All posts by Derek

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

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

1. Muriel Grossman – Absolute Truth from Devotion

We’re returning to Muriel Grossman’s excellent new Devotion album because it’s just so good! On this 2CD set there’s a great opportunity for saxophonist Grossman and her group to stretch out – and the 20 minute Absolute Truth more than justifies this approach. The current band includes Belgrade-born guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, Abel Boquera on Hammond B3 and Uros Stamenkovic on drums. Bass is supplied by Grossman herself and she’s added flute, percussion, tambura, kalima and harmonium into the mix. As noted in a previous show, all her albums from 2010’s Birth of the Mystery to the breakthrough excellence of 2018’s Golden Rule are worth investigating. The latter has a strong Coltrane influence – check out her excellent soprano outing, Traneing In, which also featured in another equally powerful version on the later Union album. 2020’s Quiet Earth included four long compositions, two of which were substantially revisioned versions of tunes that originally appeared on the 2013 album Awakening. The opening of Absolute Truth is reminiscent of the Miles Davis classic It’s About That Time – no bad thing – and Abel Boquera goes for a Larry Young vibe throughout. This is wholly convincing, modern music that references the past but extends and deepens the modal mood. As with all of Grossman’s records then, this new one is highly recommended and is available via Grossman’s own website on vinyl or CD – and, of course, here on Bandcamp

2. Lucien Johnson – Satellites from Ancient Relics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Don Cherry – Race Face from Dona Nostra

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Deep jazz, Latin with jazz and memories of Marlena Shaw – 09/02/24

We began the show with music to remember Marlena Shaw and then added in ‘that’ sample, before checking out deep contemporary jazz from Europe and some explorations of the links between jazz, Latin and Caribbean music.

1. Marlena Shaw – Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy from 12″ single

Derek begins with the tune he most associates with Marlena Shaw, who died on 19 January 2024 (b. 22/09/42). It was not until he looked closely at the sleeve of his 12″ single last week that he realised it was written by pop hit duo Gerry Goffin and Carole King (as Go Away Little Girl) and first released in 1963 by Bobby Vee with The Johnny Mann Singers. While Derek does not wish to upset all the Bobby Vee fans out there, he would like to bet that the Marlena Shaw interpretation, released on the Mercy, Mercy, Mercy album in 1967, is definitely the one to hear. Marlena with brilliant panache changes from mood to mood, from the joy of the perfect man and Black is beautiful, to  ordering the jobless man to Go Away Little Boy, to second thoughts and  reconciliation and you might as well stay/don’t go away as the ear lobes are caressed and all is good again; at least for the time being. Inevitably, you wonder what happened next… It is all delivered with such cool intimacy  yet with heightened and dramatic expression, while the band gently rocks away in the background to some repeated  rhythms. It is a classic – and a CJ essential.

2. Marlena Shaw – Women of the Ghetto (Live) from Live at Montreux

Marlena Shaw appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973 with highlights from the concert appearing in the Cookin’ With Blue Note series. Famously sampled by many artists over the years (see below), Shaw’s spoken introduction to Woman of the Ghetto was one of several great improvised moments on this record, and includes elements of the songs Remember Me and Boyfriend. Shaw scats, hums, and preaches in equal measure on this track which ended her live performance and includes interpretations of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life and Marvin Gaye’s Save The Children. Her backing trio are George Gaffney on piano and Fender Rhodes, Ed Boyer on bass and Harold Jones on drums.

3. St. Germain – Rose Rouge from Tourist

Perhaps the most famous of those samples from Woman of the Ghetto is this – from the St. German project, led by Ludovic Navarre who released the album Tourist in 2000. A million seller, Tourist also sampled Miles Davis (with John Lee Hooker) and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but also featured Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin on Montego Bay Spleen.  Sharp-eared listeners may also spot a drum and bass loop from Dave Brubeck’s Take Five… We have previously enjoyed and featured Navarre’s eponymously titled St. Germain album which travels in a very different direction, combining house rhythms with west African kora and n’goni, and which appeared some fifteen years later in 2015.

4. Daniel Herskedal – Your Inner Shadow from A Single Sunbeam

Herskedal has been a presence on Edition Records for several years now with A Single Sunbeam being his latest release for the label. Since his emergence in 2015, Herskedal has built a formidable reputation as that rare thing – an expert on both the bass trumpet and the tuba. This album stands out as Herskedal’s most meditative and ambient work to date and, with the addition of Norwegian folk-inspired vocals, subtle string programming and unusual percussion, we have music that is sounds both fragile and intense. Herskedal’s music has always been inspired by the atmospheres and landscapes around him and this new record further develops that unique sound.

5. Verneri Pojola – Of Our Children from Monkey Mind

This is another recent Edition Records release from November 2023 and continues the quieter phase of the show, a time to rest from the dance moves and to hear deep, intense and moving jazz. Verneri Pojola is a Finnish trumpet player already established as a leading artist on the Europena jazz scene. For Monkey Mind he has assembled some notable and important musicians: Kit Downes on piano, Jasper Holby on bass and Olavi Ouhivuori on drums. Pohjola plays with an innovative style to create a  distinct sound  and manages to merge traditional elements into what sounds like something very contemporary.  Of Our Children feels minimalist and spacey, with a cool isolation – and yet it’s a profound piece that reaches deep into the soul.

6. Fredrik Kronkvist – Eternal Light from Afro-Cuban Supreme

Swedish alto-saxophonist Fredrik Kronkvist is an experienced and award-winning musician who has played with a number of musicians both from Europe and the Americas. His work has ranged from acknowledgement of his homeland in The Swedish Songbook, to respecting New York Elements, to summarising his experiences via On The Move, to Afro-Cuban Supreme in 2017. The latter has Coltrane and Gillespie standards with Afro-Cuban interpretations, shades of Pharaoh Sanders and also spiritual dimensions. There are compositions from the band, including this number Eternal Light, written by Kronkvist and vocalist Mariam Aida, which definitely reaches spiritual heights. The band is first class and also includes Martin Sjostedt on piano, Johnny Ahman on bass, Eliel Lazo in percussion and Jason Marsalis on percussion. We have to thank Steve’s Jazz Sounds for introducing us to Fredrik Kronkvist and his excellent music and it is to Steve you need to go if you want to get music by him and other continental European jazz artists and more.

7.   Bugge Wesseltoft – Clauss it from Bugge & Friends

We stay with a Scandinavian connection, this time to Norway via Bugge Wesseltoft – pianist, composer producer and record label owner (Jazzland).  He is another much-travelled Scandinavian artist who has listened to, absorbed and been influenced by a range of musical styles stretching out from jazz. He has recorded with other Scandinavian musicians – for example, Arild Andersen, Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek – and as a member of the band Rymden, but he has also worked with Billy Cobham, Joyce  and Banda Maluca. His musical listening has taken him to club DJs, techno and dance music scenes and the album Bugge and Friends is the perfect exemplar – not only from the sounds of the music, but also through the inclusion of one of the top New York club DJs on the album and reference to him in the title of this number Clauss it. The jazz tenor saxophone of Ilhan Ersahin and the jazz trumpet of Erik Truffaz soar above the Fender Rhodes and programming of Wesseltoft and added in are the effects and programming of that most notable  DJ – no less than Joaquin ‘Joe’ Claussell. Conventional rhythm duties are provided by the electric bass of Marius Reksje and the percussion of Eril Holm. The overall effect is quite a soundclash.

8.   Sierre Maestra – Dundunbanza from Dundunbanza

The links between Latin salsa/son and jazz are not that hard to find. They share examples of superb musicianship and deep improvisation – and the roots of both lie down on the dancefloor. As if to prove the point,  the February 2024 edition of Jazzwise magazine has an article on the Story of the roots of Afro-Cuban jazz. My evidence begins with Sierra Maestra, a band from Cuba that started in 1976. Sierra Maestra are a large band playing with an acoustic feel that revives the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s classic son found in the Sierra Maestra Mountain range from eastern Cuba. All the required instruments are there – tres, guitar, trumpet, bongos, guiro, maracas, clave and vocals. Dundunbanza is the title track of the album released in 1976 on the UK label World Circuit and was composed by one of Cuba’s greats, Arsenio Rodriguez in the 1940s. It is a stunning tune, with a beautiful, sweet and tuneful sound. It is classified as a son-montuno, a sound unique to Cuba. Dundunbanza is apparently, an evil spirit in Afro-Cuban mythology sent to the singer who warns that he too can do magic. Does it meet my jazz link criteria above? Definitely. Montuno, say the album sleeve notes, is typified by a short lyrical refrain over musical improvisation. The urge to dance and move is there from the first bar. As for musicianship, just check the soaring trumpet towards the end of the tune from Jesus Alemany who later started his own group Cubanismo.

9. Fruko Y Sus Tesos – Salsa Brava from Tidi Bailan Salsa

The second piece of evidence laid before you (and it is for you to judge) comes from Colombian artist Fruko. Incidentally, where is he playing on 19 April, 2024? The Jazz Café in London. The tune Salsa Brava takes Derek back to the days when he was DJing at salsa nights and this was a number definitely guaranteed to fill the dance floor. Fruko is a multi-instrumentalist – certainly guitar, piano and bass and probably more. He was discovered at the age of 13 (born 1951) by the founder of Colombia’s leading record label Discos Fuentes. After a trip to New York in 1971, he was inspired by New York salsa and – merging these this with the sweeter Colombian sounds along with Cuban rhythms – he formed the band Fruko Y Sos Tesos. Ever since, he has been a musical leader in Colombia and gained international recognition, releasing over 800 albums. Quality production and infectiously catchy melodies, claim the sleeve notes. On this evidence who could disagree?

10. Bob Marley and The Wailers – Concrete Jungle from Catch A Fire (Deluxe Edition, Disc 1)

We ended this show with some classic reggae as a tribute to Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, who died earlier this month. Along with his drummer brother Carlton Barrett, he was the engine room of the Wailers provided a bass line that anchored his brother’s ‘one drop’ rhythms. Before working with Bob Marley, Barrett had already achieved notable success with the studio band the Upsetters and he went on to record Pick a Dub (1974) with Keith Hudson, one of the first ever dub albums. We’ve chosen Concrete Jungle from the album Catch a Fire (1973) – but in its original Jamaican version which was not released until 2002.

Neil is listening to…

CJ goes modal, funky and deep into the soul – 26/01/2024

Wind your way with us at Cosmic Jazz and we will take you on a path that mixes the contemporary and the past, the upbeat and the becalmed, the dancefloor and the spiritual via this, our latest show.

1. Joshua Redman – Chicago Blues from Where Are We

Saxophonist Joshua Redman has been travelling around the USA and taking some interesting people with him. Or at least, that is what his latest album Where Are We on Blue Note Records would suggest. There are tunes about Philadelphia, New England, San Francisco, New Orleans, Alabama and more – including this one, Chicago Blues, with apologies for not taking ” a boy like you” with me, a number attributed to Count Basie, James Rushing and Sufjan Stevens. The musicians travelling with Joshua on this tour are top-rate and include ones well-known to us here at Cosmic Jazz. Aaron Parks on piano weaves away on a  catchy repeating rhythm from start to finish on and there’s a lovely interjection from Joel Ross on vibes. The sextet also includes the fantastic Brian Blade on drums, cool bass from Joe Sanders and vocals that are sultry,  mesmerising and enticing from  the California-raised Gabrielle Cavassa, someone new to us here at Cosmic Jazz. We await more with real interest and really recommend this album which also achieved the top spot on Jazzwise’s new releases of 2023.

2. Yoni Mayraz – Palms from Dybbuk Tse!

From a different zone of the contemporary jazz spectrum comes the British-based keyboard player and producer Yoni Mayraz. This is the second tune we have played from his Dybbuk Tse album released last year. It’s a short, but intense number where Yoni is joined by Joe Melnicove with some intricate  flute playing, Eli Orr on bass and Roy Reemy on drums. If you want to delve into some of the lesser-known contemporary jazz sounds of London from young-ish musicians, Dybbuk Tse is a good place to go and the album and band deserve more attention. They’re appearing live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on Thursday 15 February 2024 but have other forthcoming dates in Sweden and Belgium.

3. Max Roach – Effi from Members, Don’t Git Weary

10 January 2024 marked the centenary of the birth one of the great and most influential. jazz drummers, Max Roach. We may be a little late but his centenary has to be acknowledged on Cosmic Jazz. We are doing this via Effi, an uplifting, spiritual and soulful tune  with mind-blowing interplay from sax and trumpet. The tune was written by Roach himself and comes from the 1969 Atlantic Records album Members, Don’t Git Weary. The album was a call for brothers and sisters in the struggle not to be disheartened, not to give up and to carry on even when times get difficult. Max Roach was closely associated with the movement for civil rights and by 1969, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys, there was real cause for pessimism. The album has an astounding line-up of musicians: Gary Bartz on alto sax, Charles Tolliver on trumpet, Stanley Cowell on piano and Jymie Merritt on electric bass.  Andy Bey provides vocals on the title tune. This is an absolutely essential album from a band led by an essential jazz artist. If you don’t own a copy of this record then check out the recent reissue from Gilles Peterson’s new imprint Arc Records which appeared late last year. Of course, you can find it here on Bandcamp.

4. Fergus McCreadie – Driftwood from Stream

This is taken from McCreadie’s new full length album Stream – and it’s an exclusive first play of an album not out until May this year. In the meantime, don’t miss out on his solo piano EP (Sketches) released just a couple of months ago. Stream continues the themes established in McCreadie’s previous two releases on Edition Records – Cairn and Forest Floor, both of which have been featured on Cosmic Jazz.  We’ve long championed this passionate mix of Celtic-inspired composition and we’ll undoubtedly return to this stunning upcoming release in future shows. With four moths to go before official release, this is a rare opportunity for a first listen to this formidable trio – McCreadie on piano, David Bowden on bass and Stephen Henderson on drums. All three previous albums on Edition are available from the website and can also be bought via Bandcamp. If you’re a vinyl devotee, then the superb coloured pressings of Forest Floor is still available on Edition.

5. John Rae & Ben Wilcock – Apple Road from Splendid Isolation (Special Edition)

It’s thanks again to Scots promoter Rob Adams for this one – the new album from drummer John Rae, here in collaboration with New Zealand pianist Ben Wilcock. Rae moved to New Zealand some 15 years ago and is now based in Wellington where he has become a go-to drummer on the very healthy NZ jazz scene. This new record features a band with some familiar antipodean names – Patrick Bleakley, from Rae’s NZ band the Troubles, is on bass, Scottish guitarist Kevin Murray plays on three tracks and saxophonists Dan Yeabsley and Jabin Ward appear on one track each. The music is a delightful mix of lyrical compositions – as on Apple Road – with more bluesy investigations and an Indian Konnakol rhythmic diversion on the excellent Tak a Minute. You can find the album here on the Thick Records website – and it’s available right now.
6. Aki Takase Trio – Song For Hope from Song for Hope

There’s always been great jazz music from Japan and coming out of the excellent J Jazz anthologies from BBE Records, which we’ve consistently promoted since the arrival of Volume 1 in 2018 . These are all due to the crate digging of Tony Higgins (who has also done a sterling job of revitalising the golden age of British jazz in the 1960-70s) along with his vinyl companion Mike Peden. We’re now on J Jazz Volume 4, but this Aki Takase tune featured on the previous collection. Now it’s time for the complete Song for Hope album from pianist Takase – first released in 1981. Her world of jazz incorporates tributes to jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk but she’s just as happy in more avant-garde environments – for example with her husband, pianist Alex von Schlippenbach, saxophonist and composer John Zorn, or guitarist Eugene Chadbourne. Song for Hope is a live trio recording with Nobuyoshi Ino on bass and the great Takeo Moriyama on drums and is now available to pre-order – you’ve guessed it – here on Bandcamp. Btw – you’ll hear a 5 second drop in sound on this download not apparent on the J Jazz album but we’re sure that will be corrected on release. You can also find many of Takase’s previous releases on the Intakt label on Bandcamp too – check out some of the tribute albums already mentioned along with others. You won’t be disappointed.

7. Michael White – Fiesta Dominical from The Land of Spirit and Light

The tune Fiesta Dominical is from one of those albums that from time to time Derek dusts down from his shelves and plays, often to great delight – and there is no doubt that the 1973 Impulse! album from violinist Michael White brings delight and surprises. This particular tune is a prime example: it’s almost country meets Colombia, folkloric meets jazz, rural acoustic meets the urban avant-garde – a Land of Spirit and Light indeed. Classical guitarist Bob King features along with jazz pioneers Prince Lasha on flute, Cecil McBee on bass and Michael White on violin. Wikipedia suggests that the unidentified vocalists are Stanley Nash, Kenny Jenkins, and an ABC Messenger delivery man. Make of that what you will…

8. Wildflower – Rush from Love

Wildflower might not be a familiar name – but the personnel may be. How about Idris Rahman on saxes, clarinet and flutes, Tom Skinner on drums and Leon Brichard on acoustic and electric bass? This is the trio’s second album and it takes a rather freer approach to the writing process, with simple but effective melodies and bass motifs explored to give dynamic extremes. Skinner uses his minimal kit to good effect and Rahman is better than ever on brass and woodwinds. This is an album that creeps up on you with subtle force, demonstrating a range from heavy spiritual vibes to more groove-based and folk-like tunes. is on fire here whilst Rahman and Brichard trade riffs and push the harmonic and rhythmic boundaries. Rahman’s use of clarinet and bamboo flute plus additional layers of woodwinds, Skinner’s unique approach to stripped-down use of his very personalised kit, and Brichard’s use of both acoustic and electric basses make for a sonic landscape that is both unique and highly approachable. Touching on heavy spiritual vibes whilst taking in dark alternative grooves and delicate folk-like tunes, the music surprises and delights in equal measure. You’ll be very lucky to track down a vinyl copy but the digital album is still available here on Bandcamp.

9. Muriel Grossman – All Heart from Devotion

Saxophonist Muriel Grossman has really dug deep for this new release on Records. It’s a 2CD set that gives Grossman and her group the opportunity to stretch out. She has been based on the Spanish island of Ibiza since 2004 (and from where she sent Neil this excellent new release, apologising for the slight delay) but performs internationally and is now about to embark on a North American tour. Grossmann was born in Paris, raised in Austria, and began classical flute studies at five but didn’t get to the saxophone until she was 21, She has a deeply committed DIY aesthetic and supervises every aspect of recording, production and presentation including often painting her record covers. Her current band includes Belgrade-born guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, Abel Boquera on Hammond B3 and Uros Stamenkovic on drums. Bass is supplied by Grossman herself along with – on the new album – flute, percussion, tambura, kalima and harmonium. All of her albums from 2010’s Birth of the Mystery to the breakthrough excellence of 2018’s Golden Rule are worth investigating. The latter has a strong Coltrane influence – check out her excellent soprano outing, Traneing In, which also featured in another equally powerful version on the later Union album,  2020’s Quiet Earth included four long compositions, two of which were substantially revisioned versions of tunes that originally appeared on the 2013 album Awakening. Devotion is something of a breakthough – it’s on Jack White’s US-based Third Man Records and is titled after Grossmann’s experiences with Buddhist meditation. She says, Just as thoughts are always dissolving into the stillness of our mind, we slowly realize that the essence of our mind is clarity . . . This realization puts us on the path to confidence; it and trust are the basis of devotion. On our choice, All Heart, Latin and African polyrhythms combine in forceful and funky, hard swinging post bop. Other tracks are longer and more modal, but throughout this is the sound of a band working closely together – deep and spiritual indeed. As with all of Grossman’s records then, this new one is highly recommended and is available via Grossman’s own website on vinyl or CD – and, of course, here on Bandcamp

10. The Freedom Sounds feat. Wayne Henderson – Behold the Day from Late Night Tales: The Cinematic Orchestra

Returning to the theme of dusting down (see Michael White above), Neil has been doing some of that lately and items of music have found their way into Derek’s grateful hands. This is an example. Many artists from a wide range of the world of dance music have been involved in the Late Night Tales compilations – including Groove Armada, Jamiroquai, Fourtet, Air and others. UK’s Cinematic Orchestra created their set in 2010 and included some excellent tunes and Derek selected something new to him – the soulful, funky, danceable Behold the Day from The Freedom Sounds featuring trombonist Wayne Henderson. The sleeve notes explain that the Cinematics first heard this tune spun by Gilles Peterson, a pretty good recommendation, at a small club in Bastille, Paris. They had just finished their live set and this was the first tune that Gilles played. The track actually comes from the excellent 1969 Freedom Sounds album called Soul Sound System – track it down if you can.

11. Ray Munnings – Funky Nassau from Good Times with Joey & Norman Jay

Lord have mercy! We started to get funky with the last tune but this end to the show gets us funkier still. The well-known and hit-making, 1971 version of the tune Funky Nassau was a soulful/funky/Latin piece of dynamism  from Beginning of the End. One of the  members of this band – which comprised three brothers from the Bahamas – was Ray Munnings, who with Tyrone Fitzgerald wrote the number. Munnings recorded his own solo extended, jazzier, more horn-filled interpretation in 1979. It is great. It is irresistible. The good news is that it can be found on the 2004 Good Times CD compilation from Joey and Norman Jay. This exemplary series of compilations from these London DJs reflects the eclectic range of music we feature here on the show and all seven (or more) of these CD sets are worth tracking down. The bad news is that if you want a vinyl copy – and it sounds as if it really needs to be played on  vinyl – you are going to have to pay a lot of money. There’s a signed copy on Discogs for the equivalent of £85! Over to you…

Derek is listening to ….

Neil is listening to…

 

Music for a jazz party – 21/12/2023

It is time for our end of year jazz dance party and we invite you to groove along with us here at Cosmic Jazz. Dancing and jazz may not seem an obvious connection for some, but it was there in the origins of the music and the connections have never gone away.

1. Herbie Hancock – Thieves in the Temple from The New Standard

We began this festive show with a standout track from an album which finally appeared last month on vinyl for the first time. The New Standard is just that – Hancock is performing the same trick as his mentor Miles Davis was to do a few years later – reinventing pop and rock tunes as jazz standards. Here we have Prince in a jazz arrangement – and why not? Just take a listen to this all star band of Michael Brecker on saxes, John Scofield on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Jack deJohnette on drums and Don Alias on percussion drive through this funky gem with real panache.

2. Walter Bishop – Soul Turnaround from Soul Village/Fusion With Attitude

Pianist Walter Bishop Jr. is probably best known for his Muse label records from the 1970s, particularly the excellent Soul Village – a record we have featured a number of times on Cosmic Jazz and which includes a reworking of Soul Turnaround which had initially appeared on Coral Keys, his first recording for Black Jazz Records. In his teens growing up in New York Bishop knew Sonny Rollins and Art Taylor – good friends to have around! On this session from 1977 Randy Brecker appears on trumpet and George Khan is on guitar with Bishop on Fender Rhodes, of course.

3. STR4TA – Kinshasa FC from Aspects

Neil greatly enjoyed the first album from Gilles Peterson and Bluey Maunick’s recreation of the heady days of Britfunk with STR4TA. Bluey is, of course, leader of the band Incognito and several other Britfunk groups including Light of the World and Freez. The music is straight out of the early 1980s – acid jazz at its best. Cheesy listening or easy listening? Either way, this is just a delight. And – if you like this – then check out their more recent 2023 release which includes Lazy Days, featuring Emma-Jean Thackray on trumpet and vocals. Like the previous choice, this is sunny summer music but this time with a British twist – the lyrics include the phrases “cotton sheets” and “pots of tea”!

4. Eddie Harris – Sham Time from The Electrifying Eddie Harris/The Eddie Harris Anthology Disc 1

If you want some percussive jazz, try Eddie Harris. This is one of tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris’ most famous and significant outings. He displays his mastery of the electronic Varitone saxophone on Charles Stepney’s excellent Theme in Search of a Movie and on the iconic take on Listen Here. On our choice of Sham Time there’s a horn section too, including David ‘Fathead’ Newman and King Curtis on tenor saxes. With Latin percussion from NuYorican Latin legend Ray Barreto and Joe Wohletz  and Melvin Jackson on bass this soul jazz classic should be in every jazz lover’s library. The tune Sham Time was released on the 1967 album The Electrifying Eddie Harris and can be found on the 1993  Anthology compilation released by Rhino Records.

5. Jazzanova – Creative Musicians (Henrik Schwarz Dub) from Creative Musicians (Wajeed & Henrik Schwarz remixes)

So how did the Berlin-based production collective Jazzanova find itself reimagining songs from the iconic, Detroit record label Strata? I couldn’t think of a more perfect band to do this work said DJ Amir about Jazzanova because they brought passion and love to the project, because they know the music and love the music. Amir Abdullah is the crate-digging, DJ and label-head for 180 Proof Records which began reissuing the groundbreaking Strata Records back catalogue . On The Sound of Detroit – Reimagined by Jazzanova, DJ Amir and Jazzanova rework eleven hand-picked tracks, including Lyman Woodard Organization’s Creative Musicians tune with inspired horn arrangements and a new drum track. Reimagined in Berlin fifty years later, DJ Amir and Jazzanova create something new that was then further enhanced by remixers Wajeed and Henrik Schwarz – and we love the Schwarz version.

6. Isis – In Essence from Like Una Presents E Soul Cultura Vol. 2

This superb jazzy house tune appears on a second É Soul Cultura compilation from Manchester-based DJ Luke Una on the Mr Bongo label. In May 2022, É Soul Cultura Vol.1 blended new, old, rare and under-discovered music from around the world with Piccadilly Records in Manchester making the album their top compilation of the year, and Rough Trade placing it as their number two. Vol. 1 featured the brilliant Eva from Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti – a tune that Neil had on repeat play for months. A second volume released in May this year included the Isis track In Essence, You’re not likely to find a copy of this one (there are none available on Discogs) so this compilation will be your only chance to get your hands on this hypnotic house classic. Howard Mills is on saxophone but the vibes player is uncredited. When we played this track in June we quoted Luke Una who said it’s all about telling stories, sharing the music, and making life’s journey mean something. In the end, of course, it’s just a compilation of other people’s music, but hopefully it’s more than that, adding something back to the pot. Which is pretty much what we try and do here at Cosmic Jazz.

7. MONDO GROSSO – Life feat. Paula Lima from MG4

Probably in common with many music lovers Derek has records which he loves but has no idea how he came about them. One such record is MONDO GROSSO’s MG4 released in 2000. It is a must for a jazz party. Several tunes on the album could have been selected but Life is the choice for this show featuring Brazilian vocalist Paula Lima with backing vocals from Japanese/American singer/songwriter Monday Michiru, who is featured elsewhere on the album both as vocalist and composer. MONDO GROSSO (Italian: Big World) was instigated by the Japanese  Kyoto-based DJ, musician and producer Shinichi Osawa whose main roles on this album are as composer and producer. He has worked with a number of Japanese musicians and several feature on this album, but also artists from elsewhere. The Brazilian musicians Tania Maria and Ed Motta appear as does former vocalist with The Brand New Heavies N’Dea Davenport. How to classify this music? Try some – or all – of the following: jazz/ acid jazz/Brazilian/house/funk/dance.

8. Mo’ Horizons – Brazil from Come Touch The Sun

A similar broad array of musical categories could be used to describe the music of Mo’Horizons. The same words as above (DJ, musician, producer) are also appropriate to describe the German founders Mark Wertzler and Rald Droesemeyer and there’s a similar global approach drawing on Afro/Latin/Brazilian grooves – for this choice it’s a taste of Braziliana. This is jazzy club culture at its best – irresistible rhythms, piercing percussion, solid bass, horn interludes and warm, engaging  vocals from Brazil courtesy of Leila Pantel. Come Touch The Sun was Mo’Horizons’ first album released in 1999 and it’s still readily available on CD and download. Warning – vinyl will not come cheap.

9. Koop feat. Yukimi Nagano – Summer Sun ( Original Version) from Waltz for Koop/Saint-Germain-Des-Pres-Cafe, Vol. 2

This tune takes us back into more strictly jazz territory, although the Swedish band Koop (a shortened version of the Swedish word for co-operation) reached out beyond  jazz to hip-hop, dance, acid jazz, trip-hop and beyond. Koop was formed by the electronic jazz duo of Magnus Zingmark and Oscar Simonsson using that ‘bedroom sampling’ approach of putting together several song samples to produce vocal jazz. They worked with several vocalists with our choice of Summer Sun featuring Swedish singer Yukimi Nagano – a teenager when the record was made. It is a swinging, bouncy, infectious, vibrant  tune with vocals beautifully and enticingly delivered by Nagano. You can find this one on the 2001 album Waltz for Koop and a French compilation, Saint-Germain-Des-Pres-Cafe Vol. 2 on which fellow performers in this Cosmic Jazz show, Mo’ Horizons and Herbie Hancock, can also be found.

10. Kira Neris – Open Doors from Behind Closed Doors

Alsace DJ and sampler Kira Neris (aka Hervé Poudoulec) appeared on the show way back in 2015, so this was a great opportunity to revisit a favourite from his 2007 Behind Closed Doors album. We’ve always loved his music and imaginative sampling – this time from Jimmy McGriff’s The Worm and Mel Tormé’s take on the classic Moonlight in Vermont – and so this seemed like a fitting end to the show. The whole album is worth a look – mixing as it does jazz and deep house. As one reviewer noted, imagine Cinematic Orchestra meets Moodyman, which seems about right to us. You can still get hold of the DL right here on Bandcamp – check it out. We’ll be taking a seasonal break for the next few weeks but will be back with more Cosmic Jazz in 2024. Have a great end to your year wherever you are.

From the spiritual to the dancefloor with Cosmic Jazz – 04/12/2023

Cosmic Jazz this time started with the Coltranes – John and Alice together – before sampling some of the musicians who have been in the UK capital in November at the London Jazz Festival. Unusually, we ended on the 80s dancefloor with Alphonse Mouzon…

1.  John Coltrane – Stellar Regions from Stellar Regions

We like to acknowledge what is going on around us in relation to the jazz world and so it was to our sheer delight that BBC Radio 3’s five hour-long episodes of Composer of the Week – almost universally the reserve of classical composers – was devoted to the work of John and Alice Coltrane. Presented by Kate Molleson, a specialist in  new classical music and with contributions from Kevin Le Gendre, the jazz broadcaster and writer, this is something to search for on BBC Sounds – here’s the first programme. So to celebrate what is a long overdue recognition, we begin the show with a short (by Coltrane standards), magical, spiritual blast from his tenor saxophone on Stellar Regions, the title tune from this posthumous 1995 release. Wife Alice Coltrane is on piano, with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. It was one of John Coltrane’s late recordings made on 15 February 1967, unearthed from ‘lost’ tapes found by Alice and son Ravi Coltrane. None of the compositions  had a title at the time they were recorded with Stellar Regions actually being an alternate version of Venus which had appeared on the earlier Interstellar Space record. In the liner notes, critic David Wild notes 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.

2. High Pulp – Astral Traveling from Mutual Attraction Vol. 1

So this one is a kind of backhand tribute to Pharoah Sanders and Lonnie Liston Smith who both recorded Astral Traveling – and now one of our favourite current bands has tackled it. High Pulp is undoubtedly rooted in the jazz tradition but also touches on indie-rock and electronic music, using all these sounds simultaneously to pursue something truly their own. We’ve featured their latest Days in the Desert album on previous shows but this show’s choices comes from the first of three earlier EPs of covers – Mutual Attraction Vol.1 which appeared on Record Store Day in 2020 and included covers of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra. All three albums are worth getting hold of – have a look at the band’s Bandcamp site here and grab them while you can. Several of their records on vinyl are now sold out so you’ll need to move quickly!

3. Niki Iles and NDR Bigband – Wild Oak from Face to Face

This new record came out just last week and in time to reflect Nikki Iles’ appearance at the last night of the London Jazz Festival with the celebrated NDR Bigband. Reviews of the show emphasise the sheer excitement of this concert – a testament to both the quality of Iles’ writing and the musicianship of the Bigband. Soloists included Percy Pursglove, Ingolf Burkhardt and Claus Stötter on trumpets and Fiete Felsch and Frank Dell on saxes, with dynamic, exuberant solos from guitarist Phil Robson added into the mix. The new album Face to Face is very much recommended here on CJ.

4. Makaya McCraven – Dream Another from In These Times

Neil can personally vouch for the validity of the rave reviews for McCraven’s appearance at the LJF – what a performance from the ‘beat scientist’ and his Chicago-based band! Along with the London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames, McCraven was joined on stage by his current core Chicago band – a quintet with Joel Ross on vibes, guitarist Matt Gold, electric bass player Julius Paul (wearing an on-stage outfit that made him look like a jazz version of Bootsy Collins!) and trumpeter Marquis Hill. As Chris May’s All About Jazz review noted, each was outstanding: Hill soulful and sonorous, Gold raw and off kilter, Ross mercurial and emphatic, like Cecil Taylor with sticks, McCraven colossal, a Buddy Rich for our age (in the best way). Each selection from the album was transformed into a charged up, intense performance that saw McCraven delivering some powerhouse drumming. Neither flute nor harp featured as on the record – instead the LCO string ensemble created a beautiful counterpoint to the quintet. When interviewed by All About Jazz, McCraven said This is a record of my compositions that feature odd time signatures and different types of rhythms. At the crux of my concept since I started writing and playing drums is that I like to play complex rhythms. In these times—it’s in the title. To hear more current McCraven and music from In These Times, check out this live set from US radio station KEXP and why not have a look at what he purchased in San Francisco’s celebrated record store Amoeba. We like the drummer-centric picks!

5. Charles Lloyd – I Fall In Love Too Easily from Mirror

Also at the LJF this year, saxophone master Charles Lloyd is one of CJ’s perennial favourites. His distinctive tone on tenor is what drives this reflective take on Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn’s enduring American standard. Many listeners will be familiar with some of the more famous takes – in both vocal and instrumental versions. How about those by Shirley Horn and Miles Davis to begin with? And Wayne Shorter’s Sanctuary on the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew is a kind of abstraction of the tune – see if you can spot the elements… Mirror is one of Lloyd’s many ECM records, all of which are worth investigating in this late flowering of a saxophone legend that began when he was taken on board by French pianist Michel Petrucciani in 1981. He then began a late run of superb albums on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label beginning with Fish Out of Water in 1989 and ending with Hagar’s Song in 2013. Signing with the revitalised Blue Note label two years later, Lloyd has continued to release inspiring music of which Tone Poem, his 2021 record with his group The Marvels, is a CJ choice.

6. Hiromi – Desert On the Moon from Brain

Japanese born, now US resident Grammy-winning pianist and composer Hiromi has built up a substantial reputation both in Japan and internationally since her 2003 debut album Another Mind. Desert On the Moon comes that debut’s follow up and the energy, dexterity and fluidity of her playing is readily apparent on this beautiful and refreshing number. What the music illustrates – as indeed does all of her work – is a willingness to experiment  and cross the boundaries from jazz to pop to classical. She is quoted as saying I don’t want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It’s just the union of what I’ve been listening to and what I’ve been learning. There is a creative and not always predictable energy about her work which recently saw her perform at the London Jazz Festival with both a new piano quintet and her regular group Sonicwonder whose new album can be found here on Bandcamp.

7. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Afro En Toulouse from Timba a la Americana

It is not always possible in the time available, but we try to play more than one tune from a new album that we select. Radio selections often play a one-off choice, frequently of one of the outstanding tunes of an album. Many of us have been caught out through being induced to  pay money for an album from the lure of a single audio-friendly track. This is one reason why pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa appears for a second time on the show – but, additionally, we simply love the music. Afro En Toulouse acknowledges that in the last year, along with his drummer brother Ruy, Lopez-Nussa moved from Cuba to Toulouse in South-West France. Prominent on this tune is Barbaro (Machito) Crespo on congas, bata and vocals, maintaining those sonic links with Cuba, but Lopez-Nussa notes that this new Blue Note album Timba a la Americana is very different to his previous records, admitting that for the first time I play electronic sounds without any shame. Of course, here at CJ, we fully acknowledge and celebrate the presence of electronics in jazz.

8. Jonathan Blake – Passage from Passage

Exactly the same reasons as above apply to the selection of further tune from another Blue Note debutant, drummer Jonathan Blake. This time, our choice is the title track from his album PassageIt’s dedicated to the memory of his father, jazz violinist John Blake Jr. who was the composer of this title tune.  Not surprisingly, the number is played with emotion, passion and great virtuosity by top-notch  musicians. These include another outstanding Cuban pianist David Virelles, prominent in Passage from the opening bars, but much of the tone and feeling is set by the alto saxophone playing of Immanuel Wilkins, definitely one of the young jazz players of the moment. Other members of the quintet are  the much-lauded vibraphonist Joel Ross (qv. Makaya McCraven above) and bass player and composer Dezron Douglas. This is definitely an album with a contemporary New York feeling and sound.

9. Brian Auger & the Oblivion Express – Happiness is Just Around the Bend from Closer To It!

Hammond guru Brian Auger is going through something of a renaissance at the moment. Two new box sets (both on vinyl and compact disc) have being going down a treat with listeners and probably the best of these Oblivion Express records is 1973 Closer To It! album. Happiness Is Just Around the Bend is Augur’s own composition and is a really strong vocal debut for Augur himself. The second side of this album features covers of jazz classic Compared to What and a surprisingly good take on Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues. The whole album is highly recommended – you’ll be able to track down a copy on Discogs.

10. Sabu Martinez – Hotel Alyssa-Sousse, Tunisia (Danny Krivit edit) from Mr. Bongo Edits Vol. 1/Afro Temple

Something of a crate digger’s favourite back in the day, an original copy of the Sabu Martinez album Afro Temple album used to change hands for up to $3000. Neil has had a reissue for decades but our choice is an edit from the New York DJ Danny Krivit – a DJ with a very interesting background. As he recounts in an online interview, his father was trumpeter Chet Baker’s manager and his mother was a jazz singer. Martinez is always worth exploring, whether for his earliest recordings with Art Blakey in 1953 or his own albums including his debut for Blue Note in 1957, Palo Congo. Martinez relocated to Sweden in the mid 1970s where he led the Burnt Sugar group. Afro Temple is a great record, with Hotel Alyssa-Sousse, Tunisia the stand-out track – and there are lots of different reissues for you to choose from.

11. Alphonse Mouzon – I’m Glad That You’re Here from 12 inch single

What are we doing playing this tune on Cosmic Jazz you may ask? There are several answers.  It links with our previous show where we had Alphonse Mouzon playing drums for McCoy Tyner, no less. It also takes us back to a tradition on the show whereby we end the programme with a tune that stretches the musical boundaries. There is also the not so inconsequential issue of the personnel on the record: Herbie Hancock on piano and Michael Brecker on sax – and his little early sax break is worth more than a cursory listen. Mouzon played with several distinguished jazz artists, although he ventured into the pop and disco world. Certain sections of the jazz listening public, often comfortably off themselves, have been quick to criticise such moves by jazz artists yet they ignore the difficulties any musician has to earn a living – especially in this current era of paltry download revenues. Jazz artists have more difficulties than most and so we should respect their right to a living. Enjoy the record – we love it. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

Neil is listening to…

There’s a funky theme to my ten choices this time. We begin with neglected Blue Note trumpeter Eddie Gale on Black Rhythm Happening before searching out UK premier remixers Bugz in the Attic who give 4Hero’s Hold It Down more than a little re-rub. Next is that hypnotic bassline from Abe Laboriel on Herb Alpert’s second disco hit Rise followed by more Brian Auger and his Oblivion Express with another track from that great record Closer To It! That sly funk masterpiece Cucumber Slumber from Weather Report, featuring the great Alphonso Johnson on bass, comes next. Derek reminded me that Marvin Gaye’s classic Let’s Get It On celebrates a 50th anniversary this year as does the O Jay’s magnificent slavery-themed album Ship Ahoy which contains the oft-covered For The Love of Money. Next was Flora’s Song (piano by Chick Corea), one of the stand out tracks from Airto’s superb CTI album Free which seemed to complement the funky Ohlos Coloridos from Brazilian singer Sandra de Sá before ending with more bass from Bobby Hutcherson’s San Francisco album and the evocative Ummh. If the spirit moves ya

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.