964. A first pressing will set you back a lot of money (here’s a couple on Discogs!) but Derek has the tune on a 1989 Blue Note CD compilation The Blue Note Years: The Best of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, which includes another great Shorter composition – Lester Left Town. Art Blakey was known for his ability to spot young talent and provide  an outlet and important stage for them. This record was no exception. Besides Wayne Shorter, who provides a lengthy and highly-charged solo, there is intensity from Curtis Fuller’s trombone, fire from Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet, Cedar Walton on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Art Blakey with crashing drums throughout. The sleeve notes to the CD compilation put it perfectly: This was a band of virtuosi tackling state-of-the-art works and making them swing like crazy. “Free For All” swings with such ferocious abandon that everyone builds and builds and it seems as if they will explode.

4.     Lakecia Benjamin – Jubilation from Phoenix

One of the wonderful things about jazz is that musicians from different generations can and do play together. This is illustrated perfectly by the latest album from charismatic alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin. Although she has been around for some time – for example, she played at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 – she is considerably younger than Dianne Reeves, the late Wayne Shorter, Angela Davis and Patrice Rushen who all appear as special guests on the album Phoenix released by the British label Whirlwind Records. I’m trying to highlight people she said in a Guardian interview published on 31 January 2023 so they get their flowers while they’re still alive. We are pleased to see that Cosmic Jazz favourite, the pianist  and composer Patrice Rushen was included. Most people may know her from her 1982 hit single Forget Me Nots, but before that she had released two great jazz albums for Prestige Records – Prelusion and Before the Dawn. The tune Jubilation appeared on the latter and is a Patrice Rushen composition. Lakecia Benjamin leads the way on her version with a clear and sharp tone throughout and there is an excellent, intricate, funky  solo, from Patrice Rushen – we just wish it were longer. The album brings some  surprises: Wayne Shorter, for example, provides spoken word rather than saxophone. Expect the unexpected and enjoy.

5.     Mary Halvorson –  Night Shift from Amaryllis

If you happen to be in Amsterdam check out the Bimhaus, a striking black box straddling across the water, part of the Muziekgebouw complex and home to a jazz club for many nights of the week,  with excellent acoustics, a large enough auditorium to attract major artists, but intimate enough to retain the feeling of a club. Recently, Derek was there and heard the US guitarist Mary Halvorson and her sextet, playing tunes from her Amaryllisalbum but also new material played  in public for the first time that night. It was quite an experience. Make no mistake, this is not music for the faint-hearted – it’s not an easy listen, demanding your attention and drawing you in – our choice of Night Shift is a great example. At times, the players sound as if they are firing away in different directions but there is a cohesive whole. The group is a sextet of master improvisers with Patricia Brennan on vibraphone and Jacob Garchik on trombone featuring on this tune but the strength of everyone is readily apparent.

6.     Sun Mi-Hong – Home from Third Page: Resonance  

Also if you happen to be in Amsterdam, you may catch the South Korean drummer Sun Mi-Hong who lives in the city and who had just led an improvised workshop of international musicians at the Bimhaus a few days before Derek arrived. Again, we must note the importance to jazz of British record labels – Sun Mi-Hong is signed to Edition Records.  Her music, like that of Mary Halvorson, does not come as an easy listen. It is intense, personal and haunting. The tune Home slowly builds and builds to include horns and then winds down to leave you with the reverberation of acoustic bass and screeching accompaniment. It is unique and important music from someone who has abandoned the expectations and norms of her country of birth to leave home and make a considerable and growing name for herself on the European jazz scene.

7.     Takeo Moriyama – Watarase from Live at LOVELY on Watarase Fumio Itabashi

Watarase – once heard, never forgotten. There are many versions of this traditional Japanese folk tune but the most famous jazz interpretations are by pianist Fumio Itabashi. Discogs still has available the Itabashi double CD with eight versions – all remarkably different. Probably the one that has received the most attention outside Japan is the  Symphonic Poem, recorded with the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra – it’s an over the top orchestral tour de force with Yma Sumac-style vocals from We have played this version  on previous Cosmic Jazz shows and still love it, but after hearing Japanese jazz collector Tony Higgins select excellent another version when interviewed recently Derek wanted to choose this version.  The record is attributed to drummer Takeo Moriyama but Fumio Itabashi is on piano, leading the opening notes and later taking a solo after a  warm and embracing lead from tenor saxophonist Toshihiko Inoue. This version, like the symphonic poem,  is wonderful: dramatic, emotional, full of unforgettable melodies and has to be heard. It was recorded live at the Jazz Inn Lovely in Nagoya in December 1990.

8.     Dwight Trible – My Stomping Ground from Ancient Future

Vocalist and composer Dwight Trible has been an important figure in the Los Angeles jazz scene for many years. He’s collaborated with many well-known artists based there but also with our own Matthew Halsall on the 2017 album Inspirations. Some of those LA collaborators can be found on his most recent release Ancient Future, out last month on the UK-based Gearbox Records. Trible has renewed his collaboration with Kamasi Washington, but there is also multi-instrumentalist Georgia Anne Muldrow, one-time Miles Davis pianist/arranger, John Beasley, long-time Prince collaborator, André Gouche and more. There’s a funky, electronically inflected sound and it’s a passionate, socially conscious record inspired by the local LA community in which he lives – no more so than the tune on the tune My Stomping Ground in the city of angels as Dwight guides you round some crucial eating places, the people who run them and how to reach them.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.


From Bacharach to Edition Records to free jazz(?): 21 February 2023

This show is a diverse one. It goes almost from the smooth to the freaky via a feature on recent music from Edition Records. Be prepared for surprises and some good music.

1.    Dionne Warwicke – Wives and Lovers from The Essential Collection

Burt Bacharach died on 8 February 2013. He is known for the many great pop songs he composed with lyricist Hal David. Tunes that once you hear them it’s difficult to get them out of your head. So why is one of his compositions being featured on Cosmic Jazz? There is more about this in the entry below, but for a start much of his music has unusual chord progressions influenced by his background in jazz harmony. Tunes like Wives and Lovers have a jazzy vocal and instrumentation. You can imagine Dionne Warwicke, for whom so many of Bacharach’s hits were written,  singing this in a cool and intimate  jazz club setting, delivered in what Adam Mattera, in his February Echoes review of a recently released Dionne Warwick (then without a ‘e’) Warner Bros. compilation, calls her subtle restraint. The lyrics on Wives and Lovers may be both sexist and saccharin, but we cannot blame Bacharach for that, It’s that tune we’re focusing on – and it’s wonderful.

2.    Cecile McClorin Salvant – Wives and Lovers from For One to Love

There are several examples of Burt Bacharach’s music being covered by jazz artists. McCoy Tyner and Stan Getz released albums based on his tunes. In 2004 Blue Note Records released the compilation Blue Note Plays Burt Bacharach which featured 12 tracks recorded by Blue Note artists including Stanley Turrentine, Grant Green  and Earl Klugh, with a version of Wives and Lovers by Nancy Wilson. More recently in 2015, Cecile McClorin Salvant, currently one of the most in-demand jazz musicians around, recorded her interpretation of Wives and Lovers for her album For One To Love – and pretty good it is too. There is not the “subtle restraint” of Dionne Warwicke, but there is more forthright and varied expression in Salvant’s voice and a contrast in that the instrumentation is minimal, but it represents  another example of the appeal of the music of Burt Bacharach to significant top-class jazz artists.

3.    Fergus McCreadie – Forest Floor from Forest Floor

So often talk of British jazz is focused on London. Yet there is much going on in other parts of the UK and, in particular, jazz musicians from Scotland are  currently making a powerful contribution. The leading British monthly  jazz magazine  Jazzwise  in its March 2023 edition has an article devoted to the Scottish jazz scene  covering “the roots of its illustrious past and vibrant present.” Leading the way is pianist Fergus McCreadie and his trio, whose two albums Cairn and Forest Floor on the British independent record label Edition Records we have excitedly featured on Cosmic Jazz. In October 2022, McCreadie’s trio won the Scottish Album of the Year award and Forest Floor was nominated for the Mercury Prize. They’re are now filling large venues on a UK tour. The music is sensitive, deep and has echoes of traditional Scottish music and the countryside – and the title tune of the album is a perfect example of this infectious combination. The music is good for the soul and the spirit – Forest Floor is highly recommended.

Chris Potter.

4.    Chris Potter – Olha Maria from Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Live at the Village Vanguard

Also on Edition Records and from  the US is Chris Potter, one of the world’s leading saxophone players. This brand new album was recorded live at the iconic New York venue the Village Vanguard in February 2022. There is a very strong line-up with Craig Taborn on piano, Marcus Gilmore on drums and Scott Colley on bass. All the tunes are covers ranging from folk tunes to spirituals to uncommon jazz standards. The tune Olha Maria is from Brazil and was composed by no less than Antônio Carlos Jobim/Chico Barque/Vinicius De Moraes. What a place for a live recording and the sounds that emerge and the responses of the audience are a testament to the venue. This is as essential as Potter’s previous live album, Follow the Red Line – also recorded at the Village Vanguard in 2007.

5.    Sun-Mi Hong – Care Less from Third Page: Resonance

Our final contribution from Edition Records comes from Sun-Mi Hong, a Korean drummer now resident in Amsterdam. Sun-Mi Hong grew up in South Korea but did not find much support for her chosen path and faced pressure to follow a more traditional career, Ten years ago she took the bold step to move to Amsterdam to study and has now become one of the key members of the city’s jazz scene. This includes guiding jam sessions with young international and acclaimed talent at the Bimhuis jazz venue. Her reputation stretches beyond the Netherlands and she is now regarded as one of the leading up-and-coming talents on the European scene. Care Less is from her third album with her quintet First, Second and now Third Resonance). All of the music is arresting, free, demanding of attention and this tune starts with skilfully interweaving  of drum and bass before the rest of the quintet joins the party.

6.    Jaimie Branch – Nuevo Roquero Estereo from Fly or Die Live

“Free jazz is a real reflection of the times and everything that’s going on [   ] It puts beauty back into the world, it vibrates, I think it works on an anatomical level.” Quote from the late trumpeter Jaimie Branch to be found at Jaimie Branch Forever and Always – a site posted by the Jaimie Branch Foundation where you can find more of her comments together with tributes from musicians following her tragic death last year. It is difficult to know what to say except that if you have not come across her music that combined wild free jazz, humour and political commentary you need to hear it and Fly Or Die Live, recorded in 2020 at Moods, Zurich, Switzerland, is strongly recommended. The tune Nuevo Roquero Estereo has fiery interplay between Jaimie Branch on trumpet and Chad Taylor, a founding member of the Chicago Underground on drums.

7.    Don Cherry – Karmapa Chenno from Hear & Now

Trumpeter Don Cherry’s 1977 album Hear and Now has been re-released on Real Gone Music. Hear and Now was Don Cherry’s only solo release for Atlantic Records and the album featured an impressive line-up of musicians  including Michael Brecker, Marcus Miller and Tony Williams. It was produced by Narada Michael Walden, an artist who worked with many important jazz artists but soul and R’n’B ones too. He’s best known in the UK for his disco-infused  hit tune  I Shoulda Loved Ya. Typically, Cherry’s music here combines jazz, fusion  and global influences, particularly from India and West Africa and there’s a strong percussive element as on our choice Karmapa Chenno. Don Cherry is a Cosmic Jazz favourite and this album will not disappoint.

8.    Monika Roscher Big Band – 8 Prinzessinen single

We can thank Gary at Red Sand PR for this one – and it’s quite an out of the box number. Certainly it hits the spot as far as out now regular genre-crossing feature to end the show. Somewhere between math-rock, prog-jazz, avant-pop and experimental electronics is Gary’s description – and he’s not wrong! The band comprises 18 musicians with Monika Roscher as the founder, singer, guitarist and conductor. They are from Germany where their first two albums were greeted with acclaim and Jazz Echo proclaimed them ‘Newcomer of the Year.’ The US magazine Downbeat described them as ‘rising stars.’  The tune 8 Prinzessinen is a single from their forthcoming album Witchy Activities & the Maple Death to be released in May 2023. The tune is epic, dramatic and loud. It may be difficult to find much jazz in the opening bars but stay with it, there is plenty of wild and free jazz blowing to come later. If you’re not sure on first listening, try it again – the music will grow on you. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

The return of Cosmic Jazz: 05 February 2023

Cosmic Jazz is back after a few ‘technical difficulties’ with a show that stretches musical boundaries with artists that have a history and tradition of genre stretching.

  1. KARU – Purulli from An Imaginary Journey

KARU (aka Alberto Brutti) provides an interesting, awakening  and unexpected start to the show. There is a lot going on. The music swoops, reverberates  and crashes in unpredictable ways. “Pounding double basslines, aberrant guitar riffing, and eccentric, almost shamanic sax outbursts” is how the publicity for the album describes the music. From the evidence of this tune alone, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of what the music is about.  KARU explains that he takes on worldwide musical influences to explore the connection between music’s ancestral rhythm in tribal culture and the freedom of jazz.

2. Sunking – Hakim Warrick feat. Raphy from Smug

Do jazz artists usually play long or longish tunes? Yes they do. Do jazz artists have to play long or longish tunes? No they don’t. If you are Sunking you certainly follow the latter and the tune on this show Hakim Warrick is only 1 minute 30 seconds long. Every track on the album Smugis short, sharp and often more frantic  than this comparatively mellow offering. The band comprises  Antoine Martel and  Bobby Granfelt – two members of the Seattle-based collective High Pulp, a band we have featured on Cosmic Jazz previously.  High Pulp members make appearances and there are other guests on the album too. Sunking have the brash DIY ethos of an underground punk band and this approach to jazz makes a strong impact. The music may not to the taste of many but it is innovative, challenging, thought-provoking and worth a listen.

3. Jake Aaron – Elvis Has Left the Building feat. Steve Waterman from Elvis Has Left the Building EP

This is a show with surprises. We move from unexpected sounds to an unexpected title. We are not used to seeing Elvis mentioned on the show, although we are not quite sure how Elvis really comes into this tune. It is from an EP which revisits a number from an album of the same name released on the Birnam label from Scotland. Jake Aaron is a guitarist who has moved among both jazz and folk circles  and is joined by Davide Mantovani on bass and Marc Parnell on drums and by three outstanding and well-known players from the British jazz scene, two of whom Derek has seen in rather different contexts. They are John Etheridge on guitar and Steve Lodder on Hammond, who Derek remembers seeing with British-based Brazilian singer Monica Vasconcelos and trumpeter Steve Waterman – also featured with Aaron. Derek first remembers seeing him many years ago when he played in a salsa band led by the late and great percussionist Robin Jones.

4. Somi – Mbombela from Zenzile: the Reimagination of Miriam Makeba

We haven’t featured Somi on Cosmic Jazz for some time but arguably it was last year when she made her greatest impact worldwide with the release of the superb album Zenzile: the Reimagination of Miriam Makeba – a celebration of the ‘first lady of African song’. The album features Somi’s reinterpretation of some of  Miriam Makeba’s best known recordings, assisted by some impressive guests and is highly recommended by both Neil and Derek here at CJ. More good news is that the album is due to be released as a 2x vinyl record on 10 February 2023. Derek listened to this record again recently and if anything felt it sounded stronger than ever. This really is an album of re-imagination that reinterprets the music in a unique and contemporary musical context, with fine arrangements sitting alongside the clarity of Somi’s  voice which ranges from raw emotional power to subtle sensitivity.  We leave the last words to Somi who says of Miriam Makeba: Her messages of social justice and the humanity of black lives still encourage us today. This project is about honouring the vast and immeasurable contribution she made to popular, folk and jazz music on behalf of a people, a continent.”

5. Sonny Red – Love Song from Sonny Red/Inner Peace – Rare Spiritual Funk & Jazz Gems

Neil’s selection for this show begins with a reed player who should be better known. Sonny Red is an under-rated alto saxophonist who cut one record for Blue Note before focusing on sideman work with Donald Byrd, Yusef Lateef and others. You can hear him on some great records Byrd made for Blue Note, including two of our favourites – Mustang and Slow Drag. On this rare 1971 Mainstream label album Sonny Red is joined by the great Billy Higgins on drums and Cedar Walton on piano for a beautiful modal piece featuring him on flute too. You can find this track on the Mainstream compilation Inner Peace – a recommended jazz sampler.

6. Cory Henry – Afro Brooklyn (feat. Ohil Lassiter) from First Steps

Neil loved this track on first listening – and (like Derek with Siegfried – see below) the pleasure hasn’t faded. Formerly in the group Snarky Puppy, keyboardist Cory Henry began his career touring with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Michael McDonald but moved in a jazzwise direction with Snarky Puppy before releasing First Steps in 2014. Sadly, the album doesn’t fulfil the promise of this very talented player with Afro Brooklyn being a stand out exception. For more Cory Henry, check out a You tube video that has (to date) been seen 32 million times and features Henry on a stunning solo performance.

7. The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py from Message from the Meters

Ah – the Meters! It’s probably safe to say that funk, R n B, hip hop and – yes – jazz, wouldn’t be the same without them. Formed in 1965 in New Orleans by Zigaboo Modeliste on drums, George Porter Jr. on bass, Leo Nocenelli on guitar and Art Neville oon keyboards, the band released numerous albums as well as delivering backing music for such artists as Lee Dorsey, Dr John and Allen Toussaint. Original songs like Cissy Strut, Just Kissed My Baby and our choice, Look-Ka Py Py are classics. Their sound is immediately recognisable – tight melodic grooves, syncopated New Orleans ‘second line’ rhythms and ‘chicken scratch’ guitar all underpinned by simple, powerful bass lines.  The recent compilation from Real Gone Music is a great place to start – 40 singles from the Josie, Reprise and Warner Bros. labels. And if you liked Look-Ky Py Py, then just try Just Kissed My Baby. Impossible not to move to this one… 

8. Marcos Valle – Olha Quem Ta Chegando from Sempre

Marcos Valle is a phenomenon. Now 79, he has sustained a career across the generations from his origins as a bossa nova pioneer in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1960s. A prolific songwriter even at the beginning of his career, Valle saw musicians lining up to record songs like, Samba de Verão (known in English as Summer Samba), Deus Brasileiro, and A Resposta. A move to the USA saw him further consolidating his position as one of Brazil’s foremost singer songwriters and a return to Brazil in the 1970s unleashed a new direction with the album Garra (1971) being one of the finest Brazilian records of the decade. Busy writing TV soundtracks and advertising jingle alongside his album and single releases, Valle continued to progress his musical styles with Previsão do Tempo (1973) being another highpoint. The album had a notable jazz fusion feel thanks to Valle’s enthusiasm for the Fender Rhodes and Azymuth keyboardist Jose Roberto Bertrami’s expertise on the Hammond organ and assorted synthesizers such as the Mini-Moog and the ARP Soloist. After another period in the US songwriting with Leon Ware and the group Chicago, Valle returned again to Brazil to release 1981’s Vontade de Rever Você, and 1983’s Marcos Valle. Estrelar from 1982 was his best-selling record ever – but was followed by a fallow period until a return promoted by Joe Davis from Far Out Recordings, which had begun to specialise in Brazilian musicians such as Azymuth and Joyce. Nova Bossa Nova was the first of these and recorded with a special meaning for Neil – see the Cosmic Jazz special 5 from 5. In 2005 came Jet Samba, an all-instrumental collection featuring reworked compositions from past albums, as well as several new songs and in 2010 Valle released Estática, an album which saw him return to a more organic approach, albeit with the use of some analog synthesisers. Valle continues to perform live and will be at Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here festival in August 2023. See him live if you can.

9. Mr. Fingers – Sao Paulo from Cerebral Hemispheres

To complement Marcos Valle we followed up with a track from a recent album by Larry Heard (or Mr Fingers) – truly the godfather of Chicago house, and so listeners might reasonably expect to question his inclusion in Cosmic Jazz. But just listen to the chilled summery vibe of Sao Paulo from his excellent 2018 album Cerebral Hemispheres and you may be converted. Want to find out more about Larry Heard?  Here’s a beginner’s guide to the deep house phenomenon which originated in Chicago in the 1980s. And if you don’t think it influences contemporary jazz, then check out pianist V J Iyer talking about his music and influences – including hip hop, house and techno. For Iyer, it’s about the evolution of grooves and spaces and textures and things like that – a pretty good summary of what Heard is doing in deep house music.

10. Erik Truffaz feat. Nya – Siegfried from Bending New Corners

There are several examples of musicians that have played both jazz and classical music at the highest level; Wynton Marsalis and Keith Jarrett come to mind immediately. Derek did not know until recently that trumpeter Erik Truffaz can be included in this group as he was heard on UK’s BBC Radio 3 playing Offenbach. Truffaz is something of a Cosmic Jazz favourite. Derek saw him live a few years ago but, rather sadly, playing to an audience of only twenty-five people at the Norwich Arts Centre – a rather cavernous disused church best experienced when full. But the music was great with Truffaz’s modal sensibility and plangent tone on full display. After the above classical piece it was tempting to return to his jazz and dig out the 1999 Blue Note album Bending New Corners. Inventive and unpredictable, it still sounds fresh and is always worth a listen. The tune Siegfried featuring the rapper Nya is just so good that once you’ve listened, a repeat is unavoidable. That has been Derek’s experience since digging out the record again. Give it a listen here and we are sure the experience will be yours as well. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.