Category Archives: Playlist

28 April 2022: live at the Analog Vault!

This is a Cosmic Jazz special, recorded live at The Analog Vault store in Singapore. Thanks to Leon and Hannah for making it happen. We were celebrating International Jazz Day, so there’s the usual Cosmic Jazz eclectic mix of tunes. The text is an extended version of Neil’s mic comments on the show. Enjoy!

Technics 1210s and Condesa mixer in full force at Analog Vault!
  1. Lalo Schifrin – Shifting Gears from Bullitt film score (1968)

One of the funkiest soundtracks ever – if you’ve not seen the film, this is the beginning of the San Francisco car chase sequence with Steve McQueen (after whom the brilliant Singapore group the Steve McQueens are named) in a Ford Mustang Mach 1. The build-up in the three minutes of music is so good. This doesn’t sound dated at all – just as good in 2022 as in 1968. Lalo Schifrin was from Argentina and recorded loads of film music – the Mission, Impossible theme is his and so are the Rush Hour films with Jackie Chan. But this is his best one. Trivia fact – keys are played by Mike Melvoin, father of Lisa Melvoin who was half of Wendy and Lisa in Prince’s band The Revolution. There’s a great version of Shifting Gears on Youtube where the horns have been looped to extend the track to 11 minutes – brilliant! Find it here – and here’s the original  film sequence for Shifting Gears:

2. A Tribe Called Quest – Jazz (We’ve Got It) – from The Low End Theory (1991)

Everyone will know these guys – A Tribe Called Quest were really the very best, along with Gang Starr, at using jazz samples in their beats. The samples here come from Jimmy McGriff – Green Dolphin Street (the horns), the Five Stairsteps – Don’t Change Your Love (that’s the drums) and The Doors – Light My Fire is also there in the lyrics – “wallow in the mire”. Genius! Like pretty much all of their music this is everything you’d want rap to be – great samples and loops, with witty and conscious lyrics. ATCQ were at their musical and lyrical peak here – thanks to Q-Tip and the late Phife Dawg for all those beats and rhymes…

3. Emma-Jean Thackray – Venus from Yellow (2021)

And now up to date – this is trumpeter Emma-Jean Thackray and she’s on tour in the UK next month. This is from her first full length album, Yellow – and every track is really strong. The whole thing’s got forward-sounding beats and bass, but it also goes back to cosmic jazz sounds from the 70s. Great to hear lots of Fender Rhodes and analog synths coming back so strong these days! It definitely reflects her philosophy – “move the body, move the mind, move the soul”. There’s a kind of Roy Ayers vibe in all of this too – which is why some of the tracks work well as remixes – speaking of which, there’s a great new Theo Kottis remix of Spectre from the album on Bandcamp – check it out here.

4. Khan Jamal – The Known Unknown from Infinity (1984)

Now we’re going to go really chilled and modal. This album is one I’d been looking for in the wild for quite a while – and then, I got the reissue here at Analog Vault! It’s a reissue on the Jazz Room label and well worth getting hold of. Khan Jamal is a vibes player who died earlier this year. He’s not very well known at all, but this track might convert you. The brilliant drummer Sunny Murray is on this record (just listen to him!) and Byard Lancaster is on sax and flute. It’s mesmerising music and just builds over and over in the way that modal music can do. There are very few Khan Jamal records around but you can also find him playing vibes in a very different context on albums by Ronald Shannon Jackson’s group The Decoding Society. The music is wild – like Ornette Coleman’s electric Prime Time group but even more crazy/funky.

5. Dexter Gordon – Tanya from One Flight Up (1964)

Ok – so we’re into the Tone Poets from Blue Note. What can I say about these records that hasn’t already been said? Basically, the story is that in 2021 Don Was – the new President of Blue Note Records – announced the creation of the Tone Poet series of vinyl reissues. All only on vinyl and in editions remastered by the tone poet himself, producer Joe Harley, who was given that nickname by saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Harley co-founded the Music Matters reissues, focusing on both classic and more obscure titles from Blue Note. There are about a hundred reissues, and they’re all now rare collectors’ items – if you can find them. When Don Was saw and heard these records he asked Harley to do the same thing for Blue Note. Some of these are now hard to find but get them when they first come out. You won’t be disappointed. So, One Flight Up and Dexter Gordon. This is worth it just for the side-long Donald Byrd composition, Tanya, but Gordon’s huge tenor sound, the utter brilliance of the then-teenage bass player Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and rock-steady drummer Art Taylor have never sounded better. And check out the gatefold as well with the coolest photo of Dexter Gordon inside. It’s all beautifully produced too.

6. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – Nightrider from What Kinda Music (2020)

Staying with Blue Note but a new(ish) release from 2020. It’s singer/songwriter Tom Misch and drummer Yussef Dayes with a bunch of the best of the south London jazz massive. Nightrider is basically a night-time version of Be Thankful for What You Got – remember:Though you may not drive/A great big Cadillac/Gangster whitewalls/TV antennas in the back… It’s the same laidback mid-tempo groove. Be Thankful… was recorded by William DeVaughn and then famously recorded by Massive Attack on their album Blue Lines. What Kinda Music is an album that catches up with you. I had it on DL for ages before I bought the vinyl – and it’s so good on disc. I’ve listened to it over and over – and you will too. For more Tom Misch check out his Beat Tapes as well and the earlier album Geography – all on Bandcamp. Here’s the great video for Nightrider.

7. Marcos Valle – Bar Ingles from Nova Bossa Nova (1998)

Now the backstory with this one. On 08 July 2005 I was in London for a meeting with a publisher. It was the day after the notorious London bombings in which 52 people of eighteen different nationalities were killed in a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks. So, I was travelling on the tube/MRT with everyone around me nervous and quiet. But as I came up the escalator and into the sunshine, over my headphones came the opening bars of Bar Ingles (English Bar). It begins with this great fade in and then Valle sets up the Fender melody and we’re off on one of his jazz fusion classics. After the shock of these bombings, I truly felt that music is the healing force of the universe, as Albert Ayler said. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see Valle reprise this tune when I saw him at the Jazz Cafe, London – and there were tears in my eyes.

8. Kahil El’Zabar – In My House from Spiritgroove (2020)

Back to a release on a new label called Spiritgroove. This record sounds a bit like something Pharoah Sanders might have done in the 1970s, but it’s just a couple of years old. El’Zabar is a Chicago drummer who has been recording for ages, but he’s been producing some great albums in recent years – and they look and sound fantastic on vinyl too. We edited this a bit (the full track is over 20 minutes long) but you’ll get the idea. The tenor sax is by the legendary David Murray – wild! In the sleeve notes, El’Zabar says The Bebop music masters all expressed to me that in the beginning of Bebop, people everywhere danced with Spirit to the music of Charlie Parker! This is the moment to rekindle the motion of social relevance within the legacy of jazz as an improvised people’s movement for social change!

9. Herbie Hancock – The Traitor from Manchild (1975)

Back to the funk! I bought this record at a London market when it first came out in 1975 and this is my third copy (a reissue on Speakers Corner). There are two bass players on this – both of them total masters of funk bass. Paul Jackson Jnr. is so under-rated but the other player is maybe more well known – Louis Johnson from the Johnson Brothers. I always wanted to play electric bass and I never did learn. But when I was younger I knew this guy called Job Ndela who – like me – was training to be a teacher. He was from Nigeria and a bass player and even when teaching kids he wore these crazy clothes – I remember him in a pair of snakeskin thigh length boots! Herbie’s first synth solo on this track is just wild and then his piano riff kicks in too. Awesome!

10. Tony Allen & Jeff Mills – The Seed from Tomorrow Comes the Harvest (2018)

Ok – we’re almost there. This is a pairing of two masters from different kinds of music – Tony Allen (once called the best drummer in the world by Brian Eno) was the creator of afrobeat – the Fela Kuti sound – and Jeff Mills is a Detroit techno pioneer. I was again lucky enough to see them at the Field Day Festival in London when this record was released and it was just such a great combination – the totally unique afrobeat of Tony Allen and the synth pads, Roland drum machines and CD decks of Jeff Mills (he doesn’t use Technics turntables!). But the music has a somehow old-fashioned sound as well – there’s a Hammond organ sound in here too. You might be lucky enough to find the 10in EP of this record…

11. Les McCann – The Dunbar High School Marching Band from Layers (1973)

And so we end this show with a return to another record I bought soon after it came out in 1973. I sold that copy to buy more records, but really missed it and had to try and get another one – not easy, because until it was reissued a couple of years ago you could only find it on CD. I finally found it here in Singapore early last year. In his high school, Les McCann played in the school’s marching band – and he’s remembering that in this track – a really groundbreaking synth jazz record. Apart from a three-man percussion section and electric bassist Jimmy Rowser, Layers is all electronic – pretty much the first jazz record recorded in this way.

That’s it! And now it’s time to give a shout out to the Singapore record stores that provided this wonderful music – The Analog Vault, The Jazz Loft at Retrocrates and Choice Cuts. They’re all dedicated to keeping the music alive in the Little Red Dot (Singapore). Hope you enjoyed the music everyone.

24 April 2022: music is our sanctuary

Here at Cosmic Jazz, music is very much a sanctuary and the show this week amply demonstrates that. We turn to music that inspires, celebrates, comforts and rewards – and we hope this selection does the same for you. We’ll just add that you might like to explore the excellent Music is My Sanctuary website – you’ll find great music here too.  As always, you’re safe with Cosmic Jazz.

  1. Alfa Mist – First Light from 10 inch vinyl

Derek has long enjoyed the Freddie Hubbard tune First Light which can be found on the CTI album of the same name and so he was surprised to find a version of the same tune just released on a 10 inch record by the young British self-taught pianist/mixer/composer/producer Alfa Mist. As a teenage hip-hop producer, his sampling led him to the jazz sources. His band is a large one, both on this tune and on his album Bring Backs. He  includes many of his regular collaborators  on First Light, but Jas Kayser is on drums, a change from the album. There are, however, two violins, a cello, a viola, a bass clarinet,  trumpet/flugelhorn, percussion and bass.

2. High Pulp – You’ve Got To Pull It Up From The Ground feat. Theo Croker from Pursuit Of Ends 

On the same American independent label (Anti) as Alfa Mist are High Pulp, who have just released their first album Pursuit of Ends for the label. High Pulp are an experimental jazz act who draw upon influences from bebop, punk, hip-hop and electronic music. The Seattle-based collective is based around a core of six members, but this album include sax player Jaleel Shaw, harpist Brandee Younger and trumpeter Theo Croker who provides a warm and sensitive contribution to You’ve Got To Pull It Up From The Ground which features in this week’s show. We’re a bunch of outsiders who refused to be kept out,” states drummer Granfelt. “We’ve never had an academic approach to jazz as most of us grew up playing in DIY bands, so it was the rawness and the energy and the absolute freedom of the music that called to us in the first place.”

3. Nate Smith – Burn For You from Kinfolk 2: See The Birds

Four years after drummer, composer, and bandleader Nate Smith introduced his Grammy-nominated debut, he’s released its thematic follow-up, Kinfolk 2: See The Birds on the British label Edition Records.  We really like this record here at Cosmic Jazz – it’s the it is the sort of genre-extending music we love to select for the show. Saxophonist Jaleel Shaw is here too on saxophone, Fima Ephron on bass, Brad Allen Williams on guitar and Jon Cowherd on keyboards. This record also has guests including guitarist Vernon Reid, violinist Regina Carter, vibes player Joel Ross, rapper Kokayi with the angelic voice of Amma Whatt featured on our choice Burn For You. The album is available from Edition Records or right here on Bandcamp.

4. Cassandra Wilson – You Don’t Know What Love Is from Blue Light ‘Til Dawn   

Singer Cassandra Wilson’s 1993 album Blue Light ‘Til Dawn has just been re-released as part of the Blue Note Classic series curated by label Boss Don Was. It’s a superb production and is undoubtedly Wilson’s artistic breakthrough after being part of saxophonist Steve Coleman’s M Base collective. You can hear her on No Good Time Fairies from his Motherland Pulse album. The re-release notes describe the album as visionary, as Wilson [weaves] an alluring tapestry of jazz, blues, folk, and R&B into a singular sound that opened up new avenues of expression for vocal jazz. Produced by Craig Street, the record broke new territory for Cassandra Wilson with sounds that are minimalist, acoustic and pared down to basics.  This is exemplified on the superb You Don’t Know What Love  Is with Wilson on vocals, Brandon Ross on steel guitar and Charlie Burnham on violin. This is, of course, the jazz standard made famous by Billie Holiday in a vocal version (1958) and Sonny Rollins in an instrumental take (1956). The album also includes two Robert Johnson covers (Come On in My Kitchen and Hellhound on My Trail) and a beautiful take on Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. If you don’t know this record, then the new double album version with remastering by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio is the one to go for.

5. Lucien Johnson – Magnificent Moon from Wax///Wane  

We make no apologies for playing the excellent Lucien Johnson here again on the show. We first featured this New Zealander back in April 2021 when Neil was introduced to his music by Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno). We’ve gone back to this record time and again – and it continues to delight. Johnson is from Wellington, New Zealand 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. Johnson’s current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion and the music is deep, modal and with more than a touch of Pharoah Sanders too.  Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

6. Antonio Neves – Summertime from A Pegada Agora E Essa (The Sway Now)

Music from Rio de Janeiro continues to surprise. From samba and bossa nova through to baile funk and hip hop, everything is absorbed and remoulded into something unique. And that’s where we are with Antonio Neves, a multi-instrumentalist and arranger whose new album includes contributions from revered musicians Hamilton de Holanda and Leo Gandelman together with new generation stars like Alice Caymmi and Ana Frango Elétrico. A Pegada Agora É Essa (The Sway Now) is Neves’ second album and comes after his work on the acclaimed Little Electric Chicken Heart album by the aforementioned Ana Frango Elétrico. Neves mixes classics like Summertime, Luz Negra and Dorival Caymmi’s Noite de Temporal  with original songs using a range of Brazilian rhythms – partido alto, funk carioca and and the Afro-Brazilian mix of candomblé. Neves began his career as a drummer, before settling on the trombone and playing with some of the biggest names in Brazilian music like Moreno Veloso, Kassin and Elza Soares. A Pegada Agora E Essa is available here on Bandcamp.

  1. Cyminology – Gofteguie Man from Bemun

Cyminology now record for ECM but this tune comes from an earlier record on the Doublemoon label out of Istanbul. Based in Berlin, the lyrics are in Persian and sung by Cymin Samawatie, who has Iranian and German heritage. The music is a fusion of jazz and the unique range of global influences from the other band members – Benedikt Jahnel on piano, Ralf Schwartz on bass and Ketan Bhatti on percussion. Samawatie often using classical Persian poetry as her lyrics and so expect to hear the lyricism of Rumi, Hafez, and Khayyam in the music. Apparently, this incarnation of the band began when she discovered a CD belonging to her aunt featuring medieval verses by the poet Omar Khayyam and presented these to the band members. In an interview, Samawatie recalled that during a tour in Lebanon, three women came up to her and said that Cyminology’s music gives them peace. She realised that “When people who are acquainted neither with jazz nor with Persian poetry understand and feel the music, then what more can you ask for as a musician?” For more background on the band and their music check out this short video.

8Dave Holland Big Band – Last Minute Man from Overtime

Of course, we think of Dave Holland as one of the great bass players in modern jazz, but he’s a fine composer too as evidenced by this tune with his 2005 big band. Holland has had a more than five-decade career from electric bass with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew to flamenco collaborations with guitarist Pepe Habichuela. He’s accompanied the great vocalist Betty Carter and gone avant-garde with the Circle quartet and he’s performed alongside Chick Corea, Stan Getz and Sam Rivers. Now 75, over the years Holland has introduced us to now-leading players like Chris Potter, Robin Eubanks and Steve Coleman.  Both Potter and Eubanks appear on this big band record with its four saxophones, three trumpets and trombones along with vibes as well as bass and drums. The music centres around the opening four-part Monterey Suite, commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival and originally performed there in 2001, but our choice is the closing track Last Minute Man – a colourful and innovative piece with twisting, knotty arrangements that just work. Highly recommended.

9. Piotr Wojtasik – Tribute 3 from Tribute to Akwarium

We have often featured Polish jazz on the programme, thanks to Steve’s Jazz Sounds, a specialist source for Polish jazz and jazz from other continental European countries. One of Derek’s favourite Polish artists is Piotr Wojtasik, a trumpet/flugelhorn player and educator at Katowice Music Academy. He regularly collaborates with a wide range of musicians, including drummer John Betsch and saxophonist Billy Harper. His music is often modal, usually melodic and always uplifting, as you can hear from Tribute 3 featured on the show. The Tribute to Akwarium album  was released in 2017 with a large band comprising some of Poland’s top jazz musicians along with Eric Allen on drums. The Akwarium was a legendary Warsaw jazz club which operated from 1977 to 2000 and this album is a five part suite composed and arranged by Wojtasik and dedicated to the memory of the club.

10. Maisha – Kaa from There Is a Place 

Derek had hoped to be watching live music from UK group Maisha performing with US alto sax legend Gary Bartz. Originally cancelled by the pandemic, the show was then rearranged for April 2022 but, sadly, has been cancelled again – probably for ever. As compensation, Derek chose separate tunes by Maisha and Gary Bartz for the show. Leader and drummer for Maisha, Jake Long assembled a superb combination of musicians from the UK jazz scene for his band, including Nubya Garcia who has gone on to more global fame, recently completing a US tour with Khruagbin. Also included in Maisha are Amané Suganami, Twm Dylan, Tim Doyle and Shirley Tetteh. The tunes are long, intricate and percussive, with fine interplay between Long and percussionist Tim Doyle. Kaa, from the 2018 Brownswood Recordings album There Is A Place, also includes a fine solo from Garcia.

11. Gary Bartz – Music is My Sanctuary from Music is My Sanctuary    

And so we return to the sanctuary of our music. This choice from Gary Bartz is from the album of the same name released in 1977 on Capitol Records, now part of the Universal empire. It’s jazz/funk/soul and the sort of cross-genre record with which we like to end the show. The title tune was written by Bartz and Sigidi  Bashir Abdullah who also wrote hits like (Fallin’ Like) Dominoes for Donald Byrd and Fancy Dancer for Bobbi Humphrey. An unmistakeable Mizell Brothers production, the clever, funky, bass-heavy mix with soulful vocals from Syreeta Wright and chorus is a triumph. Larry Mizell also provided keyboards and vocals and other musicians include Mtume on percussion, George Cables on piano and Eddie Henderson on trumpet. Jazz aficionados may be rather ‘sniffy’ about the Mizell approach to production, but they created records of real beauty and elegance, characterised by soaring horns, cosmic synths, elaborate string arrangements and subtle rhythms. We love their work and their many records remain some of the most sampled and celebrated within contemporary culture. Indeed, in 2007 Larry Mizell was lured back to production duties on the Play With the Changes album from UK group 4hero, from which comes the excellent Morning Child.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

11 April 2022: new music from Edition Records and more

The show this week contrasts the contemporary and the past. We feature new music from the UK’s Edition Records, more great contemporary jazz and a couple of surprises.

  1. James Brandon Lewis Quartet  – Code of Being from Code of Being

We begin with a saxophonist favourite here at Cosmic Jazz – the great James Brandon Lewis. Few artists produce two full-length albums in a year but saxophonist Lewis did just that in 2021 – not an easy year to produce anything! Jesup Wagon was followed at the end of the year by Code of Being from his quartet with Aruán Ortiz on piano, Brad Jones bass, Chad Taylor drums. This is serious music: as Brandon Lewis says in the liner notes My only desire is to constantly reach for the truest version of myself everyday until I exit for the next realm, and hopefully I leave nothing unturned.

2. Binker & Moses – Feed Infinite from Feeding the Machine

Bastions of the new UK jazz scene, saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, have just released their new album – and it’s different. They’ve recruited Max Luthert on and the sound is more complex and – for some – more challenging too. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios by producer Hugh Padgham, the new record features honorary third member Max Luthert on tape loops and electronics, and shifts their sound into an new dimension that crosses into ambient, minimalism and experimental electronic territories. Modular synths and sampling help to deconstruct traditional song structures but both Binker and Moses are still pushing their jazz improvisations as they ‘feed the machine’. The result won’t be for all: the music includes free jazz abstractions, more ambient mood pieces and – on Feed Infinite, hypnotic minimalism. Try it out here on Bandcamp and see what you think.

3.  Nate Smith – Square Wheel feat. Kokayi & Michael Mayo from Kinfolk 2: See the Birds

Neil just loves this one! Drummer Nate Smith began with iconic singer Betty Carter before appearing with Dave Holland, Jose James, Chris Potter and many others. His first album as leader appeared on the Ropeadope label and was titled Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere and is well worth seeking out. Now signed to Edition, Smith extends his range even further., making it hard to place this record on the shelves. Yes, it’s jazz but there’s funk and R&B in there too + vocals and rap on our choice, Square Wheel. Elsewhere you can hear violinist Regina Carter, guitarist Vernon Reid and singer Brittany Howard. It’s eclectic but still feels all of a piece somehow.  Both Kinfolk albums are well worth exploring – and there’s likely to be a third in this projected trilogy too.

4.  Verneri Pohjola – The Dead Don’t Dream from the Dead Don’t Dream

Here’s another excellent Edition release, but this time from Finnish jazz trumpeter Verneri Pohjola. If you’re familiar with the Finnish jazzrock scene of the 1970s (!) then the name Pohjola might be familiar – Verneri’s father was bass player Pekka Pohjola who released several albums under his own name, including the album released in the UK as B the Magpie, with the track The Madness Subsides being famously sampled by DJ Shadow for his epic Midnight in a Perfect World. Verneri Pohjola has his own sound on trumpet with a quiet intensity that’s not unlike other Scandinavian trumpeters –  including Nils Petter Molvaer and Arve Henriksen – but we can add to this some really strong writing and addictive melodies. It’s all performed by a fine band too: Tuomo Prättälä on piano and electronics, Antti Lötjönen on bass and Mika Kallio on drums and gongs. The Dead Don’t Dream is Pohjola’s fourth album on Edition and represents a further refining of his approach to music. Bullhorn (2015) was followed by Pekka in 2017 and saw him interpreting his father’s music, bringing a rockier approach and electronics to the sound. Animal Image from the following year was a completely improvised duo with his drummer Mika Kallio. The Dead Don’t Dream is full of those widescreen Nordic soundscapes and they make for another solid CJ recommendation.

5.  Fergus McCreadie – Forest Floor from Forest Floor

There’s not much more we can say about Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie. We’ve promoted his music for over a year now and we’re thrilled that his second release for Edition is now available. Here again is the excellent title track from Forest Floor about which McCreadie has said In all my music I’m searching for an idea or a theme, that the composition and performance is based on. With this recording, it’s the same studio, same piano and same musicians but I feel the sound we have as a trio has become more developed and rounded somehow. McCreadie has just premiered Forest Floor at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh and the band are touring now with the next date at the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Club on 19 April. Check out the tour details here and catch the trio if you possibly can.

6. Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra – Movement 1 from Promises

Poll winner for many in 2021, we’ve actually not featured this record yet on the show. Neil was thrilled to hear of this unique collaboration between long-time CJ hero Pharoah Sanders and Floating Points aka Sam Shepherd. But after a rather cursory listen at the end of last year, he wasn’t convinced. Now he is. This is a record that creeps up you and perhaps the link can be found in a 2020 Pharoah Sanders interview with The New Yorker in which he commented that he hadn’t been listening to records for a while. “I listen to things that maybe some guys don’t,” he said. “I listen to the waves of the water. Train coming down. Or I listen to an airplane taking off.” This is extraordinary – there are sounds so quiet that you can barely hear them but the orchestral crescendos are deafening. Weaving his way through this subtlety is Pharoah Sanders – no paint-peeling screeches or honks but the sound of late Sanders with the same emotional power as before. Take some time with this record – and buy on vinyl if you can: the pressing is quiet and the sleeve artwork is worth propping up alongside your turntable.

7. Louis Armstrong – The Creator Has A Master Plan (Peace) from Louis & His Friends

Satchmo knew how to pull a surprise out of the bag when he had to – who would have thought of Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan as a likely cover choice? This comes from 1971 and was one of Armstrong’s last recordings. Other choices on this Flying Dutchman/Bluebird release are equally bizarre – Everybody’s Talkin’ and Give Peace a Chance, for example – but much of this record really works. Perhaps that’s due to the jazz royalty that appears with Armstrong – Thad Jones, James Spaulding (again), Kenny Burrell and Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie among many others. The opener is a take on We Shall Overcome and that includes Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Tony Bennett and Chico Hamilton! The album was re-released on Boplicity in 2014 and there are several examples on Discogs.

8. Dexter Gordon – Cheese Cake from Go!/The Best of Dexter Gordon

This is Derek’s choice but it fully reflects a current vinyl obsession for Neil too. For years, he passed on Dexter Gordon but – as so often in jazz – things come around when you least expect them. It’s the resurgence of Blue Note reissues that are responsible for a current fascination with Long Tall Dexter. Thanks to label boss Don Was and his reissue programme under both the Blue Note Classics and the Tone Poet series, you can now buy superb sounding reissues of albums like Go!, Doin’ Alright, A Swingin; Affair and (the daddy of them all) the magnificent One Flight Up. Go! is a standout album though, with inspired takes on I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry and Love for Sale. The backing is terrific too: Sonny Clark on piano, Butch Warren on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. If you want somewhere to start with Dexter Gordon then this is the place.

9. Freddie Hubbard – The Return of the Prodigal Son from Backlash/Anthology: The Soul-Jazz Fusion Years 1966-1982

The UK Soul Brother imprint has been responsible for some excellent anthologies over the year – and this is one of the best. It’s a compelling look at the years between 1966 and 1982, during which the trumpeter recorded over 20 records for a host of different labels including Atlantic, Columbia, CTI and Elektra. For those jazz-heads who just value Hubbard’s Blue Note years this 2CD set offers some real surprises – and in a good way. This compilation really does select the best of Hubbard’s playing and composing from this period and so comes highly recommended. The Return of the Prodigal Son comes from Backlash, the first of the Atlantic albums, and features James Spaulding on flute and alto along with Albert Daley on piano and Ray Barreto on percussion. The album also includes a first outing for the gorgeous Little Sunflower, which Hubbard would revive on his 1979 The Love Connection album, this time with vocals by Al Jarreau and inspired piano from Chick Corea.

10. Tommy McCook – Beirut (CD Bonus track) from Reggae in Jazz

It’s almost a tradition now but ending the show with a ‘jazz not jazz’ choice is back.  Here at CJ we like to stretch our musical boundaries, so here we go again. Saxophonist Tommy McCook attended the famous Alpha Boys School in Jamaica, from which emerged many important reggae and jazz musicians, and it was here that he learnt to play reed instruments and flute. Jazz artists Joe Harriott and Alphonso ‘Dizzy’ Reece went to the school and ended up as significant members of the UK jazz scene.  McCook, (although in the Bahamas from 1954 to 1962) stayed in Jamaica where leading sound system owner Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd persuaded him to join an all-star band which McCook named the Skatalites. Ska and rock steady dominated Jamaican music in the 1960s and  horn players such as Tommy McCook  were a vital part of these popular styles. By the 1970s reggae had become more popular and McCook was now producing horn sections for reggae producers. Reggae in Jazz was recorded in 1974 for producer Bunny Riley and released in 1975, with McCook accompanied by a host of what anyone with any knowledge of reggae would recognise as some of the island’s top musicians – Sly Dunbar, Carlton Barrett, Robbie Shakespeare, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, Jackie Mittoo, Ansel Collins, Roland Alphonso, Bobby Ellis and Vin Gordon. Despite the title, the music is more reggae instrumental than jazz, but jazz was part of the Alpha Boys School education and, in the Jamaican music of the 1960s and 1970s, part of the musical mix too.

More Cosmic Jazz soon…

Neil is listening to…

28 March 2022: Ubuntu Music, harp players, Jarrett, Tjader, Pascoal and more

This show includes artists on the Ubuntu Music label, the subject of the April 2022 Jazzwise magazine covermount CD celebrating 25 years of publication, and a label with a mission. Ubuntu is part of a Zulu phrase that translates as I am because we are. It’s that nebulous but essential concept of common humanity or oneness – something we need more of in these troubled times. Cosmic Jazz always features music from the global jazz family and this show brings together two jazz players who trained as classical harpists, Keith Jarrett with his Standards Trio trio, the undersung saxophonist Booker Ervin and music from Japan and Brazil.

1. Camilla George – The People Could Fly from The People Could  Fly 

We begin with saxophonist Camilla George on the Ubuntu label and a track from her album The People Could Fly released in 2018. George and her band now have a special place for Derek as her outdoor performance at Snape Maltings last summer was the first live music he saw post-pandemic. Besides, any band with the wonderful pianist/keyboard player Sarah Tandy in it, is always special. The title tune from The People Could Fly includes the excellent Shirley Tettey on guitar, Daniel Casimir on bass and Femi Koleoso on drums. The music is inspired by a book of Nigerian tales called The People Could Fly – stories steeped in slavery and told to Camilla as a child by her Nigerian mother. The band have been touring the UK recently, so do look out for them and go listen if you get the chance.

2. James Copus – From the Source from Dusk

James Copus is an award-winning trumpet and flugelhorn player and composer based in London, UK, who graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2016. His debut album Dusk, released in on Ubuntu in 2020, features all original compositions and has a great line-up of Jason Brown (drums), Tom Cawley (piano/synths) and Conor Chaplin (bass). He has played and/or recorded with such artists as Jorja Smith, Ashley Henry, Joss Stone, Cory Wong, James Bay, Boy George and an artist we have featured recently on Cosmic Jazz, drummer Myele Manzanza. Although the limited edition CD of Dusk is now sold out on Bandcamp, you can still buy the digital download here.

3. Noemi Nuti – Sunny Perfect Sunday from Venus Eye

Born in New York City and from Italian descent, Noemi Nuti’s musical personality is certainly a mix of Mediterranean and metropolitan sounds. She’s a graduate of Trinity College and has a Brunel University degree in classical harp too. Her debut 2015 album Nice To Meet You was the first release on Ubuntu Music and in the same year she headlined at the Ipswich Jazz Festival. In 2017, Nuti collaborated with sax legend Jean Toussaint, pianist Liam Noble and a fantastic Brazilian rhythm section at London’s renowned Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho and in 2020 she released her largely self-composed second album Venus Eye from which we’ve taken the track Sunny Perfect Sunday track – also on the Jazzwise covermount CD. For more Noemi Nuti, check out her complete 2020 London Jazz Festival performance right here.

4. Alina Bzhezhinska, Tony Kofi, Joel Prime – Alabama from John Coltrane

Ubuntu recording artist Alina Bzhezhinska is very much in the spotlight at the moment following a successful fund-raising concert for her home country of Ukraine in March 2022.  We capture here in an earlier trio format with saxophonist Tony Kofi and Joel Prime on drums with their reflective take on John Coltrane’s immensely moving Alabama, first recorded following a 1963 racist church bombing in which four teenage girls were killed. The story of the recording and the horrific incident that inspired it can be found here. You also can see Bzhezhinska here in another trio format (this time with on Julie Walkington on bass and Prime again on drums) recorded during lockdown at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in the UK in 2020.

5. Keith Jarrett Trio – Poinciana from Whisper Not

Want to know where to start with Keith Jarrett’s  Standards Trio? You’re likely to do better than with this 2CD live recording from 1999. Recorded live at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, the trio has rarely sounded more focused – perhaps because there are no long codas here. Instead there are pretty much straight ahead takes of some classic bebop tunes, including Bouncing With Bud, Round Midnight and Grooving High alongside virtuosic versions of Prelude to a Kiss, When I Fall In Love and a tune made most famous by Ahmad Jamal, Poinciana. But it’s not just Jarrett, of course – bassist Gary Peacock has rarely sounded better and drummer Jack DeJohnette always finds the right detail in his sophisticated playing. It’s a magical recording and one Neil frequently turns to for a display of piano trio artistry. As with all of the Standards Trio recordings on ECM Records, the sound is superbly realised. Highly recommended.

6. Cal Tjader – Borneo from Several Shades of Jade

One of the most unique albums of Cal Tjader’s career, 1963’s Several Shades of Jade is a collaboration with Argentinian composer and arranger Lalo Schifrin that transposes the vibraphonist’s musical travels from Latin America to the Far East. With that in mind, you could reasonably expect that this means those standard clichés of such projects of the time (tuned gongs and kitsch melodies) but you’d be wrong. This is certainly not Asian music, but Schifrin frames Tjader’s meditative vibraphone solos in typically imaginative arrangements that just sound cool. The title might suggest a reference to Scott leFaro’s wonderful Jade Visions but we do get a take on Horace Silver’s Tokyo Blues. A record worth searching for – but do avoid the lacklustre follow up record, Breeze From the East, which strays much too far into that cod-Asian territory.

7. Booker Ervin – Tyra from The In Between

The In Between is a 1968 session for Blue Note that saw Ervin working with a little-known quartet to really push the boundaries of hard bop. Ervin was associated with two key figures in jazz – bassist Charles Mingus, with whom he worked in the early 1960s, and pianist Randy Weston, who rated him as highly as Jon Coltrane. On The In Between he’s supported by trumpeter Richard Williams, pianist Bobby Few, bass player Cevera Jeffries and drummer Lennie McBrowne.  Every tune on the record is an Ervin original and Tyra is a memorable composition. The music is edgy, volatile hard bop that fully explores Ervin’s muscular tone. If you can find it, it’s another CJ recommendation. Sadly, Booker Ervin died in 1970 at just 39.

8. Kyoto Jazz Massive – Primal Echo from Message from a New Dawn

Yes, they’re back! Almost 20 years after their landmark Spirit of The Sun album, brothers Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino have emerged with a new album. There’s elements of techno, house, broken beats and more here – but at the heart of this record is a jazz sensibility. Guests include Roy Ayers and Vanessa Freeman and Primal Echo is typical of their eclectic sound. The Okino brothers also perform and record as Kyoto Jazz Sextet alongside a handpicked ensemble of talented jazzers – try this unreleased take on Pharoah Sanders’ You’ve Got to Have Freedom or Song For Unity to get a flavour of a more directly jazzy direction on the Unity album, released in 2017.

9. Lettuce – Gravy Train single from album Unify

This hip-hop/jazz/funk sextet have now completed a trilogy of albums that began with 2019’s Grammy-nominated Elevate and continued with 2020’s Resonate. Unify – scheduled for release in June 2022 – continues their characteristic sound.  After spending the pandemic apart, the members of Lettuce – Adam Deitch (drums), Ryan Zoidis (saxophone), Adam ‘Shmeeans’ Smirnoff (guitar), Erick ‘Jesus’ Coomes (bass), Nigel Hall (keyboards/vocals) and Eric ‘Benny’ Bloom (trumpet) are back in force. Bass player Coombes noted in a recent interview that “We’re just getting tighter and tighter – [this is] the best the band has ever been: live and in the studio; the funkiest and the most fun.” Check it out.

10. Hermeto Pascoal Grupo Vice-Versa – Mavumvavumpefoco  from Virando Com o Som

And to end the show, a final look at the legendary Brazilian arranger and more, Hermeto Pascoal, Arranger, composer and multi-instrumentalist, the 85 year old Pascoal remains a vital figure in the music. For his upcoming live performance in the UK at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May, he will be premiering new commissions scored for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Expect endlessly-modulating melodies and unusual tones on everything from squeaky toys, old teapots or Pascoal’s favoured accordion. The Viranda Com o Som album was recorded in just two days in 1976 in São Paulo and features Pascoal’s go-to ‘Paulista’ rhythm section of the day: Zé Eduardo Nazario (drums), Zeca Assumpção (bass) and Lelo Nazario (electric piano), as well as saxophonists Mauro Senise, Raul Mascarenhas and Nivaldo Ornelas, guitarist Toninho Horta and vocalist Aleuda Chaves. In the studio, almost everything recorded on the first take ended up staying in the final mix – but the master tape was lost for years. Now found and restored, this is another album to add to your collection. The invaluable Bandcamp have just issued an excellent feature on Pascoal – you can find it right here. For a final look at this extraordinary musician, check out this lengthy essay by Andy Connell, reproduced here thanks to Far Out Recordings who have also just released the first self titled album we featured in our last show.

More Cosmic Jazz music soon.

13 March 2022: featuring Hermeto Pascoal, a Fergus McCreadie exclusive and more

More great new music from Cosmic Jazz on this show: we celebrate the April arrival of Hermeto Pascoal to the UK along with the re-release of two great Pascoal records. His tour with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra reaches our part of the UK on 13 May at St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich to open the 2022 Norfolk & Norwich Festival. We also have an exclusive from Fergus McCreadie’s soon to be released new album, new records from three great US artists and some Ukranian-based music to end the show. Click that Mixcloud button and sit back…

  1. Sergio Mendes – Pipoca from Brasileiro

It seems that Sergio Mendes has always been there. He was hugely popular in the 1960s around the world with his easy listening approach to Brazilian bossa and samba, before something of a late career renaissance with high profile collaborators like the Black Eyed Peas pitched him into a more contemporary spotlight. But there’s more to Mendes than this – take his Brasileiro album as an example. Mendes has attempted something similar with his ground-breaking Primal Roots album back in 1972, but Brasileiro from 1991 upped the rhythms – with much of the new approach due to the influence of Carlinhos Brown and a bunch of Bahian percussionists. The great Brazilian songwriters are in here too – Ivan Linss, Gilberto Gil and Joao Bosca – but Pipoca is all the work of master arranger Hermeto Pascoal. This album is, along with Primal Roots, among the best of Mendes – and, of course, it’s highly recommended.

2. Hermeto Pascoal – Guizos (Bells) from Hermeto

New to Hermeto Pascoal? The problem, then, is where to begin with this now 85 year old Brazilian multi-instrumental iconoclast. Let’s start with his nickname – o Bruxo (the Sorcerer), an indication of the extraordinary sounds he derives from conventional and unconventional instruments. He’ll use children’s toys, teapots and even – on one celebrated record – the squeal of pigs. Pascoal grew up deep in the countryside of north east Brazil and, because his albinism prevented him from working in the fields with his family, he practised the accordion for hours each day along with using these found objects to make his unique music.  And perhaps the fact that his father was a blacksmith first alerted him to ‘found sound’ possibilities. Guizos (Bells) comes from the first record released under his own name in 1970 and was recorded in the US with his compatriot and fellow musician Airto Moreira (see below), Ron Carter on bass, Thad Jones on trumpet, Joe Farrell on saxes and flutes and a 35 piece orchestra – quite a coup for your first solo venture!

3. Quarteto Novo – Vim de Sant’ana from Quarteto Novo/Blue Brazil Vol 1

The influential Quarteto Novo recorded just one self-titled record (released in 1969) and is noted for launching the careers of both Airto Moreira and Hermeto Pascoal, along with the lesser-known Heraldo Do Monte on guitar and and Theo De Barres on bass. The album was one of the earliest to mix influences from traditional Brazilian folk forms with jazz sensibilities and – thanks to the arranging skills of Pascoal – has a samba feel but mixed with the north eastern baião that Pascoal knew from his childhood. Fora taste of the style, listen to this typical song from the baião master Luis Gonzaga – Baião de Dois. Quarteto Novo’s album has been re-released several times in recent years, most recently in 2014 on the Odeon label out of Brazil. The album ends with a bizarre take on Dori Caymmi’s O Cantador but perhaps the two most famous tunes – both of which have gone on to be recorded by numerous artists – are Ponteio and Misturada. Don’t pass up on this record if you see it – it’s an essential album in anyone’s collection. Which brings us back to o Bruxo: if you want to find out more about the sorcerer then this excellent Bandcamp feature will get you started.

4.  Fergus McCreadie Trio – Forest Floor from Forest Floor

If you’re a regular listener and reader here you’ll know all about Fergus McCreadie. We’ve promoted his music for almost a year now and we’re thrilled that his second release for Edition Records will be out next month. We’re indebted to Rob Adams for the title track from Forest Floor about which McCreadie has said In all my music I’m searching for an idea or a theme, that the composition and performance is based on. With this recording, it’s the same studio, same piano and same musicians but I feel the sound we have as a trio has become more developed and rounded somehow. Here at Cosmic Jazz we can only agree – and the new title track is a good example. The Scottish folk influences developed in his previous record Cairn remain central, but there’s a greater depth and range in the new music. With more sheer energy and a lyricism tempered with reflection, Forest Floor is one we’ll be returning to in weeks to come.

5. Kahil El’Zabar Quartet – A Time for Healing from A Time for Healing

Another familiar name on CJ in 2021, Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar is back in 2022 with his new album, A Time for Healing. There’s no David Murray on this recording, but the Spirit Groove band features El’Zabar on kalimba, drum kit, cajon, congas, shakers, vibes and vocals with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, spirit bowls and percussion, Justin Dillard on keys and percussion and Isaiah Collier on tenor and soprano sax, reeds and percussion – and, yes, that instrumentation suggests a heavy degree of Pharonic spirituality… As with previous El’Zabar releases, this double album is on the excellent UK Spiritmuse label and, not surprisingly, our recommendation is to get it on vinyl.

6. Immanuel Wilkins – Fugitive Ritual, Selah from The 7th Hand

The enigmatically titled The 7th Hand is the second release on Blue Note from 24 year-old alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. His first album, Omega, was produced by Cosmic Jazz favourite Jason Moran but this is self produced – and it feels at once more expansive and forward looking. Indeed, Wilkins notes in a recent Downbeat feature that Omega was a response to confronting painful moments in our history to mine these ruins and see what comes out.  The 7th Hand is altogether more exploratory and is the significance of the baptism scene Wilkins creates on the album cover where Wilkins is half-submerged in a river, surrounded by  women, and with his head cradled in the hands of a priestess figure. Wilkins calls this a ‘baptism remix’ and notes that water flows through the vessel but at the moment of vesselhood you are not only a conduit, you are subsumed  too. It’s a powerful image and reflect the recording process: all tracks recorded in the same order they appear o the record, with the extended 26 minute final track something of that mystical experience of immersion in the music. It’s a powerful end to this excellent album which features Wilkins’ regular quartet – Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass and Kweku Sumbry on drums. There are guest appearances  from the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble on one track and from flute player Elena Pinderhughes on two more. The tune selected this week – Fugitive Ritual, Selah – features the quartet and is a beautiful, contemplative, deeply soulful and gospel infused number.

7. Orrin Evans – Libra from The Magic of Now

Wilkins also features on The Magic of Now, a 2021 album from pianist Orrin Evans and his quartet – but there are deeper links too. There’s a similar uplifting spiritual quality to the music, and with three tracks composed by Wilkins it’s not altogether surprising. Vincente Archer, onetime bass player with Robert Glasper, and Bill Stewart on drums complete the quartet. Orrin Evans has been a bandleader for twenty-five years with as many albums to his credit as a solo artist, and he also spent three years with The Bad Plus. Like Wilkins, he’s from Philadelphia and, along with his wife Dawn Warren Evans, has made an important contribution to both veteran and upcoming musicians in that city.

8. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration

There is no need to explain why the Polish/Ukranian harpist Alina Bzhezhinska is included in the show. She was originally a classical musician but has became a leading jazz educator and performer in Scotland, exploring the work of jazz harpists Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby. Now part of the London jazz scene, her 2018 record Inspiration on Ubuntu Records featured both music from Alice Coltrane and this from from John Coltrane, a reflective, trance-like version of his beautiful tune After the Rain.  Bzhezhinska organised and headed a recent concert for Ukraine at the Cockpit Theatre in London and commented My country is burning. As a native Ukrainian and a human being I can not be silent. I wish I could go and fight alongside my family who are all in the resistance, but I have to stay where I am and use my music as my weapon. 

9. Bill Evans – Peace Piece from Everybody Digs Bill Evans

There are similarly poignant and timely reasons for ending the show with Bill Evans and his piano solo improvisation Peace Piece. It has the most wonderful meditative, stillness and calm, invoking both isolation and tranquility. It is simply a piece for peace. Classical influences have been commented on – from Satie to Debussy to Ravel to Messiaen: that may be,  but just immerse yourself into every moment of the tune up to its final flourish and become enraptured in the beauty and the sense of peaceful contemplation it evokes.

More Cosmic Jazz music for body and soul coming soon.

27 February 2022: global jazz, a Brazilian rarity and an online exclusive!

In this show we visit many places across the world and – wherever we go – the music is dynamic, original , invigorating and essential listening. Take a trip with Cosmic Jazz. 

  1. Fergus McCreadie – On Law Hill from Forest Floor

After a few plays on Jazz FM and some jazz programmes north of the border (that’s the England/Scotland one), we’re one of the first online jazz shows to feature the new single from pianist Fergus McCreadie and his trio, bassist David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson. As we noted as long ago as March 2021, McCreadie blends jazz and Scottish traditional music and is inspired by the diversity of the Scottish landscape. On Law Hill is from the forthcoming album Forest Floor, out in April – and it’s a worthy follow-up to his superb Edition Records debut release Cairn which we also featured on more than half a dozen CJ shows last year – for example, our 07 March show. McCreadie says: In all my music I’m searching for an idea or a theme, that the composition and performance is based on. It’s a journey and adapts to each live performance. The recording documents the stage of that journey at a moment of time. With this recording, it’s the same studio, same piano and same musicians but I feel the sound we have as a trio has become more developed and rounded somehow. This album has its own journey, it’s own destination. Find out more on the Edition Records website.

2. Lucien Johnson – Magnificent Moon from Wax///Wane

Derek was inspired to play this track from Lucien Johnson’s excellent Wax///Wane album after hearing about the saxophonist from a friend. It was good to say that we had first featured this New Zealander back in April 2021. Neil was introduced to this record by Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) who also led us to McCreadie – and very welcome this was too. Neil has gone back to this record time and again – and and it continues to delight. Johnson is actually from Wellington, New Zealand 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. Johnson’s current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion and the music is deep, modal and with more than a touch of Pharoah Sanders too.  Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

3. Lee Morgan – Capra Black from The Last Session

Blue Note trumpeter Lee Morgan was just 33 when he was shot and killed by his wife Helen Morgan while playing at Slug’s Saloon in New York, fifty years ago in February 1972. One of the most prolific and consistent of Blue Note artists, Morgan modelled himself on Clifford Brown, another trumpeter who met an early death. Both supremely talented on their instrument, Morgan went on to have the longer career, recording prolifically for the label in the 1960-70s and netting a genuine chart hit with The Sidewinder from 1963. But there was much more to Morgan than this and, at the time of his death, the music was moving in new directions. This was captured in a record usually referred to as The Last Session and released by Blue Note as a double LP later in 1972. The music is remarkable, and features performances from Grachan Moncur III on trombone, Bobbi Humphrey on vibes, saxophonist Billy Harper, Harold Mabern on piano, Reggie Workman and Jymie Merritt on bass with Freddie Waits on drums. Harper is the composer of Capra Black and was to feature the tune as the title track on his own first release on Strata East. It’s of the label’s most essential records – and here’s Harper’s superb version. If you want to start your Lee Morgan jazz journey then try a favourite with many fans – including myself – 1966’s Search for the New Land. The sextet lineup is perfect, with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Grant Green on guitar, Herbie Hancock on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. All tracks are standouts but Mr Kenyatta (a tribute to the now rather forgotten alto player Robin Kenyatta) is another classic.

4. Joyce – Feminina from A Trip to Brazil Vol 2: Bossa & Beyond (Disc 1)

In a show of two halves (as they say), we featured some great female voices in jazz and beyond. First up is Brazilian singer Joyce – a longtime favourite artist on Cosmic Jazz. Soon to be released on Far Out Recordings is a long lost Joyce album, Natureza. But first – as they say – the back story. It was sometime in the 1980s that Derek and Neil (separately) went into London to visit the basement store of Mr Bongo Records, then in Soho’s Berwick Street, London – a haven for record buyers from all over the world. Here devoted crate diggers searched for hard-to-find Latin music – particularly from Brazil – and sourced by owner David Buttle who was bringing in records from Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba and Brazil. At the same time, DJs Gilles Peterson and Jo Shinner (standing in for the late and great Charlie Gillet) were promoting a record by Joyce that he’d been featuring on his radio show and – in a pre-download era – it was clear that there was only one solution. We both had to have this record. The album Feminina was one of those Buttle imports and there were limited numbers available. Priced then at £20, it was a rather extravagant purchase for the time but one we have both never regretted. Later Neil heard about the existence of a re-recording of Feminina that had taken place in 1977 when Joyce spent time in the US working with an orchestra led by Claus Ogerman and featuring – among others –  Joe Farrell on flute and Buster Williams on bass, with husband Tutty Moreno on drums. Inexplicably, the album was shelved (although one song escaped to feature on a lone Brazilian compilation, A Trip to Brazil: Bossa and Beyond), but Far Out will be releasing the complete album later in 2022 with the extended version of Feminina available now as a 12in single.

5. Somi – Hapo Zamani from Zenzile: The Re-imagination of Miriam Makeba

We featured vocalist Somi in our last extended show – and we make no apologies for including her again in this edition of CJ. Her new album Zenzile is an ambitious and fully realised tribute to South African singer Miriam Makeba and it’s really something special. The lead single is a take on Makeba’s classic Pata Pata and that’s been followed by Khuluma, featuring South African  singer songwriter Msaki. We’ve chosen Hapo Zamani, another classic tune from Makeba that appeared on her Pata Pata album in 1966, The original record been recently released on vinyl in glorious mono on Strut Records – you can find it here. Somi’s lifelong love of Makeba’s music and personal strength has resulted in a record that she calls a “re-imagination” of Makeba’s music and she notes that the album “is my attempt to honor the unapologetic voice of an African woman who inevitably made room for my own journey and countless other African artists. In short, I owe her. We all do.” Highly recommended.

6. Dayme Arocena – El Ruso from Nueva Era

Cuban vocalist and composer Dayme Arocena came to the attention of the wider world when British DJ/record label owner Gilles Peterson came across her during his first visit to Cuba. Apparently, she was “singing rumba at a house party in someone’s kitchen”.  As she was too young at the time it took him five trips to get her on record. Nueva Erawas the first recorded outcome. She can be seen in the second show of Huey Morgan’s Latin Music Adventure where she comes across as an engaging performer and an intelligent and thoughtful advocate for her country. The tune El Ruso includes some soaring trumpet in classic Cuban style from Adriel Valdes along with some great timbales action from Julio Cesar. It is always energising to return to Arocena’s  music.

7. Samara Joy – It Only Happens Once from Samara Joy 

We have played one tune from the eponymous 2021 debut album by New York born vocalist Samara Joy and it deserves to be played more. The album is a strong mix of covers with It Only Happens Once being a Frankie Laine composition – someone whose work ranged from pop crooner to gospel, folk, rock and blues. Samara Joy is backed by a trio of Pasquale Grasso on guitar, Ari Roland on double bass and Kenny Washington on drums. Grasso and Washington were tutors at the college in New York  where Samara studied and first came to love and appreciate jazz before winning the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition at just 22. The album is restrained and pared down to the essentials – all the better to showcase Joy’s impeccable timing and timbral richness. With tunes made famous by Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae this is one to check out.

8. Rosie Gaines – Honeychild from You Gave Me Freedom

Derek is probably taking his oft-used insert of a boundary-stretching tune at the end of the show to the very limits  with this choice – but go with him for a moment. Singer Rosie Gaines can certainly scat (it’s clear in this Bump & Flex remix of her hit I Want You) and she undoubtedly has a sensual and powerful soul voice – as we hear on Honeychild. Best known for her vocal and keyboard work with Prince in the 1990s – and particularly on the Diamonds and Pearls album – she also had a solo dancefloor hit with Closer Than Close. Gaines has released a number of solo albums on her own Dredix label but her fifth album You Gave Me Freedom (2004) appeared in the UK on Dome Records. Here Gaines was the sole vocalist, musician and programmer and at least a joint composer of thirteen of the fourteen tracks, including Honeychild which ends this show. Lyrically, vocally and musically the album is reminiscent of Marlena Shaw and, as a singer, Gaines is certainly her equal. It’s tragic that in recent years she has had serious health issues but – as we often say on Cosmic Jazz – here’s an artist that deserves to be better known. Your thoughts? Any responses welcome via [email protected]

16 February 2022: jazz new and old + an afrobeat classic

This time Cosmic Jazz is back into a mixture of new music from emerging artists on the US scene together with jazz from the greats.  Yes – we have Immanuel Wilkins, James Brandon Lewis, David S. Ware and Horace Tapscott in the CJ house together with more treasures for you to enjoy.

1. Somi – Love Tastes Like Strawberries (feat. Gregory Porter) from Zenzile

We start with vocalist Somi, whose new album Zenzile  (due out next month) is a tribute to singer Miriam Makeba. The release date is 04 March – what would have been Makeba’s 90th birthday. The lead single will be a take on Makeba’s classic Pata Pata but we’ve selected a tune recorded by both Makeba and her long time musical partner, trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Check out his excellent instrumental take on Strawberries here. South African Miriam Makeba was undoubtedly one of the first superstar musicians from the continent, but she endured three decades of political exile from her homeland, largely due to an impassioned speech she made at the UN in 1963 appealing for an end to apartheid. She referenced the Sharpeville Massacre in which two of her family members had been killed. Makeba was then blacklisted in the United States after her marriage to civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael and she did not return to South Africa until apartheid was dismantled in 1990. Somi’s lifelong love of Makeba’s music and personal strength has resulted in a record that she calls a “re-imagination” of Makeba’s music and she notes that the album “is my attempt to honor the unapologetic voice of an African woman who inevitably made room for my own journey and countless other African artists. In short, I owe her. We all do.” Joining her on Love Tastes Like Strawberries is singer Gregory Porter, whom Derek had the pleasure of interviewing on the show at the time of his first album release in  2010. Zenzile, incidentally, is Makeba’s given first name…

2.   Keyon Harrold – The Mugician from The Mugician

We had intended to play the title track from trumpeter Keyon Harrold’s first major label release a few weeks ago but, for reasons lost in the mists of time, it was shelved. We’re happy to return to a great modern jazz tune once more in this show. Harrold is – like many of his generation – at home in all kinds of settings. He’s recorded with Jay-Z, Beyoncé and the aforementioned Gregory Porter, and he notably recorded all the trumpet parts for Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s biopic of Miles Davis. We come back to The Mugician (2017) on a regular basis because it epitomises the ambitious, socially conscious, genre-bending jazz we like. Not surprising, given that Harrold cites both trumpeter Charles Tolliver and rapper Common as major influences. The result is that the record includes trip-hop and R&B elements alongside powerful jazz trumpet and a range of reflections on racism and bigotry (not surprising, given those events in Harrold’s hometown of Ferguson, Missouri). Watch Harrold celebrating the music of Miles Davis and playing his famous ‘moon and stars’ trumpet here.

3.  James Brandon Lewis – Resonance from Code of Being

There are not many artists who produce two full-length albums in a year but saxophonist James Brandon Lewis did just that in 2021 – not an easy year to produce anything! Jesup Wagon was followed at the end of the year by Code of Being from his quartet with Aruan Ortiz on piano, Brad Jones bass, Chad Taylor drums. This one is released on the Swiss label Intakt Records, an excellent source of edgy contemporary jazz. The tune Resonance begins and ends with a hymn-like quality and in-between is the improvisation, the interplay between the musicians, the fast and nimble work from pianist Aruan Ortiz and at various points the warm, full and wholesome tones from Brandon Lewis. This is serious music: as Brandon Lewis says in the liner notes My only desire is to constantly reach for the truest version of myself everyday until I exit for the next realm, and hopefully I leave nothing unturned.

4. Immanuel Wilkins – Emanation from The 7th Hand

Immanuel Wilkins is a 24-year-old alto saxophone player born and raised in Philadelphia and The 7th Hand is the  follow-up on Blue Note Records to his much-acclaimed debut Omega, rated the Best Jazz album of 2020 by the  New York Times. He has already acquired that dangerous label ‘ the future of jazz’ but there is plenty here to suggest he will be an important player. The band on the tune Emanation is a quartet with Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns bass, Kweku Sumbry drums, with guests appearing on other tracks. The delicate, fast-moving runs of Wilkins interplay with the impressive piano of Micah Thomas to produce driving, contemporary, urban jazz music. The album is an hour-long suite comprised of seven movements with Emanation as the first.

5. Horace Tapscott – Niger’s Theme from The Giant is Awakened

Alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe made an appearance later in the show, but this 1969 record on the Flying Dutchman label is actually his first outing on record, here with Horace Tapscott, pianist and leader of the Los Angeles-based Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra. Here Tapscott is leading a rather unusual quintet – Blythe, Tapscott, two bassists (David Bryant and Walter Savage Jnr.) and drummer Everett Brown Jnr. The music is deep, spiritual and sounds more composed than it apparently was. Blythe went on to achieve great things, Horace Tapscott rather less so – but this record is undoubtedly one of his best and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find: our friends at Real Gone Music reissued it in 2020 – and with some copies on green vinyl too!

6. David S. Ware – Aquarian Sound from Flight of i

David S Ware firmly belongs in that ‘should be better known’ camp. A participant in the New York loft jazz scene of the 1970s, Ware didn’t record with his stunning quartet until 1989. In between, he’d spent years as a taxi driver making ends meet in the way that many avantgarde jazz musicians were required to do. The quartet was originally pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummer Marc Edwards with Susie Ibarra also occupying the drum chair in later incarnations. There are dozens of recordings with this group that are well worth checking out (if you can find them) but our choice comes from one of the standout records, Flight of i from 1991. Aquarian Sound is the opening track and it’s a stunning showcase for both Ware and Shipp, whose solo on this tune is just great, with shades of McCoy Tyner that echo Ware’s Coltrane-like tones. Ware’s records aren’t easy to track down now but they are all worth investigating – see if you can find the 2005 3CD set Live in The World which includes an extended take on Aquarian Sound.

7. Gil Scott-Heron – Spirits from Spirits

Neil remembers very clearly picking this up on vinyl in 1994, and it has featured on his turntable in the years since. Spirits was Gil Scott Heron’s triumphant return to the studio after a 12 year absence and – although there is some vocal deterioration – this is a politically charged, spiritual record on which the strong lyrics added to John Coltrane’s Equinox to become the title track are a real highlight. Long-time co-writer Brian Jackson returned on piano and Ron Holloway from Scott Heron’s Amnesia Express group was back on saxophone. It’s not just on Spirit that the jazz influences are strong and this is a consistent record that belongs in any collection. The CD reissue has some bonus tracks, but the vinyl is something of a standout pressing and is worth seeking out.

8. Flora Purim – This is Me from If You Will

After a 15 year hiatus, Flora Purim releases her new record on the Strut label in April. We’ve got a preview for you here with the tune This Is Me. The new album is a celebration of her music and collaborations, with new compositions alongside fresh versions of her favourite personal songs – the title track is a reprise from her work with George Duke on the 2000 album Cool – here’s the original version from that record. Twenty years before, Duke had recorded A Brazilian Love Affair, which included Brazilian Sugar – also featuring Flora Purim on vocals. The new album also includes a take on 500 Miles High – a song from the late Chick Corea’s Return To Forever band which included Purim too. If You Will brings together many of Purim’s closest circle of musicians including husband Airto Moreira, guitarist José Neto, her daughter Diana Purim on vocals and percussionist Celso Alberti. As with Scott Heron, the 79 year old voice may not be what it was, but – on the evidence of this tune – this is definitely a record to seek out. A vinyl version can be pre-ordered from Bandcamp here.

9. Lester Bowie – For Fela from African Children

More trumpet, but this time from Art Ensemble of Chicago member, Lester Bowie. Recorded for the Italian Horo label in 1978, African Children is a genuine lost treasure. Recorded in a single day, this double vinyl album features several side-long tracks including For Fela. Bowie is joined by Arthur Blythe on alto, Amina Claudine Myers on keys, Malachi Favors on bass and Phillip Wilson, one of Neil’s favourite drummers. In his Guardian obituary for Bowie, jazz writer John Fordham noted that in between Art Ensemble tours, Bowie would sometimes pack a bag and head for the airport with his trumpet, sure that it wouldn’t let him starve. On this basis, he stayed in Jamaica for a year and the locals would enquire after his health if they didn’t hear him practising. In Nigeria, he worked with Fela Kuti and Fordham writes: “Bowie recalled once that he was at his wits’ end in Lagos in 1977, telling himself “Lester, you finally ____ up, you can’t play your way out of this. Then a guy told me to go see Fela Kuti. I took a cab to Fela’s place and a little African guy comes out and says: ‘You play jazz? You from Chicago? Well, you’ve come to the right place, ’cause we’re the baddest band in Africa.’ Then Fela tells me to play a blues, my speciality. I played a couple of bars and he says: ‘Go get his bags, he’s moving in’. I stayed with him about a year, and it was fantastic.” You can hear Bowie on an essential Fela album, No Agreement – here’s the extended title track. Just relish that moment after the five minute mark when Bowie enters – it’s pure magic! His breathy slurring and fiery, rhythmic stabs are a perfect fit for Fela’s music. You’ll pay over €100 for a mint copy of African Children but this is definitely one to go crate digging for.

10. Fela Kuti – Sorrow, Tears & Blood from Sorrow, Tears & Blood

After Neil’s choice of a tune for Fela, it seemed appropriate to follow it with music from the man himself. Derek has been lucky to see two of Fela’s UK performances, including his only UK show outside London at the Cambridge Junction. He has also had interesting conversations with a friend who knows Fela’s family and who interviewed him in The Shrine – Fela’s club and cultural centre in Lagos – resulting in an article for The Guardian newspaper. The tune Sorrow, Tears & Blood builds in the classic Fela style, but the overall pace is more restrained than many of his tunes, possibly as a result of its subject matter, In 1974 Fela established the Kalakuta Republic around his home in defiance of the Government and the Nigerian establishment. The Republic grew in popularity in the neighbourhood, despite harassment and attacks from the authorities. Throughout Fela was not to be silenced and at the Festival for Black Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in Lagos in 1977 he performed Zombie – one of his most potent satires against the Nigerian military. Zombie quickly became hugely popular but this then outraged the Nigerian army who sent in 1000 armed soldiers to attack the Republic. Fela’s house was burnt down, its occupants were beaten and his mother was thrown from a first floor window. She later died from her injuries. Sorrow, Tears and Blood was written in the wake of this attack and the lyrics describe the scene: Everybody run, run, run/ Everybody scatter, scatter/ Some people lost some bread/ Some people just die…Them leave sorrow, tears and blood/Them regular trademark. It’s a powerful polemic which still retains its potency. You can easily find the album on CD backed with another excellent Fela record Opposite People (1977), but Bandcamp can provide a vinyl version via Fela’s Kuti’s site right here. As Fela said, Music is the weapon. Music is the weapon of the future.  More Cosmic Jazz music soon.

January 31 2022: Elza Soares, Latin influences and more

 

This latest Cosmic Jazz show has a Latin feel. Brazil features strongly but we’ve added more examples of Latin influences on jazz musicians – that longheld connection between jazz and Latin music remains a strong one.

1.  Sonzeira feat. Elza Soares – Aqualera Do Brasil from Brasil Bam Bam

So we begin with a celebration of the extraordinary life of Brazilian singer, Elza Soares. If there isn’t a biopic of her life there should be. Soares died earlier this month at the age of 91 – and she recorded here final album just two years ago. Born in a Rio favela, she was forced into marriage at 12 by her father and had her first child a year later.  At 21 she was already a widow and forced to raise her five children on her own. Her first record in 1959 was an immediate hit and with her distinctive raspy voice she became a samba star releasing well over fifty albums over her long career. We’ve chosen one record from her later years and one recorded much earlier. In 2014 DJ and producer Gilles Peterson travelled to Brazil to record all-new material with a stellar line-up of Brazilian talent, under the name Sonzeira. The result was Brasil Bam Bam Bam which included mesmerising vocal performances from Seu Jorge, Marcos Valle, Kassin, Lucas Santtana and the then 76 year old Elza Soares. She chose the classic Aqualero do Brasil (often just called Brazil), one of the most recorded songs in history – but, typically, gave it her unique twist.

2.  Elza Soares – Mas Que Nada from Blue Brazil Vol. 2

Our second choice will be familiar too – it’s Jorge Ben’s classic Mas Que Nada, made famous in 1966 by Sergio Mendes and recorded many times since then, including in a characteristically scatty Ella style by Ms Fitzgerald herself. Soares first recorded this song in 1970 and it’s this version we feature here. Originally on the Soares album Sambas e Mais Sambas, you can more easily track it down on the Blue Note compilation Blue Brazil Vol. 2 along with a host of other great Brazilian songs including this great take on Marcos Valle’s Freio Aerodinamico by Os Tres Marais.

3. Eumir Deodato – Flap from Os Catedraticos 73

One of Brazil’s most prolific musicians and arrangers, Deodato moved from Rio de Janeiro to New York in the late 60s, working as composer, arranger, producer and keyboardist on almost 500 records, under both his own name and with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind and Fire, Frank Sinatra, Kool and The Gang, George Benson, Tom Jobim and Bjork. He’s perhaps most famous for his inspired take on Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra but he was already famous in Brazil before his stateside move, working with Joao Donato and Marcos Valle, as well as recording with his instrumental samba jazz and bossa nova ensemble Os Catedráticos. This album included the funky hit Arranha Ceu (Skyscrapers) but we’ve chosen the more laid back Flap. If you can find it, try to get hold of his superb 1973 album recorded with Joao Donato – DonatoDeodato (Muse Records) – even a mint first edition won’t cost you too much. It’s both artists at their best, as evinced by this brilliant cut, Whistle Stop.

4. Kathryn Moses – Music In My Heart from Music In My Heart/Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Vol. 2  

There is a definite Latin feel to the show this time, but from artists influenced by the various shades of Latin music not just Latin musicians themselves.  Kathryn Moses is a Canadian vocalist, flautist and saxophone player who features on the show with a Brazilian-inspired samba track Music in my Heart. It was released originally as the title tune of an album in 1979 and on it she demonstrates her soaring voice, with an authentic Brazilian feel alongside her skills on the flute. The tune can also be found on Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Vol. 2. Beadle is a British jazz club DJ – one of those skilled at finding and digging out for record release fine tunes such as this, which avoid mainstream collection but sound great in a club, or your home, or on a jazz show!

5. Mingus Big Band – Tijuana Gift Shop from Que Viva Mingus

Derek likes to dig out records from his shelves that have often been unjustly ignored for some time. One such record is Que Viva Mingus from The Mingus Big Band released in 1987. This is a band that continued to the music of bassist/composer Charles Mingus after the bassist’s death in 1979. Here at Cosmic Jazz we’ve not played enough Mingus over the years and so felt it was time to redress the balance a little. This iteration of the Mingus Big Band was founded under the artistic direction of the composer’s widow, Sue Mingus, and Que Viva Mingus draws upon Mingus’s continuing experiments with Latin rhythms which started with the early Moods in Mambo written at the age of 27 (but unrecorded) to full length albums like Tijuana Moods from 1962 and Cumbia and Jazz Fusion from 1978, recorded not long before Mingus died. Tijuana Gift Shop, originally from Tijuana Moods, is here arranged and conducted by Michael Mossman, with solos by Ryan Kisor on trumpet and Vincent Herring on alto sax. It has a true Latin big band feel, although Mossman noted a “middle eastern kind of vibe” in the early section. Chris Potter, Randy Brecker, Milton Cardona, David Sanchez, Steve Turre and John Stubblefield were among the other members of the band.

6. Charles Mingus – Meditation on Inner Peace from At UCLA 1965

In September 1965 Charles Mingus performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival. He had done so the year before too, but his 1965 set was inexplicably cut short at and so the new material he had planned for the event was instead played at this UCLA concert just a week later. The show was recorded and Mingus pressed a few hundred copies into a self-released two-LP set but the master tape was lost until Sue Mingus released the complete concert in 2006. And it is complete: the raw, unvarnished music with dialogue, harangues and some very rough spots all preserved, is a reminder of the tempestuous nature of Mingus’s life and music. At one point on the first disc, Mingus actually sends some musicians off the stage and continues as a quartet. But on the best moments on the record the band is superb – as here on Once Upon a Time, There was a Holding Corporation Called Old America and our choice, the evocative Meditation on Inner Peace.

7. Kenny Barron – Other Places from Other Places

Another artist found on Derek’s shelves was pianist Kenny Barron, and his 1993 Verve album Other Places from which the title track is taken. A gently swaying tune with a Latin feel to which  Kenny Barron provides subtle, rolling keyboard responses to Bobby Hutcherson’s vibraphone and Charles Moore’s sax before taking the lead himself. Also on the album are Rufus Reid on bass, Victor Lewis on drums and Mino Cinello on percussion. Kenny Barron is recognised as a mainstream jazz master whose work also included – like Lloyd McNeill – a professorship at Rutgers University where he mentored David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard and Regina Bell.  While still at high school he worked with drummer Philly Joe Jones and then went on to play with Dizzy Gillespie, where he developed an interest in Latin and Caribbean rhythms. Barron is still recording and performing: his most recent album was a second duet with British bassist Dave Holland – a follow up to the excellent duo performances on The Art of Conversation from 2014. Here’s the superb Rain from that album.

8. Joe Henderson – No Me Esqueca from In Pursuit Of Blackness

By the early 1970s Joe Henderson, like many of his jazz peers, had become more politicised. The album titles of the time reveal all – Power To the People (1969) ), If You’re Not Part of the Problem… (1970) and this album, In Pursuit of Blackness (1971). Henderson moved into a freer kind of post-bop playing – never ‘out there’ like Archie Shepp, another politicised player of the time , but with freer arrangements and a more percussive heavy, electric sound. It was a tough sound to get right – and many jazz artists of the day didn’t quite manage it – but the Latinesque opening No Me Esqueca  is great with George Cables on Fender Rhodes and Curtis Fuller on trombone in particularly fine form. The tune is a more uptempo version of Recorda Me from Henderson’s first album for Blue Note and it’s one of the best tracks on the record.

9. Lonnie Plaxico – Stop Look and Listen from Short Takes    

The show ended with another of Derek’s vinyl re-discoveries – the album Short Takes from bassist Lonnie Plaxico. There may be reasons why this particular album has been left on the shelves for a while but – on reflection – it’s an album that gets better as you go through the tracks. Derek chose a tune which fits our Cosmic Jazz criteria of regularly ending the show with a genre-stretching choice. Stop Look and Listen is a Thom Bell/Linda Creed ballad made famous as an R&B classic by The Stylistics.  “Melodic charm” is the very apt description of the tune from the album sleeve notes and Derek loves it! Background vocals are provided by Carla Cook and Lennie Plaxico leads with bass solos and improvisations. David Binney and Greg Osby are among the long list of musicians included on the record.

16 January 2022: tributes to Mtume, Lloyd McNeil and more

Cosmic Jazz this time round presents a much shorter show but one that pays tribute to two artists we have admired and revered since the start of the show, over fifteen years ago. Mtume and Lloyd McNeil both died earlier this month and we honour them with four wonderful tunes.

James Mtume, Grammy award-winning singer and producer, photographed on February 5, 2020.

1.   Mtume – Yebo from Rebirth Cycle

We begin our tribute to drummer and percussionist James Mtume, by playing the sort of tune we often use to end the show. It’s not jazz but R’n’B, and it was a bonafide global chart hit in 1983 from a former jazz musician who ranged across the spectrum of contemporary, spiritual jazz and played on numerous records, including with Miles Davis at his most ‘out there’ electric phase in the 1970s. But Mtume was much more than an accomplished jazz sideman. no less. Born James Forman in 1928, Mtume was the son of saxophonist Jimmy Heath (who died last year at the age of 93) but he was raised by his stepfather – also James Forman, a saxophonist who was nicknamed ‘Hen Gates’ – which in turn became the name of a tune on Mtume’s hugely influential Alkebu-Lan (Land of the Blacks) album. For more on this, check out this Cosmic Jazz post from August this year. The drummer actually made his recorded debut with a remarkable lineup: the album Kawaida (1970) was credited to his uncle Albert Heath, but four of the five tracks were written by Mtume and the band included Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry and Buster Williams. This is a superb record and has been recently re-released – check out Maulana here.

Back to the 1970s, and when Mtume moved to New York be began to get ‘A list’ work, appearing on records by McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Lonnie Liston Smith and more with his writing becoming an ever more important feature – check out the Lonnie Liston Smith version of Mtume’s beautiful tune Sais (Egypt). Mtume was then signed by Miles Davis (who knew a good drummer when he saw one), performing and recording on landmark releases like On the Corner (1972), Get Up With It (1974) and the live in Japan records from 1975, Agharta and Pangaea. Mtume was also recording with his own ensembles – which brings us back to Alkebu-Lan (recorded live at the East Club in downtown Brooklyn in 1972), and the studio-based follow up Rebirth Cycle (recorded in 1974 but released three years later).  Alkebu-Lan is claimed as the original name for the continent of Africa and this important record is full of references – both spoken and musical – to African-American origins. The Umoja Ensemble was fairly large with 15 players – and result in this live recording is thick and rather muddy – but the message of a spiritual freedom is clear. The music is an amalgam of different jazz genres – you can hear call and response chants, big band jazz, be-bop and free jazz all meshed together in a kind of organised chaos. This is music to immerse yourself into and emerge with an understanding of the way in which Black consciousness and jazz have intertwined over the years. Rebirth Cycle (1977) is a better album in many ways: there’s an extended take on Sais and a remarkable lineup of musicians, including Mtume’s father Jimmy Heath, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and saxophonist Azar Lawrence. Yebo features basically the Miles Davis band of the time, along with Tawatha Agee on vocals. This not an easy record to find and it has never been reissued on either CD or vinyl – the only copy on offer on Discogs is priced at £300 – so Neil will be hanging on to his treasured copy!

2.   Miles Davis – Mtume from Live in Tokyo 1975 

In a 2018 interview with fellow percussionist Adam Rudolph, Mtume noted that when he was recruited to Miles’s band, Davis had said to him “You are my Tony” referring, of course, to drummer Tony Williams. Mtume was influential in extending the range of the hand drummer in a band: instead of providing just additional colour, the percussionist was literally at the centre of the stage – in live performance with Davis, the two musicians would play side by side. There are just a few Miles Davis compositions simply titled after the musicians that inspired them – John McLaughlin, Dual Mr Tillman Anthony – and Mtume. We’ve chosen a short version from the live in Japan concerts that produced the Agharta and Pangea albums but the original 15 minute version is here on Get Up With It. You can hear how the percussionist is at the centre of the music alongside the wah wah trumpet of Davis.

3.   Lloyd McNeil – Salvation Army from Treasures    

Flautist and more Lloyd McNeil (1935-2021) deserves recognition from Cosmic Jazz. He was not just a jazz artist much admired by us, but also a painter and friend of Picasso who designed his own album covers, a music anthropologist, a poet and a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The album Treasures was released originally in 1980 on McNeil’s own Baobab label in New York. but – like five other of his albums – has been re-released in all formats by the British label Soul Jazz Records. Treasures combines deep spiritual jazz with Brazilian rhythms and melodies, McNeil having spent many years involved with Brazilian musicians. This album includes the Brazilian musicians Nana Vasconcelos, Portinho and Dom Salvador alongside American jazz artist, including Cecil McBee (who also appeared on Yebo above). The tune Salvation Army illustrates the fusion perfectly with the percussion of Vasconcelos to the fore alongside Lloyd McNeil’s jazz flute.

4.   The Lloyd McNeill Quartet – Home Rule from Washington Suite 

Washington Suite is another Lloyd McNeill album available through Soul Jazz Records – on coloured vinyl too! It is a deeply spiritual album, first released in 1970 on another of McNeil’s labels – Asha Records in Washington DC. Originally commissioned for the Capital Ballet Company, it’s another example of how McNeill was active in multiple spheres. He grew up in the years of the Civil Rights Movement and the ideals of the Movement are imbued in his music. He was one of a number of US jazz musicians who moved to France in the 1960s which is how, while playing music on the Mediterranean coast, he met Picasso. Over the years he played with a number of prominent musicians, including Nina Simone, Eric Dolphy, Mulatu Asatke and Sabu Martinez. McNeill’s global travels took him to Brazil and West Africa informing and influencing both his music and teaching. He was a man with an impressive range of abilities and achievements who used them to promote the ideals of many Black activists at the time of self-sufficiency and empowerment.

02 January 2022: 2021’s CJ favourites (part two)

We share more music that we have enjoyed during 2021. As in the previous show, we’ve got a mixture of new and re-releases covering a range of jazz and jazz-related styles – and, despite the our necessary reliance on mp3 files to broadcast, we are also celebrating the continued resurgence of vinyl…

1.  Daniel Herskedal – The Mariner’s Cross from Harbour

If you like atmospheric music with awe-inspiring melodies Daniel Herskedal’s sixth album for Edition Records is the music for you. A Norwegian tuba and bass trumpet player, he’s joined on this album by Eyolf Dale on piano and celesta and Helge Andreas Norbakken on drums and marimba. The Norwegian landscape has long been an influence on Herskedal’s music  and the landscape where this record was recorded is pretty unique: recorded in December 2020 at the remote Ocean Sound, the studios sit on Giske, an island on the rugged Norwegian coastline. The music on this album evokes something of that sense of ‘hygge’ – a word in both Danish and Norwegian that is all about the feelings of warmth and protection when sheltered from stormy weather and a wild sea. The landscape has always played a vital role in Herskedal’s music – and comes across as vast and deep but with that sense of minimalism in evocation the space and wild openness.

2.  STR4TA – Aspects from Aspects

2021 reminded us that Britfunk is still alive and kicking – thanks to some new compilations and STR4TA with their album Aspects. A fusion of jazz, funk, urban dance rhythms with some pop hooks, Britfunk was a UK-homegrown scene from the late 1970s onwards that proved it had lasting durability when Gilles Peterson and Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick from Britfunk pioneers Incognito got together and created STR4TA. The album appeared in March 2021 and the recreation of that pioneering British sound is faultless. There’s some concessions to the spacey synth melodies of groups like Atmosfear and Hi-Tension, but this album stands on its own as the essence of the era with a more contemporary twist. With the exception of some inane lyrics on a few tracks, this is a jazz dance must. For the session itself, Peterson and Maunick wanted to approach the music-making from the starting point that led to those early classic Brit-funk records like Freeez’s Southern Freeez or Atmosfear’s Dancing in Outer Space, capturing the raw energy and sound of the moment. Recalling his role in the process, Peterson says he was the one making sure things didn’t get too polished. “I was there at the back, telling them, no, leave it like that, cut it there, or just use that first take.” Also featured on the record are Francis Hylton on bass and Matt Cooper on both keyboards and drums. Great sound on vinyl too – check it out here on Bandcamp.

3.  Sault – Fearless from UNTITLED (Rise)

We first featured Sault in May 2021 – and this London collective still remains something of a mystery. The music seemed to arrive out of the blue: no interviews, no photos, no videos, no live appearances, no Wikipedia entry – and a perfunctory and entirely non-interactive social media presence. UNTITLED (Rise) was actually released in September 2020 but went on to be nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2021 – and, indeed, we reckon that this album is something of a masterpiece. The opening track Strong features beats spiked with explosions of dubby echo, an intricate mesh of Nile Rodgers-ish guitar and a terrific breakdown inspired by Brazilian batucada percussion while Fearless is supremely funky with flurries of disco strings and a dark, inspiring production that works against lyrics like “It hurts on the inside”. Vocalist Cleo Sol released her second album Mother in 2021 – and it’s well worth a listen too. Of course, UNTITLED (Rise) is available in all formats – check out your choice here on Bandcamp.

4.  Dexter Gordon – Tangerine from Live at Chateauvallon 1978

Neil has been listening to a lot of Dexter Gordon recently and the Record Store Day 2021 vinyl reissue of this 1978 concert sounds just great. Released on the Elemental label (who have done an equally good job with Barney Wilen’s live record – see below) the music first appeared as a double CD the previous year but the first two tunes on that set, Tangerine and More Than You Know, take up side 1 and 2 respectively on the later gatefold vinyl reissue. On Tangerine, Gordon characteristically introduces the Mercer/Schertzinger standard by reciting the opening lyrics and then stretches out with his superbly sympathetic quartet for over 20 minutes, quoting – in typical Gordon fashion – from Pop Goes the Weasel and If I Were a Bell, all with that unmistakeable burnished tone on tenor. Pianist George Cables, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Eddie Gladden are the same guys with whom he recorded the celebrated Live at Carnegie Hall a few weeks earlier and provide more than solid support. Either the single vinyl release or the 2CD full set are highly recommended.

5.  Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove – In My House from Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove feat. David Murray

Another long tune (originally over 20 minutes but we featured the shorter radio edit) and again one that celebrates effortless jazz viruosity. It’s not strictly a 2021 release as this record came in at the very end of 2020 but – thanks to Covid – Neil didn’t get a chance to listen to his vinyl copy until October 2021! This record appeared on the new UK Spiritmuse label – beautifully presented records in gatefold sleeves that are well worth getting hold of.  Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar has been recording for over forty years and on this album is joined by his contemporary, tenor saxophonist David Murray who is ably supported by Justin Dillard on on synth, organ and piano and young Emma Dayhuff on bass. El’Zabar himself takes up kalimba, drum kit, congas, shakers, vibes and even has a go at singing on this predominantly spiritual jazz release. As always, your best source for this record is the either the Spiritmuse or Bandcamp websites: you can find Spirit Groove here on Bandcamp – and still available in all formats.

Recording of the CD ‘La Note Bleue’. From left to right : Philippe Paringaux (scenarist of the animation film ‘Barney et la note Bleue’) and French jazz musician Barney Wilen (tenor and soprano saxophones). Monday, December 1st 1986, between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

6.  Barney Wilen – Besame Mucho from Live at Le Petit Opportun 1989

Back in 2017, Neil finally caught up with saxophonist Barley Wilen exploring his innovative 1970 album Moshi through Youtube clips. More of that later but a little Wilen background first… His mother was French, his father a successful American dentist-turned-inventor based on the French Riviera. As a teenager, Wilen started a youth jazz club in Nice before moving to Paris in the mid50s where he worked with a number of American musicians, including Miles Davis. It’s Wilen you hear on the soundtrack to Lift to the Scaffold, the celebrated Louis Malle film, reportedly recorded while the musicians watched a live screening of the film. In 1970, Wilen assembled a team of filmmakers, technicians, and musicians to travel to Africa and record the music of native pygmy tribes before returning to Paris where he created the Moshi album, a record unlike any other in the jazz canon. Knowing just the track Zombiezar, Neil was keen to find more and was lucky enough to find a copy of the excellent 2017 reissue of this dark, eccentric music  in Singapore, complete with a DVD of Caroline de Bendern’s film À L’intention De Mlle Issoufou À Bilma, which documented Wilen’s African journey. For Record Store Day in 2021, Elemental Music went all out with a magnificent box set reissue of Wilen’s 1987 La Note Bleue, overseen by Wilen’s son Patrick. In addition to the beautifully remastered record, there’s an English-language facsimilie of the Loustal-Paringaux comic book (Barney et la note bleue) that pays tribute to Wilen in a fictionalised version of his life and an LP-sized booklet that includes great photos from the recording sessions, as well as extensive notes and contemporary ads and press cuttings. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a CD of a great previously unreleased Wilen quartet recording, made at Parisian jazz club Le Petit Opportun that features reinterpretations of La Note Bleue tunes. Wilen is joined here by Jacky Terasson on piano, Gilles Naturel on bass and Peter Gritz on drums. If you can still find it, this is one of the best jazz box sets you’ll find – well worth looking out for.

7.  Walter Bishop Jr’s 4th Cycle – Sweet Rosa from Keeper of My Soul

We continue to celebrate the re-release of Black Jazz Records music via  Real Gone Music who are steadily issuing all twenty records from the label in all formats – including, for this one, orange with black swirl vinyl edition! Keeper Of My Soul was keyboardist Walter Bishop’s second release on the label and he’s supported here by flautist/sax player Hubert Laws, bass player Gerald Brown and vibraphonist Woody Murray. Contrary to the album title, the name of the band was not The 4th Cycle; instead, as the liner notes put it, the name reflected ‘Bishop’s composition and improvisational techniques based on the Cycle of 4ths and his various personal musical cycles as performer, student and teacher.‘ The album also has a sense of spirituality informed by Bisop’s yogic studies with Parmahansa Yogananda; little wonder, then, that Keeper of My Soul was a more ambitious, electric, and ‘out’ record than its Blue Note-influenced predecessor with Bishop exploring Keith Jarrett-like free-form passages (Those Who Chant), Latin stylings (a great take on Kenny Dorham’s classic Blue Bossa which first appeared on Joe Henderson’s First Page album) and a surprisingly funky take on Summertime. We featured the strong composition Sweet Rosa – typical of the strengths of this record over its predecessor.

8.  Kenny Garrett – Sounds from the Ancestors from Sounds from the Ancestors

We have played many tunes from alto saxophonist  Kenny Garrett on Cosmic Jazz and the 2021 release of Sounds From The Ancestors just has to be celebrated. Garrett has played with many of the greats of jazz –  Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard and many more – but his new album follows something of a different path. There’s direct respect to these important influences and the music they played but also to the jazz heritage of soul, gospel and Afro-Cuban music. This title tune, which begins with Garrett playing piano, includes an important contribution from guest Pedrito Martinez on percussion. Besides his core band the album welcomes several guests who bring with them experience of different musical styles. These include Jean Baylor and Dwight Trible on vocals, Lenny White on snare drum, Maurice Brown on trumpet and Johnny Mercier on piano, organ and Fender Rhodes. The record appeared on many Best of… jazz lists in 2021 – including ours.

9.  James Brandon Lewis – Archimedean from Code of Being

Here on Cosmic Jazz we have featured tracks from Jesup Wagon, an earlier 2021 release from James Brandon Lewis but, at the end of the year, another record emerged – Code of Being on the Swiss Intakt label. It is a quartet, with Lewis on tenor, Aruan Ortiz on piano, Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. This is an intense and enveloping experience as evidenced by our choice on this show.  The Archimedean Spiral was the logo chosen by the visual artists Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden and others for their Spiral collective, formed on 05 July 1963. The name was symbolic of the group’s varied artists and their many different styles, yet containing the common core purpose of establishing a black identity in a predominantly white art world. Many of the artists had moved from the South to New York and felt compelled to engage in the civil rights movement as artists. Sleeve notes to the album record that when Lewis was asked to place himself within the history of American music his response was that he sees himself as part of the tradition from John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins and that he hopes to contribute to that tradition. Indeed he does, – and Archimedean is undoubtedly the most modal and Coltrane-influenced track here, and so our final tune on the show is an appropriate follow-up and end point.

10. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme, Pt. II – Resolution (Live) from A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle

As with Miles Davis, the John Coltrane records keep on coming. How many more will turn up? The latest is from a live show recorded at the Penthouse Club, Seattle on 02 October 1965 and was found among the private tapes of a friend of Coltrane, the musician and educator Joe Brazil and was released on the Impulse! label in 2021. This is a truly significant recording because it’s only the second live performance of A Love Supreme that has been committed to tape (so far). We may think of A Love Supreme as tight, deeply spiritual, revelatory music but this performance is not that. Recorded at a time of change for Coltrane, with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones still with him – although not for long – additional musicians were brought in to change and extend the sound. Pharoah Sanders on tenor sax and percussion, Carlos Ward on alto sax and Donald Rafael Garrett on bass, adding to that of Jimmy Garrison from the original quartet. The result is dramatically extended performances that allow you to experience the music in a different way – it feels live, with Elvin Jones particularly high up in the mix. Jones said in 2002 that A Love Supreme is always a spiritual experience, wherever you hear it and although the recording quality has limitations (as you might expect from a portable reel-to-reel recorder) A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle is an essential record in any jazz collection. More Cosmic Jazz sounds soon…