Category Archives: Playlist

12 December 2021: this year’s CJ favourites (part one)

Regular listeners to Cosmic Jazz will have noticed that we’ve moved on this year. It’s much easier to listen to the show via the Mixcloud link and we’ve now got a Twitter feed for you as well. The music choices remains as eclectic as always though – just check out some of our favourites from this year – both new releases and re-issues – and look out for an upcoming feature from Neil on how the vinyl renaissance has led to a bumper crop of audiophile jazz reissues.

1.  Sivuca – Ain’t No Sunshine from Sivuca

This re-release from Real Gone Music is the perfect way to start any show – and we make no apologies for the fact we have played the tune several times previously. Brazilian accordionist/guitarist/composer and vocalist Sivuca performs the near impossible – covering a tune and making it sound better than the original. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the Bill Withers-penned original, but Sivuca simply sizzles with joy and exuberance and adds the je ne sais quoi. His accordion comes in from time to time with warm, full  and embracing tones, there is driving piano, the odd word from Sivuca sounding like a cool elder statesman and the beat all through is infectious. Then there is that choir – full of heavenly innocence and clarity that appears from time to time – pure perfection.

2.  Gene Russell – Talk to My Lady from Talk to My Lady

And on to another re-release from Real Gone Music – this time as part of their mission to re-release of all twenty records on the Black Jazz Records label. Keyboard player Gene Russell was a key man at Black Jazz: producer for all the releases, appearances on several of the recordings and with two albums of his own for the label – including this second release from 1972.  It’s a very different offering from the previous year’s New Direction, with Russell leading an electric band with bass player Henry Franklin to the fore and Calvin Keys on guitar. Both players recorded for Black Jazz Records in their own right and we have featured their music on previous shows. The tune has a jazz/funk feel to make the body sway, but with some restraint – this isn’t easy dancefloor stuff. Notably, Russell followed the example of Coltrane by including a surprisingly powerful take of My Favorite Things on Talk To My Lady. Well worth searching out.

3. Harry Beckett – Third Road from Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972)/Flare Up

Another essential re-release in 2021 was the compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972) compiled by @TheJazzDad Tony Higgins who, along with Mike Peden, has also been responsible for the excellent J Jazz series of re-issues (more of which later). 14 tracks from top British artists, many of whom have not always received the credit they deserved, but whose important music and its influence on contemporary British artists is now being recognised. At the launch of the compilation in August 2021, the UK’s Guardian newspaper highlighted these often under-sung musicians in a useful introduction. Trumpeter Harry Beckett was born in Barbados in 1935 but came to Britain in 1954 and was quickly in demand on numerous sessions, playing for many other musicians including an extended period with British composer Graham Collier. He was in demand enough to be featured on albums by – among others – Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, Nucleus, Stan Tracey and Keith Tippett. Our choice is from his first solo album Flare Up, for which Beckett was able to assemble an impressive array of musicians – John Surman, Alan Skidmore, Mike Osborne, John Taylor and John Webb. Third Road was arranged by the afore-mentioned Graham Collier, for whose band Beckett was a member for over fifteen years.

4. Kurt Elling – Dharma Bums from SuperBlue

We’ve written quite extensively about Chicagoan singer Kurt Elling’s new release on British label Edition Records, his second for the label. Forged from the limitations of Covid, Elling and guitarist Charlie Hunter worked thousands of miles apart to create one of this year’s standout records. Alongside them were drummer Corey Fonville and DJ Harrison, both from funk group Butcher Brown, and the result was a dynamic recording different from anything Elling had previously released – perhaps more akin to the playful funk-driven music of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson (like A Real Mother For Ya) than Mark Murphy. Just listen to (and watch) this live take of Cody Chestnutt’s The Seed for evidence. This time we chose the wonderful Dharma Bums – an explicit reference to the 1958 novel by Jack Kerouac that records Kerouac’s search for enlightenment with Japhy Ryder (a thinly disguised version of poet Gary Snyder) – but there’s a whole set of Beat references across Elling’s superb lyrics, quoted here: Come on!  I’ve got a wandering feeling that it’s time for moving on/ The arms upon the clock that’s on the wall are telling me that I’ve been standing still for much too long/ A picture’s always blank before it’s drawn. The night is darkest just before the dawn/ So you bring your tender brains & I can provide the brawn/ Come On!  I’ve got a vintage Ford Falcon that is hungry for the road/ The chromium is polished in the knowledge that we’re headed for an altogether distant postal code/ Might I suggest that on the way find the mystic motherlode/ Maybe we can find our just desserts and grab ‘em à la mode!/ ‘Cause when the night falls & stars shed their sparkler dims & don’t you know that God is Pooh-Bear holding out his honeyed paws to both of us from way out there?/ And when the spirit calls and both of us are filled up to the over-brim in that mescal & sage flavored air/ Then you’ll know that you are Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise is me!

5. Gretchen Parlato – Roy Allan (feat. Airto Moreira) from Flor

One of Neil’s favourites this year was from Gretchen Parlato, another jazz artist who chose to do something very different in 2021. Also on Edition Records (what a year they’re having!), Flor is an unexpected delight after Parlato had appeared to drop out of the music scene in 2013 after her early successes. In fact, she had had a child with her husband, drummer Mark Guiliana, and for several years she devoted herself completely to motherhood. So this album arrived after two years of live touring and an enforced quarantine and completely charmed us with its Brazilian spirit and personal vision. The album opens with the gorgeous É Preciso Perdoar, a song by one of Parlato’s touchstones here, João Gilberto. Difficult to get close to any other takes of this song (including the magnificent version by Gilberto and Stan Getz) but Parlato does it. From this point on, the album never looks back. We could have chosen any of the tracks, including the Minuet from Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 or a take on David Bowie’s No Plan. Our choice is one of the late Roy Hargrove’s best tunes, Roy Allan – here transformed into a brilliant samba featuring Airto Moreira. Everything on this outstanding record works – and so is a very worthy Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

6. Da Lata – Jungle Kitten from Jungle Kitten/Asking Eyes

Da Lata are muti-instrumentalist and producer Chris Franck and DJ Patrick Forge and they returned in 2021 with a 12in cover of the underground classic Jungle Kitten by Manfredo Fest, featuring Kaidi Tatham on synths. Like Sivuca and Gretchen Parlato, Neil thinks this take achieves that rare distinction of improving on the original. You can check out Fest’s version here – what do you reckon? Previous albums by Da Lata include the excellent debut Songs from the Tin (2000) and Serious (2003). Their take on Ponteio was released by Far Out Recordings back in 1998 appearing on the excellent Brazilian Love Affair 2 compilation and the corresponding Love Affair 3 also included a De Lata take on Os Escravos de Jo (Jo’s Slaves), a Milton Nascimento/Fernando Brant composition.

7. Doug Carn – Jihad from Revelation

Black Jazz stalwart Doug Carn’s earliest musical influences included his mother,  who was a formidable pianist and organist who had gigged with Dizzy Gillespie and knew tenor player Stanley Turrentine and organist Shirley Scott.  With his wife Jean, Carn moved to southern California in 1970 and took up residence in an apartment building that also housed Earth, Wind and Fire members and both Carns featured on the band’s first two records in 1971 before signing to the new Black Jazz label. Infant Eyes (which we have featured previously on CJ) was Carn’s first release on the label, with the excellent Spirit of the New Land following in 1972. Revelation is more obviously modal than previous albums and includes Olu Dara (rapper Nas’s father) on trumpet and Rene McLean (Jackie McLean’s son) on flute and alto sax. It was the final release by the Carns as a married couple and also included covers of Coltrane’s Naima and our choice – Rene McLean’s Jihad. In 2020, Carn teamed up with producer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalists Adrian Young and Ali Shaheed Muhammad for one of their Jazz Is Dead releases and the result included the atmospheric Desert Rain with its hip hop triplets and Carn back on Hammond B3.

8. Yasuhiro Trio + 1 – One – Song of Island from J Jazz Volume 3: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan

One of the many hidden narratives of post-WWII Japan is its long-running jazz scene. This taste for the most American of art forms intensified after the war, when a crackdown on what was considered the music of the enemy ended, the interests of stationed U.S. troops helped reignite the scene, and, later, touring legends found a willing market. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Japan was a hub of jazz invention, even if much of the music recorded was released on severely limited runs or private presses, meaning it barely travelled within the country, let alone beyond it. Fifty years later, collectors and jazz kissa aficionados (see here) compilers, Higgins and Peden have given us J Jazz Volume 3: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan. This latest instalment opens with Yasuhiro Kohno Trio + One’s Song of Island and a storm of solo piano keys. When the rest of the band enters and the full arrangement kicks in, Kohno’s delightful playing sits perfectly next to guest Masahiro Kanno’s smooth vibraphone as the pair take turns in front. The cymbals don’t so much crash as hum in the background. Like many of the selections in this set, Song of Island was recorded live—polite applause greets the end of the solos—and the mastering work in London preserves a warm, organic sound. There’s evidence here that Japanese jazz drew not just from American sources – there’s West African rhythms (Hiroshi Murakami & Dancing Sphinx), samba jazz (Hideo Shiraki) and – perhaps most bizarrely – flamenco (Eiji Nakayama). It’s a great set and another BBE Records essential.

9. Matt Carmichael – Cononbridge from Where Will the River Flow

Tenor saxophonist Matt Carmichael may be only just starting out in his career, but Where Will the River Flow is already a very assured debut. Just 21, Carmichael was a BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2020 and on this fine record he draws on Scottish folk traditions in a similar way to another of our favourite young musicians from Scotland, Fergus McCreadie (see below). Indeed, McCreadie appears on WWtRF and it’s clear that he and Carmichael work well together – check out this live take on Spey and their fast flowing unison playing. As with McCreadie’s most recent album, Cairn on Edition Records, Carmichael’s original compositions are strong on melody – particularly noticeable on our choice, the title track which again features McCreadie and a torrent of tumbling runs on piano. Thanks once more to Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) for this introduction: Matt Carmichael is the real deal – an exciting talent and already an original voice. Jazz trivia from Rob Adams: Cononbridge is named after Carmichael’s home town.

10. Fergus McCreadie – Cairn from Cairn

This is another important release on Edition Records. A wonderfully atmospheric record  that moves through the relaxing to the gently strident. Pianist Fergus McCreadie leads a trio with David Bowden on double bass and Stephen Henderson on drums and Cairn is his second record. It’s chockful of beautiful melodies and arrangements and we think it’s beautiful and inspiring music that lifts both soul and spirit.  All three members of the trio met at the Royal Conservatoire in Scotland and have been playing together for more than five years. McCreadie has won numerous prizes and was the under-17 Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the year and a Jazzwise magazine One to Watch in 2018. He’s influenced by Scottish traditional music and there is a feel for that and the diversity of the Scottish landscape in the music.

11. William Parker – Painter’s Winter from Painter’s Winter

Bass player William has been very busy this year on the record release front. Painter’s Winter is just one from the list which included a multi-album 10CD re-release.  This tune is haunting, eerie and spiritual, sparse and acoustic in sound with Daniel Carter featured on flute, Hamid Drake on drums and Parker on this track playing trombonium. “Painters love the winter, they hunker down and begin masterpieces’” say the sleeve notes to the album and this tune makes it sound like the painters will produce a deeply intense wintry piece of work – and the music is a spare, frosty meditation that repays repeated listening.

12. Lady Blackbird – Blackbird from Black Acid Soul

This is another sparse, stripped-down record, no percussion but bass and piano. and the voice of LA-based singer Lady Blackbird, aka Marley Munroe. What a voice it is too that she possesses and it is illustrated to the full on this Nina Simone tune, with all the power, emotion and despair that the tune evokes. The album has seven covers and four original compositions, with Sam Cooke, Tim Hardin and Irma Thomas being among the covers. Marley Munroe has been around for some time, although she’s still young. She has tried R’n’B  and even alt.rock with the sort of outcomes that can be common in the music industry. Black Acid Soul sounds like she has found where she truly belongs in a soulful/bluesy jazz mode. It looks like there should be more exciting sounds to come.

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

29 November 2021: Edition Records, remixes and great contemporary jazz

On Cosmic Jazz this time is new music from the UK’s Edition Records, a couple of boundary-stretching remixes, a rare track from the late Marion Brown, contemporary artists such as Vijay Iyer,  James Brandon Lewis and a Cuban-Canadian link to end the show. As always, it’s an eclectic mix here at CJ.

  1. Kurt Elling – Superblue from Superblue

Vocalist Kurt Elling takes risks – mixing spoken word, arrangements of avant-garde jazz classics, original compositions and obscure poetry. Declared “the standout male vocalist of our time” by The New York Times, Elling has garnered unprecedented accolades – fourteen years as a DownBeat Critics Poll, awardwinner and a dozen GRAMMY nominations – and his warm, rich baritone is as recognisable as Mark Murphy’s, with whom he shares the same willingness to explore and break musical barriers.  There’s always an elegant lyricism whether interpreting the Sufi poetry of Rumi or – as on this new record – interpreting a Tom Waits tune. Secrets Are The Best Stories (2020) was his first for Edition Records and featured renowned pianist and composer Danilo Pérez from Wayne Shorter’s superb quartet. With a freewheeling attitude to verse and interpretation it was a challenging but always rewarding listen. Superblue is different – recorded with members of the jazzfunk/hiphop outfit Butcher Brown alongside guitarist Charlie Hunter, this is a groove-laden record that takes on compositions from the afore-mentioned Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard, includes a raw and stripped-down treatment of Cody Chestnutt’s The Seed, and goes all out with a dazzling take on the Tom Waits tune. The thing is, Elling has still to meet Butcher Brown as – thanks to Covid-19 – their collaboration was recorded remotely with the musicians 1000 miles apart. You wouldn’t know it. Elling revisits the Beat generation again, name-checking Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in the hipsterish Dharma Bums, a wonderful road trip saga that hooks up with Wait’s grotesque narrative The Circus. Our choice is Elling’s taken on Freddie Hubbard’s fusion gem Super Blue, (a Benard Ighner composition) transformed here with serpentine lyrics into a psychedelic narrative.  As an aside, Ighner was the composer of the standard Everything Must Change, made famous by Quincy Jones and with vocals by Ighner himself.

2. Mark Lockheart – Dreamers from Dreamers

British saxophonist Mark Lockheart is also on Edition and has a new album that will be released in early 2022. We’ve got a premiere here for you – the title track is now a single that emerged earlier this month. We’ve heard the complete album and it certainly charts a new path for Lockheart, here in collaboration with Elliot Galvin (Dinosaur, Elliot Galvin Trio) on keys and synths, bass player Tom Herbert (Polar Bear, The Invisible) and Dave Smith (Robert Plant) on drums. Galvin’s use of synths and Herbert’s pedal effects are obvious additions to the sonic portfolio – and it really works here. As Lockheart explained “The grooves, the sonics and the musical character of each piece are all hugely important. The process of writing music for these musicians led me into a new sound world that’s very different from anything I’d done before”.  He has identified influences as diverse as John Zorn, Burt Bacharach, Duke Ellington and Kraftwerk – and that makes for an eclectic starting point which is clear in Dreamers. We’ll be returning to this superb new album in future shows.

3. Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey – Combat Breathing from Uneasy

This new album is credited to all three musicians – Vijay Iyer on piano, Linda May Han Oh on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Iyer’s previous trio – with Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums – was one of the most significant trios of the 2010s and a group that Neil championed on this show along with Iyer’s solo piano work. I remember playing his remarkable take on Human Nature when that first emerged on the ACT label in 2012 – a genuine rearrangement with rhythmic complexity, a stunning pianistic climax and a real emotional impact. Iyer’s new trio does have a link to the previous one: dark colours, elliptical arrangements and exciting choices of covers, one of which is Cole Porter’s Night and Day – not surprisingly, given a radical overhaul. Our choice is Combat Breathing which Iyer composed after the death of Eric Garner in 2014, amid waves of protest aligned with a then recently coined movement, Black Lives Matter. Here Tyshawn Sorey gives us J Dilla -style chopped up backbeats that work with Iyer’s  intense  – indeed, ‘uneasy’ – playing, which owes more than a little to McCoy Tyner here. It’s worth watching the live video of this recording from ECM Records but do go and buy this album if you’re looking for cutting-edge piano trio music.

4. Marion Brown – Pepi’s Tempo from Awofofora

Marion Brown, who died in 2010, is another of those jazz artists who should be better known. You’ll find him credited on the sleeve notes for John Coltrane’s Ascension, on Archie Shepp’s Fire Music and on Harold Budd’s The Pavilion of Dreams – and those who know will recognise that as something of a left-field or ‘out there’ collection. In fact, Brown recorded nearly 50 albums as leader over a long career in jazz that began with a first recording on the influential ESP label in 1966. Pepi’s Tempo comes from a 1976 release, Awofofora – and if you see it on vinyl snap it up. The only copy for sale on Discogs comes from Japan and is priced at US$500! Drummer Ed Blackwell and bassist Fred Hopkins are on this one and the music comes across as first cousin to the kind of harmolodic fusion that Ornette Coleman was developing a few years later on records like Of Human Feelings – here’s Love Words from that album.

5. Sean Khan (Kaidi Tatham remix) – Starchild from Supreme Love, A Journey Through Coltrane

Londoner Kaidi Tatham is a busy man. You heard his excellent remix of Nubya Garcia’s on our last show and here he is again with another project – saxophonist Sean Khan’s tribute to the music of John Coltrane, just issued on BBE Records. Intriguingly, there are three parts to this new record: The Future Present mostly comprises material written by or closely associated with Coltrane, reimagined by a plugged in, medium-sized, with-strings-and-harp ensemble that includes takes on Acknowledgement and Afro Blue; The Past has versions of Coltrane standards including Equinox and Impressions; and finally there’s The Future Past with two remixes of Khan originals by broken-beat pioneer Kaidi Tatham. “I made a conscious effort to represent all of Coltrane’s main artistic periods,” says Khan of the album. “From hard bop, to sheets of sound, to spiritual jazz and finally his last, most experimental and cosmic period. I have never heard a record that attempts to reflect all of the great man’s epochs in this way and use the recording artist’s autobiography, my own, as a conduit to these ends. So here I am, for better, for worse.” It’s a noble project and is a very definite Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

6. SunPalace – Rude Movements (Kenny Dope Dancefloor Powder remix) – from Rude Movements: the Remixes

Now this is a quality remix: it has that extended, hypnotic percussion typical of Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzales at his best. Behind the original is an interesting story too: back in 1981, two musicians got together to make a record. Mike Collins played guitar and had just bought a Roland CR78 – the first programmable drum machine. Keith O’Connell played Fender Rhodes piano and Prophet 5 synthesizer. Excited about the quirky and unusual instrumental track they’d composed, neither musician could have predicted what was to follow… Rude Movements is now viewed by many as one of the most influential early electronic dance records: the original version was played by DJ David Mancuso, who used it to devastating effect at his infamous Loft Parties – and, in turn, introduced it to Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, David Morales and Kenny Dope, then all young DJs who would go on to develop what we understand by dance music today. BBE Records released this influential track along with an original demo and three other versions in a double vinyl package that includes other SunPalace compositions. The original has an impossible-to-ignore hook and is well worth listening to alongside this remix – check it out here.  BBE then delivered a 7” vinyl release of SunPalace edits in 2020 before giving us this year the full versions of Moodymann and Kenny Dope’s remixes, alongside brand new interpretations by François K, Frankie Feliciano and OPOLOPO, plus a special edit by Phil Asher. Neil reckons that the best of these is that Afro-Latin Kenny Dope version – and that’s what we included in the show.

7. Kenny Garrett – For Art’s Sake from Sound from the Ancestors

The experience of hearing Kenny Garrett and his quartet in the close setting of Pizza Express in London was an unforgettable one for Derek. To be able to see this alto saxophonist – who had already an impressive collection of his own recorded music, not to mention his work with Miles Davis – in a close-up environment was almost unreal. Accompanied by his hugely impressive rhythm section, the show was a truly memorable experience. And Garrett is back on disc again in 2021 with his first release since 2016’s Do Your Dance. The new one is on Mack Avenue Records and is called Sounds from the Ancestors. Our featured tune For Art’s Sake (a dedication to Art Blakey) is a good example of Garrett’s approach on this record – remembering the musical ancestry of jazz and including the spirit of African ancestors from church services, recited prayers, songs from the work fields, Yoruban chants and African drums. All this with tributes to Roy Hargrove and those two drum pioneers Art Blakey and Tony Allen. Indeed some tracks feature additional drummers – as on Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats de champs. Here veteran drummer Lenny White and percussionist Rudy Bird join drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. (brother to bassist and singer Thundercat aka Stephen Bruner). Perhaps for the first time, we also get to hear Garrett on electric piano as well as his more familiar alto sax. “The Spirit is in the Sound. You know it when you hear it” say the notes to the record and you can certainly hear it in this music.

8. James Brandon Lewis – Jesup Wagon from Jesup Wagon

We return to tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis who has a new album out that you can expect to hear soon on Cosmic Jazz. But earlier this year, Lewis released what is one of our favourite records of 2021, but this time with his Red Lily Quintet. This album – called Jesup Wagon – aimed to capture the essence of the life, work and vision of Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943) who, although most famous for developing multiple uses for peanuts, was something of a Renaissance polymath; an artist, botanist, ecologist, aesthete, musician and teacher. The ‘Jesup Wagon’ was a vehicle he used to take round to Southern farmers to demonstrate new techniques, products and implements and this title tune does indeed have a Southern feel. Lewis opens unaccompanied with a wailing sound announcing the start of the day before moving into a New Orleans rhythm as the wagon sets off for the day. William Parker (one of our current Cosmic Jazz heroes) plays bass on the record and is prominent on this tune.

9. Jane Bunnett – Inolvidable from Spirits of Havana/Chamolongo 

Our tradition of ending the show with music that crosses borders continues – even though we appear to have crossed a number of borders already during this show.  Canadian soprano saxophonist and flautist Jane Bunnett has appeared previously on the show and is another musician who deserves a wider audience. She founded and currently leads an all-female group Maqueque, and has visited Cuba for over 30 years recording with Cuban musicians. The 1998 Spirits of Havana/Chamolongo double CD brings together two records, the former released in 1992, and is where you should start if you don’t known Bunnett’s music. This 2CD set is interesting on a number of counts, including the vocals by chanteuse Merceditas Valdés, one of Cuba’s greatest interpreters of song. What you hear in her vocals as she accompanies Bunnett is an immersion in the music’s spiritual aspect as they trade phrases and lines together. Also present is Valdés’ husband, percussionist Guillermo Barreto, who passed away just before the release of the first record. Celebrated pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba is part of Bunnett’s Cuban group along with her husband and fellow traveller, Larry Cramer on trumpet and flugelhorn.

15 November 2021: Autumn Leaves, Coltrane and Black Jazz Records

Cosmic Jazz this time has a seasonal flavour with three very distinct takes on the jazz chestnut Autumn Leaves. But don’t think we’ve gone all middle-of-the-road with a bunch of schmaltzy tunes – far from it. Take a listen and you’ll see what we mean. We follow this with a journey into the deeply spiritual thanks to the latest live Coltrane music to be uncovered, and we end the show with a couple of the latest Black Jazz Records re-releases.

  1. Rachelle Ferrell – Autumn Leaves from First Instrument

Up first is Rachelle Ferrell whose vocal gymnastics and six octave range is amply demonstrated on this choice from her debut album, First Instrument, released in 1990 on Blue Note. Despite the presence of Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor, Michel Petrucciani on piano and Stanley Clarke on bass, it’s not a wholly convincing record – but Autumn Leaves is impressive.  Ferrell worked at broadening her reach and went on to have a convincing R&B hit (With Open Arms) but some reviews of more recent live shows have been less than positive. She appears to be an artist who has perhaps not fully realised her talents over the years.

2. Keith Jarrett – Autumn Leaves (Live) from At the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings (Live)

The last time that Keith Jarrett performed in public was at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2017. Then, in a surprise announcement in February 2020, he revealed that – following two strokes in 2018 – it was unlikely that he would ever perform again in public. Neil is one of millions of Jarrett fans who have followed his career from Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis sideman to one of the most respected artists in jazz. He’s probably best known for what came to be called his Standards Trio, playing alongside Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums and our choice for this show comes from a lavish 6CD ECM box set that showcases the Trio’s three nights in 1994 at the Blue Note Club in New York. Thankfully, ECM also recently re-released the single disc first set from the second night on their Touchstones series. It’s this disc that includes Jarrett’s extraordinary 26 minute take on Autumn Leaves. If this sounds indulgent, it’s not. Not a single note is wasted here. Jarrett is on fire, and his characteristic moans and groans only serve to stoke the flames in this performance that build the classic tune into a bravura performance. In three distinct movements, this treatment of Autumn Leaves both celebrates and deconstructs the song, ending with an extended vamp of the kind that Jarrett can do so well. Here, though, it feels like a natural extension to the tune and so there’s a real sense of a return to the core melody. It’s a superb performance that’s supported by the ever-inventive Peacock and DeJohnette. Once heard, this is a tune you’ll come back to again and again.

3. Harold Land feat. Philly Joe Jones – Autumn Leaves (Live) from Westward Bound! (Live)

Now this version of Autumn Leaves may seem much more conventional – but it’s not less interesting. Here at Cosmic Jazz, we like championing under-appreciated saxophonist Harold Land. Rather like Hank Mobley and Billy Harper, Land is a first-tier saxophonist whose work over the years has not always been fully appreciated – perhaps until now. Just as with Mobley and the superb Tone Poet reissues, more listeners have heard Land as a result of the vinyl revival that has seen more re-releases from his extensive back catalogue. Land joined the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet in 1954 and went on to lead his own groups with Bobby Hutcherson and Blue Mitchell. In the 1970s he adopted a tone and style more influenced by Coltrane, as shown on his two recordings for the Mainstream label. His wonderful record with the young Japanese pianist Makoto Terashita is another tour de force – here he is on the superb Dragon Dance. The collection of 1962-65 live dates on Westward Bound! were all recorded at The Penthouse in Seattle, Washington with some stellar musicians including Hampton Hawes, Carmell Jones, Buddy Montgomery and (as here) Philly Joe Jones on drums. Mastered by the ubiquitous Kevin Gray with an extensive booklet including an essay by jazz historian Michael Cuscuna and interviews with saxophonists Joe Lovano and Sonny Rollins, this superbly recorded disc was a 2021 Record Store Day special but  is now available in all three formats and is a CJ recommendation.

4. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme Pt. II – Resolution (Live) from A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle

We’re in Seattle again for this record – also recorded live at The Penthouse Club – but this time in October 1965, just three months after the Land performance at the same venue. A lot has been said already about this historic release – for example, on Ken Micallef’s Jazz Vinyl Audiophile site – but it’s worth adding some essential background here. This is not the first live version of the A Love Supreme suite to be released: that honour goes to the live in Antibes set, released in 1998 and described at the time as the only live performance of A Love Supreme on record. But now we have another version – and it’s a whole lot more compelling. At Antibes, Coltrane’s classic quartet stick to the piece’s essential form, but here the augmented band clearly feel free to explore more new territory. Remarkably, although Coltrane was at an acknowledged peak of popularity with his jazz audience, on this evening he was playing at a small venue with a 275 people cap – and so perhaps that was one of the reasons why he wanted to consciously take his music to a different place. With Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – the Impulse! quartet – we also have Pharoah Sanders on tenor, multi-instrumentalist Donald Garrett on second bass, and Carlos Ward sitting in on alto sax. Both Sanders and Coltrane are also credited with percussion. The result? This is an electrifying performance: as Micallef says “Put on your safety belt and get ready to ride the waves of this incredible performance.” Micallef also makes some useful points about the relationship between the quality of the recorded sound and the quality of the performance itself. and how the rhythm section is informed by the three horn lineup. Resolution epitomises the density and emotional impact of this music. It’s a rollercoaster ride but an immersive experience that you just have to listen to.

5. Calvin Keys – Proceed with Caution from Proceed With Caution

And we end with one of our frequent visits to Black Jazz Records and two more re-releases from Real Gone Music who are working their way through all twenty releases on this iconic label. This time, we’ve got the second album from guitarist Calvin Keys along with the fourth and final release on the label from Doug Carn. Up first is Keys from 1974 on another album that contains the range regular listeners will have come to expect from a Black Jazz album – there’s post-bop, soul jazz and a little funk on this date. Keys is well supported by Charles Owens on saxophones and flute, Oscar Brashear on trumpet, Al Hall Jr. on trombone, Kirk Lightsey on Fender Rhodes, Henry Franklin on bass and Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler on drums. Proceed with Caution – which, like the other tracks an original composition – starts with a dreamy, Wes Montgomery-style mode and ends with fast driving bop licks with great flue and Fender solos in between.  Other tracks are similarly inventive, with Aunt Lovey something of a standout here, as Keys turns on his best funky Grant Green tone.

6. Doug Carn – Sanctuary from Adam’s Apple

The selection from keyboard player Doug Carn was also released in 1974 and is noted for including young saxophonist Ronnie Laws, who had worked with Earth, Wind and Fire before that band’s big commercial breakthrough. Of the others, guitarists Nathan Page and Calvin Keys had both performed with organist Jimmy Smith. Carn frequently added lyrics to established jazz classics and on this album he gives this treatment to Wayne Shorter’s tune Sanctuary with then wife Jean Carn(e) on vocals. The tune had surfaced first on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew from 1970 and appears as a reflective coda on the fourth side of the original album. Here’s that original version. It’s a pity that this was Carn’s final record for Black Jazz, as there is real evidence here of his move in a different direction – Adam’s Apple is more funky, more electronic and more risky than the three earlier sets. Even the cover is different too – gone is the Black Jazz house style, replaced here with a white background and a silkscreen style repeated image. In 2015 Carn revisited some of his Black Jazz catalogue, recording versions of songs from these four records on My Spirit, a live recording from the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, California.

24 October 2021: new from Kenny Garrett and Black Jazz

It’s been a while, but there’s British jazz (both past and present and with a strong showing from Scotland), the latest from the wonderful Kenny Garrett, a return to Poland and Belgium, some Latin touches and two more new Black Jazz Records re-releases.

  1. Steve Williamson – Down (Slang) from A Waltz for Grace

This 1990 record was the recording debut of this great under-rated British tenor and soprano saxophonist. Even at the young age of 25, Williamson had an original tenor sound with something of an M Base feel, but he’s not limited to this more abstract style. His soprano sax is as characteristic as his tenor playing, although this album is something of a mixed bag. Williamson likes to work with vocalists – the late Abbey Lincoln can be heard on the title track on this record and his next (Rhyme Time, 1992) featured Cassandra Wilson. Williamson likes to experiment and one of his most successful records is the intriguing #One for the Babel label which features Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas and some very spiky compositions. Derek notes that Steve Willamson once played with friends of his, the British reggae band Misty in Roots. As Steve said in an interview with UK Vibe It was amazing! ‘Misty In Roots’ used to play places like Russia and East Germany, while the wall was still up. All these places like Warsaw in Poland. It was fascinating, amazing and a real education. And – as a reminder of the record that DJ John Peel often listed as his favourite record – here’s Sodome and Gomorra from Live at The Counter Eurovision 79.

2. Colin Steele Quintet – The London Heist from The Journey Home

We’re returning once more to this second album from Scottish trumpeter Colin Steele simply because it’s very good.  Rather like pianist Fergus McCreadie he’s turned to his homeland for inspiration and in doing so creates a strong identity incorporating elements of Gaelic folk music that course through the strong melodies throughout the record. Aidan O’Donnell’s bass can sound like a drone and Julian Arguelles’ soprano sax takes on the tones of the Uillean pipes. Beyond that, there’s Lee Morgan style hard bop and hints of both Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, with Steele giving us something of the delicacy of Chet Baker too. Veteran Scottish drummer John Rae provides solid back up too. The lasting impression of this recommended record is the quality of Steele’s compositions:  in addition to our featured track, The Journey Home is memorable and the closing Variations on a Dream just one tune that will ‘earworm’ its way into your head.

3. Fergus McCreadie – North from Cairn

We’ve said a lot in the last few months about the brilliant Fergus McCreadie – but it bears repeating. This young Scots pianist is signed to one of Britain’s best jazz labels, the ever-enterprising Edition Records. Edition has grown in recent years to include a raft of celebrated jazz artists – The Bad Plus, Kit Downes, Tim Garland, Ivo Neame, Chris Potter, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler and The Snow Poets. Cairn is McCreadie’s second record and is chockful of beautiful melodies and arrangements. North is just one of those. The trio’s sound owes something of a debt to EST but McCreadie is definitely his own man. Backed by bassist David Bowden with Stephen Henderson on drums, there’s that blend of jazz and Scottish traditional music again and – just as on his first record – the music is inspired by the diversity of his native landscape. Cairn will surely consolidate McCreadie’s presence as a composer, pianist and trio leader with its combination of contemporary influences and​ mesmerising playing. This is a record to savour in whatever format you prefer – the download and CD are available direct from Edition Records here, but sadly the stunning-looking vinyl first pressing is now sold out, although you might be able to track down reissue copies in your independent record store.

4. Confusion Project – On the Other Hand from The Future Starts Now

It’s been a while since we visited continental Europe – and Poland in particular. So it  was time to return. As ever, we acknowledge  the contribution of Steve’s Jazz Sounds – an essential source for this music. Confusion Project are a trio founded in Gdansk in 2013 with drummer Adam Golicki, Michal Ciesielski on piano and Piotr Gierszewski on bass guitar. This is from the second of their three albums, with a fourth due for release soon. On the Other Hand is a tune that is still, calm, strong on melody and – like much of their music – includes complex rhythms.  Over the years, the band have supported various reforestation projects and have overseen the planting of more than a thousand trees across the world.

5. Aga Derlak Trio – The Word from Healing

This is a trio led by Polish pianist Agnieszka Derlak . She is an alumnus of Berklee College,  where she was under the guidance of Danilo Perez and the Katowice Music Academy. Healing is from their second album released in 2017, with all the compositions by Derlak. This band is a classic jazz trio with piano, double bass and drums. The music is introvert, contemplative, dare we say even portraying Polish melancholy. It is spare, minimalist, intelligent and incredibly beautiful. There are no grand statements, no great solos yet its seeming gentleness conjures up haunting images and some considerable complexity.

6. Jelle Van Giel Group – Cape Good Hope from Songs for Everyone

This seven-piece group led by drummer Jelle Van Giel takes us to Antwerp, Belgium. Songs for Everyone was their debut album and is very definitely in the modal jazz vein. Cape Good Hope is a beautiful, accessible, melodic tune – like so much of their music – with subtle echoes of South African jazz. The official bio describes Jelle’s strength as arranging a visual story around lyrical themes that touch you – undoubtedly fair and apt comment. Many of the tunes will leave you humming them with pleasant delight when they’re over, but if that suggests they might be lightweight, then think again. This is classic jazz in the modal tradition but with a definite contemporary feel.

7. Kenny Garrett – It’s Time to Come Home (Original) from Sounds from the Ancestors

He’s back! Altoist Kenny Garret has long been a Cosmic Jazz favourite and Sounds From the Ancestors is his twentieth album as leader.  There’s the expected expressiveness and assurance of tone, with some of those screams and wails that intensify the emotion. There are two tributes – the funky Hargrove is for trumpeter Roy Hargrove who died earlier this year and For Art’s Sake –  an homage to drummer Art Blakey, in whose band Garrett learned his chops.  The saxophonist has long been interested in musical styles from other parts of the world, and this record is no exception as it includes two tunes that blend African and Afro-Cuban and African. We featured the restrained opener, It’s Time to Come Home with its loping Latin groove, accentuated by Rudy Bird’s hand percussion. The title track starts with Garrett’s playing piano, before bursting into an Afrobeat groove and unruly Yoruba vocals by LA vocal veteran Dwight Trible.

8. Nucleus – Phaideaux Corner  from Alley Cat

Back to the trumpet and the late and very great Ian Carr and his influential band Nucleus. Remembered as the partner to Don Rendell in a superb British jazz group of the 1960s, Carr went on to form Nucleus, one of the first jazzrock groups. Over a 20 year career, Nucleus released 12 albums, using an ever-changing personnel. More music has emerged since then, including some memorable live albums. In fact, it’s worth checking out the Nucleus Wikipedia entry just to see how many British jazz musicians passed through their doors – some 45 players are listed, including Harry Beckett, Kenny Wheeler, Tony Coe and Neil Ardley. Carr was not only a fine trumpeter and flugelhorn player but a notable biographer too – his work on both Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett is required reading. The Davis biography is full of insights on the life and music of the legend, including Miles’s dark reclusive period – 1975-1980. With access to the inner circle of Davis’s friends and associates, Carr includes interviews with Max Roach, George Russell, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Joe Zawinul and Paul Buckmaster. Carr also generously quotes from other critics, including Washington Post writer Gene Russell who introduced a review of a 1974 concert  by describing Davis as leading his exploring party through a dense electronic rain forest. Sensing a clearing, Davis extends his fingers in a signal and his group halts motionless as a soprano sax, electric guitar or even the leader’s trumpet slips ahead alone, reporting what he sees… It’s quoted here because this writing inspired Neil to invest more time in his jazz writing.

9. Nubya Garcia – La cumbia ne esta llama (Kaidi Tatham remix) from Source # We Move

Jazz saxophonist, composer and Mercury Prize nominee Nubya Garcia has announced a full-length reimagining of her debut album Source, released just a couple of days before this edition of Cosmic Jazz.  There’s a host of remixed track including this excellent one from fellow Londoner Kaidi Tatham. Also in on the project is Georgia Anne Muldrow, KeiyaA, Moses Boyd, and more. Garcia completely distinct tone remains securely in place though and the remixes are – for the most part – subtle and intriguing. If you like Garcia’s tone on saxophone, then this one is for you. Tatham’s reworking is one of the best ,and the way his ‘drop’ at three minutes in is followed by a Herbie Hancock-inflected solo is very effective. Excellent artwork too…

10. Pucho & his Latin Soul Brothers – Maiden Voyage from The Best of Pucho & the Latin Soul Brothers

Neil has recently been weeding out his extensive collection of CDs – but not before many of them had been stored on a capacious new hard drive. One of these was the Pucho anthology which includes this take on Herbie Hancock’s meditative Maiden Voyage. Not surprisingly, this uptempo take has the timbales of Henry ‘Pucho’ Brown well to the fore. Jazz icon Chick Corea was a former member of this band that got a new lease of life in the Acid Jazz years of the 1980s, when Neil saw him perform in the UK. The Best of… compilation includes 17 tracks from Pucho’s 1966-1970 heyday, intelligently weighted toward his most dance groove-oriented original material and covers, and eliminating the routine pop covers that filled out some of his LPs and so Canteloupe Island joins Maiden Voyage along with other Pucho hits, including Soul Yamie and Strange Thing Mambo.

11. Doug Carn – Mighty Mighty from Adam’s Apple

We are pleased to announce that our friends at Real Gone Music are still releasing more  from the Black Jazz Records label and – as ever – each one has a limited vinyl edition, this time with 750 copies only. Doug Carn is a multi-instrumentalist, known principally for his piano and keyboard playing and Adam’s Apple (to be released in December) was the last of the four records for Black Jazz – this time without vocalist Jean Carn. The record features future star Ronnie Laws on reeds and Calvin Keys (see below) on electric guitar. Mighty, Mighty (yes, the Earth, Wind and Fire tune) has an uptempo, gospel feel, complete with almost distant-sounding choir providing the feel-good factor.  There’s a good cover of Wayne Shorter’s Sanctuary and the title tune owes something of an allegiance to Shorter’s composition of the same name but is, in fact, a Doug Carn tune with some great keys from Carn himself. Like all these Black Jazz re-releases there are extensive liner notes from Pat Thomas. It is worth quoting from the notes on this album: Adam’s Apple is more energetic, funky, and futuristic than Carn’s earlier Black Jazz work. In short, sublime.” 

12. Calvin Keys – Night Cry from Proceed with Caution

To follow Doug Carn with a tune from Proceed With Caution by Calvin Keys, is to illustrate the variety of Black Jazz Records. It’s by no means all funky, uptempo jazz. Proceed With Caution was originally released in 1974 and again is now released on vinyl (for the first time ever) with just 750 copies. On the record is legendary drummer Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler, along with fellow Black Jazz mainstays Henry Franklin on bass, Kirk Lightsey on keyboards, and Charles Owens on sax and flute. For Calvin Keys, the record was a leap forward from what he had delivered before as he told Pat Thomas for the sleeve notes: I started going to the Los Angeles School of Music studying orchestrations and I was putting it to use! The album includes some long, reflective and deep tunes including our choice of Night Cry.

13. Orquesta Akokan – Llegue con mi Rumba V2 from 16 Rayos

Orquesta Akokan are a Grammy nominated Cuban/New York based ensemble – and this album is the result of a dialogue between artists living in the United States and Cuba. 16 Rayos was recorded at the legendary Egrem Studios in Havana and is available from Daptone Records. The band is the brainchild of its three leaders – lead vocalist and composer José ‘Pepito’ Gómez, Chulo Record’s Jacob Plasse and arranger Michael Eckroth, with each bringing their experience working with Latin powerhouses to the table. Following the success of their debut album, Orquesta Akokán returned to Cuba, drawing inspiration from folklore and religious tradition to stretch the boundaries of mambo conventions. This second album expands their sound with the addition of strings and there’s a traditional Cuban feel merging the folkloric congo rhythm from Santiago de Cuba with the power of the mambo horns and some strong, forceful vocals. Drawing on the deep spiritual traditions rooted in West Africa but expressed  through Cuban music , this is real uplift for the soul and release for the body.  Akokan, by the way, is the Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean ‘from the heart’ – or simply ‘soul’.


28 September 2021: celebrating British jazz

The release of the wonderful new compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (1965-1972) – which is being followed by the vinyl release of seminal albums by several featured artists – provided the inspiration to produce a programme of all British jazz. It’s an exciting mixture of music with a range of styles demonstrating that British jazz has always had endless invention, world class musicians and distinctive voices of its own.

  1.   Mike Westbrook – Collective Improvisation from Metropolis

We like to start the show with a piece of music that is dramatic, powerful and makes you pay attention. This week is no exception – in fact it is a shining example. Pianist and composer Mike Westbrook wrote Metropolisa jazz interpretation of a day in the life of the city of London, during 1968-69. Over the years, the piece has been played in various configurations from four to twenty-five musicians. This track is from the twenty-five musicians version, written with an Arts Council bursary and first performed at the Mermaid Theatre, London, 18 May, 1969. The opening track on this  album (simply, Side 1, Track 1), is a collective improvisation and a mighty impressive one. It includes Malcolm Griffiths and Paul Rutherford on trumpets, Mike Osborne and Ray Warleigh on alto saxes, Harry Miller on bass, John Marshall on drums, Mike Westbrook on piano, with solos from Alan Skidmore on tenor (who appeared as bandleader in our last Cosmic Jazz show) and Dave Holdsworth on trumpet.

2The Joe Harriott & Amancio D’Silva Quartet – Jaipur from Hum Dono/Impressed 

The occasion of this all-British show is the release of Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain 1965-72, but Tony Higgins (who compiled and wrote the invaluable sleeve notes for this release) has been involved in other British jazz re-release compilations with DJ and label owner Gilles Peterson. Two releases emerged from this collaboration – Impressed and Impressed 2 – and we featured tracks from both on this show. Each are testament to the long-established diversity in terms of heritage and nationality on the British jazz scenes. Tenor sax player Joe Harriott was born in Kingston, Jamaica and became one of the most original and powerful jazz musicians of the post-war era in Britain. Guitarist Amancio D’Silva was born in Goa and was at one time employed by the Maharajah of Jaipur. Both Harriott and D’Silva recorded albums under their own names. You’ll also hear Dave Green on bass, Bryan Spring on drums, Ian Carr on trumpet and Norma Winstone MBE (born in Bow, East London) who provides her trademark wordless vocals. Winstone recently celebrated her 80th birthday (23 September) and remains a tireless performer on the jazz scene. Hum Dono (recorded in 1969 and re-released in 2015 ) was actually her first recording and is well worth seeking out. With her then-husband pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, she performed and recorded three albums for the ECM label as a member of the trio Azimuth (no relation to the Brazilian trio with a similar name). These were issued as a 3CD box set  in 1994 and are an excellent introduction to Winstone’s vocal prowess. Her own 1987 album Somewhere Called Home, also on ECM, has often been called a classic – the AllMusic review notes “It’s not only a watermark of Winstone’s career but, in the long line of modern vocal outings released since the romantic vocal tradition of Fitzgerald and Vaughan ended with free jazz and fusion, the disc stands out as one most original yet idyllic of vocal jazz recordings… A must for fans looking for something as cozy as a golden age chanteuse, but without all the gymnastic scatting and carbon copy ways of many a contemporary jazz singer.” 

3The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Prayer from Dusk Fire    

There are several musicians in this first section of the show that Derek has seen live over the years. They include Mike Westbrook – with on one occasion Norma Winstone, Tubby Hayes and Harry Beckett – but the first (and the one that got him into jazz) was probably the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet. Tenor/soprano saxophonist/clarinettist Don Rendell and trumpet/flugelhorn player Ian Carr led an inventive quintet that developed a unique and distinctive British sound that was very definitely not re-working US jazz. Dave Green was on bass (as he was on Jaipur above), Trevor Tompkins on drums and  the ever-creative Michael Garrick on piano. Prayer was, in fact, a Garrick composition and reflected his spiritual interests – indeed, Derek saw him perform once on the organ of Norwich Cathedral where he played music from his album Jazz Praises, originally recorded at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Prayer is a superb choice from this album: Garrick’s composition and his piano contributions are stunning and Rendell’s clarinet playing has immense presence. This is one of our favourite albums from this quintet and we’ll continue to sing its praises: it’s available on a single CD with the earlier Shades of Blue record and – if you can find it – on a superb vinyl pressing from Jazzman Records, who located and acquired the original analogue master tapes from the Universal vaults, created masters at Abbey Road Studios and produced audiophile quality pressings which sound superb.

4. Tubby Hayes and The Paul Gonsalves All Stars – Don’t Fall Off The Bridge from Change of Setting/Impressed 2   

To hear saxophonist Tubby Hayes live was a truly memorable event. Derek remembers a performance on a warm summer’s evening to a packed crowd at the Bull’s Head, Barnes Bridge sometime in the late 1960s. From 1957 to 1959, Hayes joined Ronnie Scott in co-leading a quintet, the Jazz Couriers – one of the most fondly remembered British jazz groups. Unusually for the time, Hayes also played in the US, performing at the Half Note in New York, the Boston Jazz Workshop and Shelly Manne’s Manne-hole in Los Angeles. Back in London, Hayes formed his own big band, working in television, film and radio, and even having his own television series (1961–1962, and 1963) but by the mid-1960s it was harder for British jazz musicians to make a living as touring jazzmen. Hayes was also compromised by his own lifestyle, with a combination of relationship, alcohol and narcotic issues which, by the end of the 1960s, had begun to publicly affect his career. With heart problems complicating his situation, it was perhaps not unexpected that Hayes died at the age of 38 during a second heart operation. Almost all of his records have now been reissued on CD and there’s an excellent CD box set available of the Fontana records. Saxophonist Simon Spillett is a notable Hayes scholar and has published a very readable biography, The Long Shadow of the Little Giant and in 2015 a DVD documentary Tubby Hayes: A Man in Hurry appeared – see the trailer here. Our choice of tune can be found on the Impressed 2 compilation and originally appeared on Hayes’ 1967 album Change of Setting. US sax player Paul Gonsalves was a member of Duke Ellington’s band but the remainder of his All-Stars on this record were British and included Tony Coe on alto and Ronnie Scott on tenor. Again, this album was recorded at the celebrated Lansdowne Studios in London and the track title refers to the middle passage (or bridge) of this modal tune.

5Harry Beckett – Third Road from Flare Up/Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain  (1965-1972)

Trumpeter Harry Beckett was another Caribbean musician active in the UK: a Barbadian born in 1935 who moved to the UK in his late teens and played (uncredited) trumpet in the 1962 British film noir All Night Long along with other contemporary luminaries of the London jazz scene (including Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck who were in the country at the time). Watch the film (here’s the original trailer – a London-centred take on Shakespeare’s Othello – and you’ll see Tubby Hayes in there too… On CJ, we have previously played Harry Beckett’s emotional, warm and calming duet with Mike Westbrook at the end of the Metropolis record featured above (Metropolis IX). The tune draws comparisons with Stan Tracy/Bobby Wellins’ Starless and Bible Black: both are essential pieces of music that you will play time and time again. In a long career, Beckett played with many of the top names in British jazz including John Surman, Mike Gibbs, Stan Tracey and more besides. One of his final records was a dub-centred experiment with Adrian Sherwood from On-U Sounds – this is Something Special. Third Road appeared on Flare Up, Beckett’s debut album and takes some inspiration from the second great Miles Davis quintet but is both funkier and freer. The group is something of an all-star set up with a triple-sax front line is comprised of John Surman, Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore. Frank Ricotti is on vibes and an uncredited John Taylor appears on Fender Rhodes. The record was reissued by Jazzprint in 2005, and contains excellent liner notes by noted British jazz writer Richard Williams – whose thebluemoment blog is always good reading. Flare Up is pretty much essential listening for anyone interested in British jazz from this  most creative period. Third Road and three other tunes were written and arranged by Graham Collier, another undersung British jazz pioneer.

6Jazz Jamaica – War from Motorcity Roots

In 1991, and inspired by the rhythms of traditional Jamaican music, Gary Crosby – one of Britain’s leading jazz bass players – gathered a group of musicians to play a fusion of mento, ska, reggae and jazz alongside Jamaican folksongs. The result was Jazz Jamaica. As the nephew of veteran Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin, it was perhaps not surprising that Crosby should move in this direction. With an expanded line up that included guest soloists, including Andy Sheppard, Soweto Kinch and Alex Wilson, Jazz Jamaican morphed into the Jazz Jamaica All Stars, a 20-piece band featuring vocals, five saxophones, four trumpets, and four trombones with a rhythm section of double bass, piano, drums, guitar and percussion. Motorcity Roots – a reworking of classic Motown songs was released in 2005 – we chose Edwin Starr’s powerful War.

7Emma-Jean Thackray – Our People from Yellow  

We are loving this outstanding new release from British trumpeter Emma-Jean Thackray and featured another track this week. The sources of inspiration on this eclectic record are hugely diverse but there’s one that might go unnoticed: as a teenager in Yorkshire, Thackray was the principal trumpeter in her local brass band and the use of brass here, with a sousaphone joining the trombone, trumpet, and saxophone, seems to hark back to that tradition – itself something of a reflection of New Orleans brass too.  This sits very happily alongside the more ‘cosmic’ hippieish influences on this (literally) delightful record. With choral hooks like “To listen is to know and to know is to love”, “The sun it grows us… The sun is life” and “We are all our people… We are one and the same” you’ll come away from this record feeling challenged, rewarded and – hopefully – at peace.

8Laura Jurd – Jumping In from Stepping Back, Jumping In

Another UK trumpeter, Mercury-prize nominated Laura Jurd, works in a dazzling array of contexts including Dinosaur, her experimental jazz quartet which uses electronica, Celtic folk, world music influences in a successful a neo-fusion mash-up. Jurd seems to constantly push against the constraints of whatever lineup she works in. She emerged through the ranks of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra but also featured in the atmospheric post-rock outfit Blue-Eyed Hawk, played the Miles Davis role in a reimagining of Sketches of Spain, added a string quartet to a jazz trio and with Stepping Back, Jumping In moves from a kind of edgy minimalism to a Bartok-flavoured mid-European folk. But other influences are thrown in too – British-Iranian composer Soosan Lolavar plays the santoor (a kind of hammered dulcimer) and our opening track choice features guitarist Rob Luft on banjo. Another track, Companion Species, is an extraordinary nine minute piece written by the Norwegian Ansja Lauvdal and Heida K Jóhannesdóttir Mobeck, where the collision of styles is described by Guardian reviewer John Lewis as “something that resembles the Art Ensemble of Chicago entering Afrobeat territory”. The result of all this is a somewhat schizophrenic record that doesn’t entirely work – but you can’t knock the endless invention.

9Camilla George Quartet – Mami Wati Returns/Usoro from Isang  

At this stage of the programme we featured British artists that Derek has heard more recently. He saw Camilla George and Sarah Tandy playing together as part of the Camilla George Quintet at the start of August at Snape Maltings in Suffolk. They are both on this tune along with Femi Koleoso on drums and  Daniel Casimir on bass – who also appeared at Snape. Mami Wati Returns/Usoro continues the tradition in British jazz of drawing upon the diverse heritages of the players. On the album Isang, George references both the land of her birth (Nigeria) and the Grenadian side of her family background along with references to West African folktales – Mami Wati is an African water spirit who appears in the shape of a mermaid. Interestingly, George has performed in Jazz Jamaica – reflecting a recurrent theme in this programme that there has always been close links among the different generations of British jazz musicians.

10. Sarah Tandy – Snake In The Grass from Infection In The Sentence

One of the best of the new crop of British musicians is keyboardist Sarah Tandy, whose invention is always a joy to behold. The music simply flow out of her and she makes it all look so relaxed, easy, and almost nonchalant. On Cosmic Jazz we loved her album Infection in the Sentence and it’s always worth featuring another tune from this highly recommended record – this time Snake in the Grass. As we’ve indicated before, there are plans for a follow-up release – perhaps by the end of the year – but until then check out her 2019 release, available here on Bandcamp.

11. Binker Golding – Fluorescent Black from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers      

Which brings us finally to another fine British musician who Neil has seen performing in London – saxophonist Binker Golding who is linked to Gary Crosby through his Tomorrow’s Warriors programme – indeed, he’s now the Musical Director of the Tomorrow’s Warriors Youth Orchestra. As a prolific sideman Golding has performed with an impressive array of cross-generational jazz talent including  vocalist Zara McFarlane, pianists Sarah Tandy and Ashley Henry and bands such as Moses Boyd’s Exodus and Maisha – all of whom have featured previously on Cosmic Jazz. Parallel to his other musical activities, Golding also leads a long running quartet featuring the talents of three more rising stars of the London jazz scene, pianist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones. These three regularly work together as a unit and also form part of saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s highly regarded quartet. Abstractions… represents Golding’s much anticipated début in the classic saxophone led quartet format. The album was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London and mixed in New York by the celebrated recording engineer James Farber, who has worked with such giants of the music as saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker and pianist Brad Mehldau. Golding says “It’s about experiences I had throughout my teenage years and twenties. It’s about remembering, forgetting, thinking you’ve forgotten and remembering again. It’s about people and friends that you’ll never see again and times that you can’t go back to, so you have to settle for the memory of them instead, whilst holding on to some hope for the future”. In this wholly acoustic quartet format Golding’s playing has been compared to that of saxophone greats such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane – and, yes, there’s something re-assuringly conventional about Golding’s sound here, particularly when compared to his more abstract, freely structured recordings with Moses Boyd. The writing is firmly within the jazz tradition and the result is is more like a conventional Blue Note record from the 1960s – but this is clearly a deliberate intention on Golding’s part. Fluorescent Black is the closing tune and – fittingly – features Golding at his most Coltrane-like as he stretches out on tenor around an infectious riff based theme. It’s an impressive album and one well worth hearing – especially on vinyl. You can get it directly from his Bandcamp site here. The black wax version is still available, including in a rather nice gatefold Japanese edition shipped in limited quantities to the US and UK.

12 September 2021: starting out/stripped back/early gems/late vintage

The show this week starts with some tunes where the music is stripped back to essentials, moves on  to contemporary British sounds and then later includes some classic British jazz. There’s a slot for one of Miles Davis’ last recordings from a live concert in Vienne, France and we end with an interesting Cuban/US musical merger.

 1.  Samara Joy – Stardust from Samara Joy    

Eighteen year old US vocalist Samara Joy has her debut album released on the London-based indie label Whirlwind Records. The Bronx-born singer graduated this year from Purchase College in New York State but – more importantly for us – won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal competition for 2019. Previous winners have included Cosmic Jazz favourite Jazzmeia Horn so it made good sense to check out Samara Joy. That win opened the jazz door for Joy and she recorded her self-titled album earlier this year with guitarist Pasquale Grasso, double  bass player Ari Roland and drummer Kenny Washington. They provide intricate but delicate and subtle backing on this album of classics from the American songbook and this trio alongside the emotional power of Samara Joy’s voice provide interesting interpretations – as can be heard on the Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish standard Stardust, recorded by Nat King Cole and a host of others. It’s a difficult tune to play or sing but among Neil’s favourite versions would be this superb one from John Coltrane and Willie Nelson’s 1978 take that demonstrated he was much more than just a country singer. Joy gives this classic tune a kind of candid simplicity that feels like the jazz equivalent of bedroom folk – a young woman reflecting on her future life. It’s an affecting combination and, whilst the record has few surprises, this is an engaging debut from a singer with huge promise.

2.  Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light Til Dawn from Blue Light Til Dawn

The gentle use of electric instrumentation on Samara Joy prompted the selection of a tune from an album where the vocalist made minimal use of electric sounds – namely Cassandra Wilson’s superb Blue Note debut Blue Light Til Dawn. Released back in 1993 this album has truly stood the test of time, still sounding cool and contemporary. In 2014 Blue Note re-released the record to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Wilson’s European tour based on the album, with three additional live recordings. The album has a strong blues element with two Robert Johnson tunes, classic soul from Ann Peebles tune and two sublime takes on Joni Mitchell’s Black Crow and Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. The album also has three of Cassandra Wilson’s own compositions, including the title track we featured on the show.

3.   William Parker – Happiness from Painter’s Winter   

Bass player William Parker is a jazz man of the moment. There seems to be a stream of releases from him of which Painters Winter is one of the most recent. William Parker plays trombonium and shakuhachi as well as bass, Daniel Carter is on trumpet, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and flute and Hamid Drake on drums – a trio who first played together in the early 1970s and have kept in touch. The music takes the show further along in an acoustic vein, but the music  sound heavy, deep and intensive. William Parker describes the journey in his sleeve notes Daniel Carter, Hamid Drake and William Parker are on the road called ‘Happiness’ looking for rare flowers. Flowers without preset chords yet changing moods tempos and colors according to the story they are telling.

4.  Emma-Jean Thackray – Venus from Yellow   

Meanwhile, Emma-Jean Thackray is a jazz trumpeter of the moment and Yellow is her first full length release. Initial reviews suggested a mix of Sun Ra, Flying Lotus, Funkadelic and Alice Coltrane but on listening this is simply an album that works. Thackray may have said that she approached the record “by trying to simulate a life-changing psychedelic experience” – which explains something of the overall sound of this great new record – but mixing disco and New Orleans brass, soaring string arrangements and a vocal choir has resulted in an album that easily earns our recommendation. For an insight into Thackray’s thinking about Yellow, check out her recent interview with New York’s Jazz Vinyl Lover Ken Micallef.

5.  GoGo Penguin – Signal in the Noise from GoGo Penguin    

We’ve championed GoGo Penguin since their first record Fanfares which appeared in 2012, and the self-titled GoGo Penguin is their fifth full length album. Emerging from Manchester, this trio – pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner – are located in that hinterland between EST, Aphex Twin and Phillip Glass – minimalism, trip hop, electronica and, of course, jazz. In 2015 they signed to Blue Note with the powerful A Humdrum Star appearing in 2018. It was at this time Neil saw the trio at the Singapore Jazz Festival (see photo) and was hugely impressed by their performance. Now in their mid-30s, GoGo Penguin make crisp, confident trio music that’s beautifully recorded – especially Nick Blacka’s bass on tracks like Atomised – here in an excellent live version – and also one of the tracks that was remixed on a follow up release, GGP/RMX.

6.  Bernard Maseli Septet – Jerks at the Audience from Good Vibes of Milian 

Jerzy Milian played vibraphone in Krzysztof Komeda’s band in the late 1950s before becoming a composer, arranger, leader and conductor of numerous bands and orchestras in Poland. He was a long-time leader of the Polish Radio and Television Entertainment Orchestra in Katowice writing pop music, jazz and ballet, film, symphonic and opera scores. Remarkably, in the 1980s the night-time UK BBC2 test pattern – which was accompanied by background music – included pieces by Jerzy Milian and this led to the formation of a cult group of fans who would gather together to play their off-screen recordings of the music.  For this tribute to Milian’s compositions, four Polish vibraphonists got together and recorded Good Vibes of Milian live at a Polish music festival in  2017. The band was led by Bernard Maseli on vibes and marimba accompanied by vibists Bartosz Pieszka, Dominik Bukowski and Karol Szymanowski with Bogusław Kaczmar on piano, Michał Kapczuk on double bass and Marcin Jahr on drums. The album is available here on Bandcamp. For more music from Jerzy Milian himself, you could start with the rare album Ashkabad Girl which was re-released in 2003 on Obuh Records. There were only 350 hand numbered copies, so good luck finding one –  but check out this original version of Mloty na widwni (Jerks at the Audience) for a taste of Milian’s music. If you like this (and Neil does!) there’s a mint copy on Discogs for £300…

7.  Miles Davis – Human Nature from Merci Miles! Live at Vienne   

In July 1991, just two months before he died, Miles Davis played an electrifying set at one of his favourite live venues in Vienne, south eastern France and now – 30 years later – this previously unreleased performance has been released as Merci, Miles! Live At Vienne in a 2CD/2LP set. There are two compositions by Prince (Jailbait and Penetration) but far more interesting is this extended take on Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, first recorded by Miles on his You’re Under Arrest album from 1985. Human Nature and Cyndi Lauper’s Time after Time were to become concert staples in these last years and this version of the Steve Porcaro tune features an extended, impassioned alto sax solo from Kenny Garrett. Musically, Davis had cut down his touring band to just five musicians: gone were the multiple keyboardists, guitarists, and percussionists. The result is that the band members play less, but they play tighter. This almost final take on Human Nature is stretched out to 18 minutes but there’s no flab here. Indeed, Davis something of a revelation: his Harmon mute playing is full of flexibility and style, with those famous silences separating the short phrases that bring the band down to a whisper. There are echoes of the flamenco sounds of Sketches of Spain and Siesta, some classic bebop lines and those childlike melodies that first surfaced in Jean Pierre. Garrett gives it everything (as was typical of the live London performances that Neil witnessed at this time) and at the end of Garret’s screaming solo there’s no restatement fo the melody – indeed, Davis is already into the chords of Time After Time. It’s a great performance. [Thanks to writer Allan Mitchie for some inspiration here.]

8.  The Alan Skidmore Quintet – Old San Juan from Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain   

Alan Skidmore may be the UK’s homegrown John Coltrane. Indeed, he’s recorded five albums of largely Coltrane music, including an excellent live album at one of our favourite small venues, the Fleece pub in the Suffolk village of Boxford, called Impressions of John Coltrane (on ITM Records). Along with the others – Tribute to ‘Trane (on Miles Music), After the Rain (also Miles Music), Berlin (on ITM) and Naima (also ITM) – this live recording is well worth seeking out. We’ve featured tracks from this album previously on Cosmic Jazz (see our Coltrane tribute show on 19 July 2017) and here’s Skidmore’s take on Impressions from that superb live album. As a teenager Skidmore witnessed at first hand the 1961 appearance of the John Coltrane Quintet at the legendary Walthamstow Granada Theatre concert – even gaining access to the green room after the show and sitting just feet away from Coltrane himself. This was a really significant performance, recorded just a week after Coltrane’s celebrated appearance at the Village Vanguard. His quintet of the time included Eric Dolphy as well as McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones. There’s an excellent personal reminiscence of saxophonist Evan Parker’s teenage visit to the show here on the London Jazz News blog.  An occasional drummer himself, Skidmore has worked with both of Coltrane’s regular 1960s kitmen – Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali – and has performed with a host of British jazz artists including Alexis Korner (1964), John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (1964), Ronnie Scott (1965), Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1970), Mike Westbrook (1970-71), Mike Gibbs (1970-71), and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath (1971). In 1969, he formed his own quintet with Kenny Wheeler, Tony Oxley, John Taylor and Harry Miller), with which he won the best soloist and best band awards at the Montreux International Jazz Festival and gained a scholarship to Berklee College Of Music. In 1973, he co-founded S.O.S., probably one of the first all-saxophone bands, with Mike Osborne and John Surman. He has subsequently formed various small groups of his own, including El Skid (co-led with Elton Dean), SOH (with Ali Haurand and Tony Oxley), and Tenor Tonic (with Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers and Tony Levin), and has worked with the George Gruntz Concert Band, the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, the Charlie Watts Orchestra, Stan Tracey, Mose Allison, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame again, and with the West German Radio Band. In the 1970s and beyond, Skidmore increasingly worked in Europe where – as he acknowledged – jazz was properly supported: “They’ve got this thing in Germany and other European countries where you turn up to do a gig and, nine times out of ten, it’s recorded by local or national radio… Jazz musicians in Germany are well treated. Your music is art.” Without doubt, Skidmore is one of the finest saxophonists the UK has produced and Tony Higgins’ superb new compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain recognises this through the selection of an inspirational track from the album Once Upon a Time (1970). The comprehensive booklet that accompanies this essential 2LP/2CD set makes clear the excellence of this performance: As Skidmore told Alyn Shipton “If you listen to it today, it’s a fresh as paint. It sounds like it was recorded last week.” (Jazz Library, BBC R3 – March 2012). The extended John Warren composition Old San Juan comes from that 1970s quintet with Wheeler, Oxley, Taylor and Warren and is a fine example of Skidmore’s superb tenor playing. Again – if you can find it – the album is a total recommendation, but this new 2021 compilation from Tony Higgins (follow him on Twitter @TheJazzDad) is a a real gem: buy on vinyl to get two superbly remastered discs (from Gearbox Records in London) and Higgins’ comprehensive 20,000 word essay – check out the album trailer here. It’s worth noting here that Tony Higgins was also responsible for the excellent annotations that accompanied the two editions of the Impressed collection that Gilles Peterson curated for Universal. They’re still available on either CD or vinyl. Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain is an essential compilation and will be supplemented by an upcoming reissue programme of British jazz albums with all vinyl pressed at Gearbox in London. Don’t miss out on this collection though – it’s a truly superb assemblage of British jazz talent.

9.  Dick Morrissey Quartet – Storm Warning from Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain

Our second choice from this new compilation is a hard bop bossa workout from tenor saxophonist Dick Morrissey’s 1960s quartet. Morrissey emerged in the early 1960s in the wake of Tubby Hayes, Britain’s pre-eminent sax player at the time. Morrissey made his name as a hard bop player, appearing regularly at the Marquee Club from 1960 and, with his quartet, made regular appearances at the celebrated Bull’s Head in Barnes. In the 1970s, Morrissey met up with Glaswegian guitarist Jim Mullen and the pair went on to form a partnership that lasted over 16 years with Morrissey-Mullen becoming Britain’s foremost jazz-fusion band. Morrissey was a session saxophonist for many pop artists too, and his is the saxophone solo you hear on the Vangelis theme from the film Blade Runner. He died in 2000, with Steve Voce writing in The Independent newspaper that Morrissey had the “… ability to get through to an audience. He was one of the great communicators of jazz and… able to communicate with his listeners and quickly to establish a bond with them… Like Charlie Parker before him, he was somehow able to lift audiences that knew little or nothing about his music”.

10. Orquesta Akokan – 16 Rayos from 16 Rayos  

Orquesta Akokan are a Grammy nominated Cuban/New York based ensemble – and this album is the result of a dialogue between artists living in the United States and Cuba. 16 Rayos was recorded at the legendary Egrem Studios in Havana and will be released in October on Daptone Records. The band is the brainchild of its three leaders – lead vocalist and composer José ‘Pepito’ Gómez, Chulo Record’s Jacob Plasse and arranger Michael Eckroth, with each bringing their experience working with Latin powerhouses to the table. Following the success of their debut album, Orquesta Akokán returned to Cuba, drawing inspiration from folklore and religious tradition to stretch the boundaries of mambo conventions. The second album expands their sound with the addition of strings and there’s a traditional Cuban feel merging the folkloric congo rhythm from Santiago de Cuba with the power of the mambo horns and some strong, forceful vocals. Drawing on the deep spiritual traditions rooted in West Africa but expressed  through Cuban music , this is real uplift for the soul and release for the body.  Akokan, by the way, is the Yoruba word used by Cubans to mean ‘from the heart’ – or simply ‘soul’. It’s a fitting way to end this show – look out for more deep Cosmic Jazz sounds soon.

23 August 2021: deep, intense and important music

Cosmic Jazz this time includes some deep, highly serious and at times heavy music before moving to some more restrained sounds but keeping that spiritual feel and ending, as ever, with some boundary-stretching music.

  1.  Eddie Harris – Free Speech from  Artist’s Choice the Eddie Harris Anthology/Free Speech   

The work of Chicago-born multi-instrumentalist, composer, activist and arranger Eddie Harris has had many admirers – and quite a few detractors too. Harris liked to experiment and try different things but his ventures into jazz-funk, rock – and even comedy – as well as his popularity with the young jazz-dancers back in the day,  were too much for many. He was also a best-selling jazz artist with Swiss Movement – the live recording of the performance he gave with Les McCann and apparently without any time to rehearse, at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival.  Deservedly one of the top-selling jazz records ever, Swiss Movement is two artists at an artistic peak – listen to the wonderful Compared to What in a rare piece of black and white video from the festival. Other Eddie Harris hits include the perennial favourite Listen Here and Freedom Jazz Dance, famously recorded by Miles Davis on the Miles Smiles album. The choice that impressively opens this show is the title tune from Harris’s Free Speech album of 1970: it is important music with an important message and Harris is playing both sax and trumpet. Do not listen to the detractors, listen to the music.

2.  William Parker – Raining on the Moon from Raining on the Moon    

The Village Voice named him “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time” and DownBeat has called him “one of the most adventurous and prolific bandleaders in jazz”. We are talking here of bass player, composer and bandleader William Parker. He has also published conversations  he has had with other musicians and thinkers on spiritualism, race and culture and written and published poetry. Parker has released recently a mighty 10-disc record called Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World and he’s now released two trio albums, one of which should be on the next show. Raining on the Moon was recorded in 2001 and features Leena Conquest with earthy, strident vocals amongst the shrieks of sound emerging from the alto sax of Rob Brown. The music sounds like free jazz yet it’s also very accessible. In its review of the record Pop Matters provided an apt comment: “he proves once and for all that any divisions between mainstream jazz and its more avantgarde brethren need only be drawn in the minds of myopic listeners”. We second that.

3.  Rudolph Johnson – The Second Coming from The Second Coming 

There are more Black Jazz Records re-releases from Real Gone Music due in October. One of them is the 1973 free jazz album The Second Coming from saxophonist Rudolph Johnson. If you think from what we have played so far that Black Jazz Records was just about jazz/funk and genre stretching jazz, think again. It is a fiery, explosive piece that continued and contributed to the Coltrane legacy . It was his second album for Black Jazz so in that way the title is appropriate but the title also has a spiritual/messianic meaning and this interpretation is definitely appropriate to the music. Recorded by  the label’s key producer Gene Russell, The Second Coming is a stronger album than Johnson’s first for the label and is  deserving of a much wider audience than it received first time round.

4.  Walter Bishop Jr. –  N’dugu’s Prayer from Keeper of My Soul   

Also re-released in October on Black Jazz Records is this gem from Walter Bishop Jr. – another tune with a messianic/spiritual quality to match both the title of the tune and the title of the album: a spirituality owed in part to Walter Bishop’s studies with yogi Parmahansa Yogananda. Flautist/sax player Hubert Laws has a big part to play in the album but this tune features the pounding calls of vibraphonist  Woody Murray. The bass player is Gerald Brown who three years later found himself auditioning for Marvin Gaye before appearing on Gaye’s 1977 record Live at the London Palladium. You can hear him here on Distant Lover. Like all these re-releases from Black Jazz, Keeper of My Soul is available on vinyl with limited editions of coloured vinyl, exclusive to indie record stores. The remastered sound is good too and is faithful to the well recorded originals – and the new liner notes by Pat Thomas are a useful bonus. Get your copies now before they disappear!

5.  Nubya Garcia – Pace from SOURCE     

Neil has long recognised the significance of the music of Nubya Garcia. Derek was not so certain, but after hearing her live on BBC Radio 3 (and then two days later on BBC 4 television) at the Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, he was mightily impressed. Not so long ago the Proms were the reserve of the finest in classical music but now jazz gets an airing. This concert was a good illustration of why this is needed. The music was contemporary, refreshing and original drawing on a range of influences starting with reggae beats and ending with cumbia inflections with much in between. The quartet line-up of Garcia on sax, Joe Armon-Jones on keyboards and piano, Daniel Casimir on bass and Sam Jones on drums was augmented from time to time with trumpet and a trio of vocalists. The combinations worked so well, provided surprise and interest and fitted seamlessly into the Albert Hall setting. The concert is available via BBC Sounds (audio) and iPlayer (video). Look out too for a remix version of her album SOURCE, also due in October. At the Royal Albert Hall, Garcia included the tune Pace which – as she explained – was composed pre-pandemic to remind her to slow down from the frantic and work-heavy pace of life. The production on this album is very much a step up from Garcia’s first EPs: recorded with producer Kwes, whose credits include Solange and Bobby Womack, Garcia is pushed into new territory that really demonstrates her diversity.  It all remains firmly rooted in jazz but there’s a range of other influences here too – from the afore-mentioned cumbia through to Ethio-jazz and more. The thing is, this all works and so SOURCE comes highly recommended. A new single has already emerged from the scheduled remix album – a Kaidi Tatham take on La cumbia me esta llamando (feat. La Perla) and it’s excellent. Check it out here.

6.  Mtume and the Umoja Ensemble – Baba Hengates from  Alkebu-Lan (Land of the Blacks)

Percussionist, songwriter, and producer James Mtume might be best known for his R&B/disco classic Juicy Fruit from 1983 but his career has encompassed pioneering acoustic and electric avant-garde jazz, quiet storm classics and post-disco club hits, as well as compositions for film and television. Mtume was raised by pianist James ‘Hen Gates’ Forman (hence the title of this tune) but he is the biological son of saxophonist, Jimmy Heath – see the CJ show from 29 February 2020. After moving to California, Mtume joined the Black nationalist group US Organization whose founder Maulana Karenga created the Kwanzaa national holiday. The group was founded on what Karenga called the seven principles of African Heritage which he summarised as a communitarian philosophy: Unity (Umoja), Self-Determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani).  Mtume made his recorded debut with something of a stellar 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. Here’s Maulana from this recently re-released record. A move to New York saw Mtume credited on a slew of records by McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Lonnie Liston Smith and between 1971 and 1975 he performed and recorded with Miles Davis on landmark releases like On the Corner and the live in Japan records Agharta and Pangaea (the image above is with Miles in concert in 1973). 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. For another take on Baba Hengates, try this excellent Buddy Terry version from his 1972 Pure Dynamite album for Bob Shad’s Mainstream label.

7.  Mark de Clive-Lowe – The Offering from Heritage I   

Heritage was was the first installment of a two-album set from pianist, composer and live remixer Mark de Clive-Lowe. With a Japanese and New Zealand background, these two records were the first time de Clive-Lowe had reflected his Japanese cultural roots in music, working in collaboration with his LA band – Josh Johnson, Teodross Avery, Brandon Eugene Owens, Brandon Combs and Carlos Niño from the Build An Ark collective. In addition to his own compositions, he interprets traditional Japanese folk songs, one on each album – with a delicate solo piano rendition of Akatombo on Heritage I. The material for both albums was recorded over three nights of live concerts at LA’s legendary Blue Whale jazz club in Little Tokyo with one follow up studio session where the live group sound is tweaked with  MdC-L’s arsenal of samplers, keyboards, drum machines and grand piano to create a personal take on both jazz and what Japan – and being Japanese – means to him. We think Heritage could well be de Clive-Lowe’s best work to date and recommend both records.

8.  Matt Carmichael – Where Will the River Flow from Where Will the River Flow    

Tenor saxophonist Matt Carmichael may be only just starting out in his career, but Where Will the River Flow is already a very assured debut. Just 21, Carmichael was a BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2020 and on this fine record he draws on Scottish folk traditions in a similar way to another of our favourite young musicians from Scotland, Fergus McCreadie. Indeed, McCreadie appears on WWtRF and it’s clear that he and Carmichael work well together – check out this live take on Spey and their fast flowing unison playing. As with McCreadie’s most recent album, Cairn on Edition Records, Carmichael’s original compositions are strong on melody – particularly noticeable on our choice, the title track which again features McCreadie and a torrent of tumbling runs on piano. Thanks once more to Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) for this introduction: Matt Carmichael is the real deal – an exciting talent and already an original voice.

9.  James Brandon Lewis – Fallen Flowers from Jesup Wagon  

We have been playing tunes from the James Brandon Lewis album Jesup Wagon, an record that celebrates and invokes the spirit of the artist, botanist, ecologist, aesthete, musician, teacher and seer Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943). “Many are the tears I have shed,” Carver wrote, “because I would break the roots or flowers of some of my pets while removing them from the ground.” When he could not preserve them, he drew them. The liner notes tell us that the track “Fallen Flowers compels us to submit to the beauty, complexity, vulnerability and unknowability of the natural world.” The tune ends with a poetic meditation on “life and death, on resilience in the face of colonial violence, on the regenerative and destructive qualities of water, on tears shed for fallen flowers.” It’s powerful, moving and evocative – and this is another recommended Cosmic Jazz new release.

10. Alfa Mist feat. Lex Amor – Mind the Gap from Bring Backs    

The tradition of the programme is to end with something that crosses boundaries and this week it comes via another 2021 release that we have featured on the show – namely Bring Backs from London-based self-taught musician/composer/producer Alfa Mist. Recorded in London with Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), Jamie Houghton (drums), and Johnny Woodham (trumpet), the album is stitched together as a suite, one composition rolling into the next. As with Nubya Garcia’s album, there’s a melange of different musical and cultural influences at work here, but this record emphasises the hip hop and rap influences of Alfa Mist’s youth as he discovered jazz through the samples used by his favourite producers. “There’s no access to jazz where I’m from,” he says. “There’s no way I would have come to it without finding those hip-hop records and wanting to understand them,” The tune Mind the Gap uses the the London Tube warning at certain stations to evoke the gaps and the struggles in life “we all rise and decline.” It features Lex Amor, a British rapper with Nigerian roots who has her own release, Government Tropicana which you can pick up here on her Bandcamp site.

Neil is listening to:

09 August 2021: mixing the jazz grooves

The show this week starts with music inspired by a live performance from Camilla George, through eclectic sounds from Edition Records, to a mix that includes a tribute to Jon Hassell, some funky jazz sounds and an ending in Ghana.

  1. Camilla George – Tappin the Land Turtle from The People Could Fly

Derek has at last seen some live music again. Snape Maltings, the concert venue founded by British composer Benjamin Britten, is running, in conjunction with Serious Music, free, daily, open-air performances  from early July through to the end of August, featuring first-rate musicians from across musical genres. The first show featured alto saxophone player Camilla George and her quintet. Excellent and joyous it was too, with musicians whose serious attention to the music was matched by their obvious enjoyment  in playing together. Except for a quieter duet between Camilla George and keyboard player Sarah Tandy, this was a set of driving music inspired by jazz, west African sounds and hip hop, all with a more electric sound than might have been expected – keyboards, electric bass, guitar and drums. In spite of the east coast wind blowing around the musicians and scattering their score sheets, the sounds came across loud and clear. Camilla George is currently working on a new album and we’ll bring you more news of that when we can. Tappin the Land Turtle from her album The People Could Fly on Ubuntu Music provides a soulful, spiritual uplift to the start of the show. The album is based on a book of African stories – after which the record is named – and this tale goes back to the days of slavery, incorporating several reminders of that era – the hunger, the separation of classes (the turtle and the eagle) and the dream of a life of plenty. In some versions of the story, the distinctive markings on Tappin’s shell are caused by whipping from a cowhide and so – as the liner notes tell us – These tales were created out of sorrow but have been passed on to us  with hearts that are full of love and hope. On vocals for this track is Cherise Adams-Burnett whom Derek will see on the same stage on 25 August. The People Could Fly is still available here on Bandcamp – it’s a Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

 2.  Sarah Tandy – Timelord from Infection in the Sentence 

On keys with Camilla George at Snape and on The People Could Fly album, is Sarah Tandy. It is always wonderful to see her perform, particularly this time as she had to spend some time away through illness. Tandy is just amazing: the music simply flow out of her and she makes it all look so relaxed, easy, and almost nonchalant. Yet sounds that are complex, inventive, funky and ever-surprising appear from the keyboards. To watch her play is something else. On Cosmic Jazz we loved her album Infection in the Sentence and this seemed an appropriate time to re-visit this highly recommended record, this time with Timelord, a measured, deep, funky groove.  Sarah told me at Snape that she has plans for a follow-up release – perhaps by the end of the year, at least. Again, we’ll keep you informed of any release but until then you should really investigate her 2019 release – again, available here on Bandcamp. And check out Sarah Tandy’s mesmerising playing here on this jazzre:freshed video recorded live in 2018.

3.  Binker Golding – I Forgot Santa Monica  from Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers

This sequence ends with a reference to the man on electric bass at Snape and the bass player on Tappin the Land Turtle, Daniel Casimir – a name you will find on many record credits from the current London jazz scene. Among the people he has performed with – as well as Camilla George – are Julian Joseph, Jason Rebello, Nubya Garcia, Lonnie Liston Smith and Ashley Henry. Casimir is a composer and bandleader but features here with tenor player Binker Golding on his album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers. Casimir’s acoustic bass opens I Forgot Santa Monica – the lead in track from an album which we regard as one of the finest to come out of the UK jazz scene in recent years. Binker Golding can be seen with Sarah Tandy on the video above and his album is also available directly from his Bandcamp site here. Note that vinyl is still available, including the gatefold Japanese edition shipped in limited quantities to the US and UK.

4.  Petter Eldh – Goods Yard feat. Richard Spaven from Projekt Drums Vol. 1   

Swedish producer Petter Eldh loves heavy beats and drums so he has compiled an album on Edition Records featuring some top-notch contemporary drummers. Projekt Drums Vol. 1 will be out in September, but on this show you can hear a tune featuring English drummer Richard Spaven, who got a CJ mention on our last blog as a musician on the Alfa Mist album Bring Backs. Spaven is London-based but has gone global in terms of the places he has played. Among the artists he has worked with are Jose James, Flying Lotus, Robert Mitchell, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Gregory Porter, Cinematic Orchestra and Kaidi Tatham. Jose James described him as One of the most unique artists in the world ….. He is the point where jazz meets the world – and Spaven performed kit duties on two of James’ albums including Blackmagic, from which we’ve selected the title track.

5. Slowly Rolling Camera – Lost Orbits from Where the Streets Lead    

And here’s a second new release from Edition Records, fast becoming one of Britain’s most successful new jazz labels with an enviable roster of international names. Where the Streets Lead is the new album from the UK’s Slowly Rolling Camera, and builds on their acclaimed 2018 release Juniper. Inspired by the colliding worlds of jazz, trip-hop, and cinematic soundscapes, SRC have further extended their soundscape with this new record . Recorded through 2020 , it includes an eight-piece string section and contributions from a range of impressive artists including Mark Lockheart, Jasper Høiby, Verneri Pohjola, Chris Potter and Sachal Vasandani, as well as the band’s regular guitarist Stuart McCallum. For the core group of Dave Stapleton, Deri Roberts and Elliot Bennett, it’s a unified take on the journey and the influences that have shaped them all individually and as a collective.

6.  Jon Hassell – Dreaming from Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1)  

Jon Hassell, the creator of what he called Fourth World music, died in June this year and Neil included a tribute with some some Youtube music at the end of the 26 June 2021 show. We’ve featured Jon Hassell’s unique processed trumpet sound before on Cosmic Jazz – way back in May 2008 we played In the City of Red Dust from his City: Works of Fiction album – and his beautifully titled Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street (ECM Records) was included in our 2010 Best of roundup. Appearing after a nine year gap since that ECM record, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1) turned out to be Hassell’s penultimate album: it didn’t expand his sonic world but there’s music here that confirm’s Hassell’s unique approach. Pretty much everything gets processed through effects pedals and computer so that you’re never quite sure what you’re hearing: the result is an impressionistic collage that blurs the listening experience. With Dreaming, the effect is of two tunes slowly gliding into each other. This may sound chaotic, but there’s a logical structure to Hassell’s music that defies detailed description. In this album and its successor, Hassell seems to be remixing his own heavily mixed past and the overall effect is hypnotic. If you’re not familiar with his work, this Guardian obituary should provide a good basic primer to his life, while this feature from the Vinyl Factory will do the same for his music. As we noted in June, Hassell was not a jazz artist but  his influence on musicians in many genres, including jazz, is profound.

7.  Lucien Johnson – Blue Rain from Wax///Wane   

Since we first played this track back in April this year, Lucien Johnson has gone on to win the 2021 Aeotearoa Jazz Composition award for Blue Rain, and we’ve continued to play tracks from his excellent Wax///Wane album. It’s difficult to judge at this halfway stage in the year, but this is likely to be one of Neil’s favourite albums of the year. The writing is consistently strong of course, but it’s more about the atmosphere that Johnson sets up. The music does indeed reflect the moon’s waxing and waning as it ebbs and flows (see the previous blog!) with light groove patterns augmented by vibraphone and harp. Over this,  Johnson’s sax is sometimes Coltrane-deep, sometimes growling like Pharoah Sanders. This is a mesmerising record and it’s thanks to Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) who also led us to the wonderful Fergus McCreadie. Lucien 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.  Another drummer, Makoto Sato introduced Johnson to free jazz bass legend Alan Silva (of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler fame), and they formed a trio, going on to record the album Stinging Nettles. The current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion. We’ll continue to feature the album in upcoming shows. Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

8. The Stan Getz Quartet – Litha from Sweet Rain     

By general consensus, this is a Stan Getz great. With such a prolific recording career it might be difficult to know where to start – but this is a no-brainer. Released in the summer of 1967, Sweet Rain was Getz’s first big post bossa nova album and his partners here are all his juniors: pianist Chick Corea, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Grady Tate  had honed their skills during  the era of 1960s rhythm-section freedom, and – as the AllMusic review notes – their continually stimulating interplay helps open things up for Getz to embark on some long, soulful explorations. The longer tracks, the choice of material (including two tunes from Chick Corea) and this interplay between the advanced rhythms and Getz’s lyrical passion make for an essential record. Every track is beautifully judged, from Litha, Corea’s opener, to the inclusion of his near-standard Windows, the delicate Jobim composition O Grande Amor, Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma and English big band composer Mike Gibb’s great title tune. This is a subtle, rewarding album that may not be one of Rudy Van Gelder’s best sounding recordings but there’s no doubting the standard of musicianship throughout. It’s a Cosmic Jazz recommended record for your jazz library.

9. Kahil El’Zabar’s Spirit Groove – One World Family from Kahil El’Zabar’s “Spirit Groove” feat David Murray    

Up next is Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar on another great quartet album from last year that features El’Zabar’s contemporary, tenor saxophonist David Murray ably supported here by Justin Dillard on piano. El’Zabar performs in various groups including his Ritual Trio and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. He was a member of the Bright Moments collective with Joseph Jarman and Steve Colson back in the day but he’s also worked as a more mainstream sideman with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley and Eddie Harris. The new Spirit Groove band features El’Zabar with Murray, young bassist Emma Dayhuff and Dillard on synth, organ and piano. El’Zabar takes up kalimba, drum kit, congas, shakers, vibes and even has a go at singing on this predominantly spiritual jazz release. Spirit Groove is actually on a new UK label, Spiritmuse, and on vinyl is beautifully produced. As always, your best source for this record is the Bandcamp website – you can find Spirit Groove here in all formats and download. Neil has the vinyl version which is both a good silent pressing and a two LP gatefold edition.

10. Cleveland Eaton – Hamburg 302 from Plenty Good Eaton  

We return to the Real Gone Music re-issues of the complete Black Jazz label with bassist Cleveland Eaton’s Plenty Good Eaton, released originally in 1975. This was to be Eaton’s only album for the label and, indeed, he was to release just a few more albums of his own after this. Prior to his arrival at Black Jazz, Eaton had been bass player for pianist Ramsey Lewis, appearing on 17 of his records, including classics like Wade in the Water, Dancing in the Street and Sun Goddess, one of his last appearances with Lewis. Listening to the title tracks of each (see links) will remind you of how much Eaton was a key part of the band’s sound. Drummer in the original Ramsey Lewis Trio was Maurice White who went on to found Earth, Wind and Fire and who was recruited back into Lewis’s band for the Sun Goddess album – and you can hear it! The superb sax solo on Sun Goddess is by Don Myrick – see this earlier CJ for more on Myrick. Plenty Good Eaton is  regarded as one of the gems of the Black Jazz catalogue and was recorded shortly after Eaton had left Ramsey Lewis in 1974. Then, starting in 1980, Eaton spent a dozen years with Count Basie’s band, and if you can imagine a blend of Lewis’s soul-funk with Basie’s hard-driving swing, you’ll understand what’s on the menu of Plenty Good Eaton – indeed, the album graphics present the credits and songs as if they were menu entries. This truly is fusion cuisine.

 11. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Village from Keeper of my Soul  

There are more re-releases forthcoming in October from Black Jazz Records – this time two more records from Rudolph Johnson and Walter Bishop Jr. This show features Bishop’s Soul Village – a tune he re-recorded on his Soul Village album from 1977 on Muse Records but which here appears on his Keeper of My Soul album from 1973.  This version includes Ronnie Laws on saxophone and flute, whose Pressure Sensitive album includes the much recorded Always There. This was Bishop’s second album for Black Jazz and was more ambitious and free than its predecessor Coral Keys. Keeper of My Soul is remastered and re-released for the first time on vinyl – and in both black and a special edition with black with orange streaks limited to 750 copies worldwide. As with other Black Jazz reissues, there are extensive inner sleeve notes by Pat Thomas. We’ll include the excellent Rudolph Johnson album in future shows.

12. Pat Thomas & the Kwashibu Area Band – Bubu from Obiaa  

A different Pat Thomas ends the show – a musician from Ghana who continues our CJ tradition of ending the show with music that draws upon jazz and jazzy sounds but is not strictly jazz. Thomas is one of the most celebrated of Ghanaian high-life musicians, a music that  frequently features an irresistible mix of horns and percussion to uplift the soul and keep the body moving. He’s has been described as ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’ and since 2015 he has recorded albums for the British label Strut Records and toured extensively in the UK and Europe. Derek caught the band at the Norwich Arts Centre a couple of years ago and remembers the evening as one of highly-charged, danceable music played with passion and skill with musicians crossing age ranges.

Neil adds: A note on why we promote Bandcamp

You’ll have noticed that we often provide artist or label links to the Bandcamp website and may wonder why. The answer is simple – if you buy from Bandcamp, an average of 83% of the price you pay reaches the artist or label (after payment processor fees). On Bandcamp Fridays each month, this rises to 93%.  Where the music we feature is not available on Bandcamp, we may direct you to another independent source – for example the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds or the local record stores that Derek and I buy from – including Soundclash Records in Norwich, Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds, Sounds of the Universe in London and The Jazz Loft, The Analog Vault and Choice Cuts in Singapore. Until legislation forces the majors like Amazon and Spotify to pay taxes and/or performers fairly we will continue to do this. Note that Amazon actually received a US$129 million tax refund in 2018 and Spotify pays artists around US$0.005 per stream… On the artists’ behalf, we thank you for supporting them to create their inspiring music.

26 July 2021: Latin classics, Miles live and new music from Europe

Cosmic Jazz this week begins and ends with contrasting Latin music, but sandwiched between is some contemporary European music, including new releases from the UK Edition and Brownswood labels. As if this wasn’t enough, there’s Miles and Bheki Mseleku live and more. Many contrasts, many styles, much to enjoy!

  1.  Ana Mazzotti – Agora Ou Nunca Mais from Ana Mazzotti

Ana Mazzotti was described as a “super-musician” by the legendary Brazilian artist Hermeto Pascoal. Born in 1950, in the southern Brazilian city of Caxias do Sul, she was a musical prodigy playing accordion by the age of five before moving to piano and conducting her local choir, but this promising career was cut short by premature death from cancer while still in her thirties. Mazzotti was also hampered by financial restraints and suffered from prejudice as a female songwriter in a fundamentally sexist society.  Luckily, her music has been re-released by the British label Far Out Records. Agora Ou Nunca provides a lively, easy body-swaying opening to the show. Co-written with Jose Roberto Bertrami from Azymuth with Romildo Santos on drums – her husband and the person who introduced Mazzotti to jazz. If you want to buy Mazzotti’s self-titled album it’s worth checking out which version you’ll go for: the two Far Out releases are essentially the same record, but in 1977 Mazzotti took her original 1974 debut album back to the studio, releasing the album with a new running order and new cover art to bid once more for commercial success. There are re-recorded vocals, and the bonus of some great new horn arrangements, together with a new track: the carnivalesque Eta, Samba Bom replacing Roberta Flack’s Feel Like Making Love. We think this version is the one to go for and you can find it here on the Far Out website.

2. James Brandon Lewis and the Red Lily Quintet – Arachis from Jesup Wagon

Tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has released a mightily powerful record. It is powerful both in its music but also in its context. Arachis is his elegy to arachis hypogaea – the scientific name for the peanut. Lewis has studied the life and work of Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943), a man whose inventions and achievements were numerous, and whose travelling work on his Jesup Wagon assisted many Southern farmers, but someone who is most remembered for his contribution to finding many, many uses for peanuts. But Lewis wants to reclaim Carver into a wider context: in addition to being a botanist, educator and symbol of Black pride, Carver was an accomplished musician and painter. He insisted that art and science, as processes of discovery, were never in opposition. And he was a pioneer of sustainable agriculture, whose findings sometimes put him at odds with private industry. Our CJ choice for this show is Arachis, which tracks the journey of the peanut from slow beginnings to rising from the underground to blooming freely. Lewis first deployed bass legend William Parker on his breakthrough Divine Travels album and he’s back alongside Kirk Knuffke on cornet, Chris Hollman on cello and Chad Taylor on drums. With mbira (Taylor) and guimbri (Parker) added into the mix, this is earthy, percussive music that also includes some of the best, most melodic writing of Lewis’ career to date. And the Jesup Wagon? This was the name of the carriage that Carver drove across the South during his Tuskegee Institute years, conducting demonstrations for poor farmers on how to cultivate their land more sustainably.

3.  Alfa Mist – Coasting  from Bring Backs

Alfa Mist is a UK-based artist whose route to jazz has been via hip-hop. Described as an exploration of his upbringing through music, Bring Backs takes a sonic trip back to his beat-making past in east London, through the depth and musicality discovered composing and playing jazz. This journey is exemplified on Mist’s new fourth album Bring Backs, which follows a 2020 project with drummer Richard Spaven (see below) as 44th Move – their self-titled EP delving into the fertile space between the dance floor and headphone-based introspection – take a listen to Fly, for example. On Bring Backs, Alfa Mist is joined by a number of collaborators including Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), Jamie Houghton (drums), and Johnny Woodham (trumpet) who create a kind of suite with each composition rolling into the next and linked by sections of a Hilary Thomas poem expressing the realities of building community in a new country. Coasting, the tune selected for this show has a gentle. lilting, atmospheric, sonic feel with Alfa Mist’s electric piano weaving its way through the tune,  Woodham’s trumpet sounds optimistic and encouraging and Houghton provides firm, but restrained drumming.

4.  STR4TA – Aspects from Aspects

When was this recorded you might ask – 1981? Because this is pure Brit-funk – a wholly successful attempt to recreate the classic sounds of such bands as Light of the World, Incognito and Freeez. Aspects led the way – a first single that appeared at the end of 2020 and much played on Worldwide FM and other UK radio shows. So who’s behind the intriguingly -named STR4TA? The answer is DJ Gilles Peterson and Jean-Paul (Bluey) Maunick from Incognito. 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.

5.  Miles Davis – Ife from Tokyo 1973 (Live)

Early to mid-1970s saw the most radical and creative period in Miles Davis’ career with the trumpeter drawing influence from the soul and funk groups of the time, including Sly and the Family Stone and George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic axis. Added to this, Miles was playing more rock oriented venues and opening for groups such as the Steve Miller Band, the Grateful Dead and Santana. The outcome was a slew of albums that showed the transformation of his music beyond even the radicalism of Bitches Brew (1970). On the Corner, released in 1972, exemplified this: on board were six percussionists (including Badal Roy on tabla) and Colin Walcott and Khalil Balakrishna on electric sitars. The resulting music was all over the place – and it’s meant to be. Michael Henderson’s bass keeps some kind of pulse but everything else weaves in and out of the mix. As if this wasn’t enough, producer Teo Macero deploys his cut and paste technique more savagely than on Bitches Brew, which is why this impenetrable and almost tuneless concoction of avant-garde classical, free jazz, African, Indian and acid funk bombed spectacularly, leading to decades in the wilderness. This from writer Paul Tingen, author of Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991 in his Guardian review of The Complete On the Corner Sessions from 2007.

So where does this leave us with our electric Miles choice on this edition of Cosmic Jazz? In the three years following the release of On the Corner, Davis took more steps in the same direction – but this time live. By June 1973 he had trimmed his band down to seven players, fronted it with guitarist Pete Cosey, who had spent time with noted blues performers as well as playing with Chicago jazz artists Phil Cohran and the Pharaohs. His fearsome guitar style is at the heart of these performances with this take on Ife, a tune which first appeared on the Big Fun compilation and was recorded just after the On the Corner sessions. In this live Tokyo version, Michael Henderson’s bass anchors the tune for nearly 20 minutes as Dave Liebman solos on soprano sax and flute while Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas mesh together on guitars. Al Foster on drums and Mtume on congas provide the beats and Davis cues them in from his electric organ. The percussion effects you hear throughout come from Cosey and Mtume and you either love or hate the outcome: Davis uses his wah-wah pedal almost continuously and the music is both focused and loose. To get a visual idea of this band live, this version of Ife from the same tour’s Vienna concert gives some idea of how ‘out there’ this music really is. There has been nothing like it since.

6.  Bheki Mseleku – Cosmic Dance from Beyond the Stars

We featured this posthumous release back in May and it’s time to check it out again. The late Bheki Mseleku was something of a phenomenon. An entirely self-taught pianist, saxophonist, guitarist and composer who grew up in Johannesburg, Mseleku moved to London in the late 1970s where, in 1987 – and cradling a tenor saxophone at his piano stool – he made his debut at Ronnie Scott’s club. His 1991 album Celebration was nominated for  Mercury Music Prize (but, of course, it didn’t win). Meditations and Timelessness appeared on major label Verve in subsequent years but by 2008 Mseleku was dead from diabetes at just 53. Now comes a newly-discovered solo piano recording, overseen by long time friend and supporter Eugene Skeef who had helped Mseleku return to London in 2003. Beyond The Stars is the result: a solo piano suite which condenses Mseleku’s vision of the diversity of South African musical forms into a statement in six parts. There are references to Mseleku’s Zulu heritage and the song forms of marabi, amahubo, maskanda and nguni create a kind of musical summary of his life.

7.  Tommy Smith – Song of the Martyrs from SOLOW

Neil owes this one to Scots music promoter Rob Adams who introduced Neil to this remarkable EP from Edinburgh-born saxophonist Tommy Smith. Recording his first album Giant Strides at the age of sixteen, Smith has gone on to carve an international jazz career recording with Blue Note and Scottish audiophile label Linn Records in the 1990s. He founded the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in the same decade and went on to record classical works and his own compositions with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and other large ensembles. In contrast, SOLOW is a very small scale work – an EP of solo tenor sax tunes directly inspired by experiencing psalm singing live on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides. The music which has a ‘call and response’ element is unique and powerful. In Gaelic unaccompanied psalm singing, a precentor leads with the first line, and from here the congregation responds, some faster than others, but with each one remains discernible. The form is influenced by the pibroch style of free ornamentation – improvisation, if you like – and reflects the ebb and flow of wind and waves. Neil has also experienced this music in the Free Presbyterian churches of the far north west of Scotland and it’s a remarkable sound. You can hear it here in an extract from a BBC programme on the Presbyterian tradition in Scotland and the EP can be found on Tommy Smith’s Bandcamp site where you’ll also find more of his music.

8.  Harold Budd –  Arabesque 3 from Avalon Sutra

That ebb and flow can be heard in Harold Budd’s music too. Budd, who died at 84 last year from Covid-19 complications was a minimalist composer who found inspiration in the music of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. He himself described his music as “so sweet and pretty and decorative that it would positively upset and revolt the avant-garde, whose ugly sounds had by now become a new orthodoxy.” It was a far cry from his start in music – playing drums in a regimental band alongside Albert Ayler – but Budd would go on to collaborate with Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins and others. His work is ostensibly secular but, through the use of his ‘soft pedal’ piano technique sounds rather beatific. 2005’s Avalon Sutra/As Long As I Can Hold My Breath is one of his best and Arabesque 3 (with sopranino saxophone by Jon Gibson) is a delight, with the sax breaking through Budd’s softly whispering piano. For more Budd listen to The Pearl, his collaboration with Eno and this track Late October.

9.  Daniel Herskedal – The Lighthouse on the Horizon from Harbour

Atmospheric is a term that has already been used above but it applies in an even stronger sense to the music of Norwegian composer and tuba and bass trumpet player Daniel Herskedal. His sixth album Harbour was released earlier this month on the British label Edition Records. It is beautifully lyrical, rhythmically charged music. The Norwegian landscape has been an important influence on Herskedal, and you can feel the landscape where this album was produced in his music. The album was recorded in December 2020 at Ocean Sound Recordings, perched on an island on the rugged Norwegian coastline.  The Lighthouse on the Horizon must have been a welcoming reassurance in this setting and at a time of year when the daylight hours in Norway are very short.

10. Petter Eldh feat. Erik Harland – Hawk Mountain from Projekt Drums Vol 1

“I’m obsessed with the drums” said Swedish producer and bassist Petter Eldh. He has been able to practise that obsession by making an album (Volume 1) with six diverse tracks that involve six different exciting drummers on the scene today. They are Richard Spaven (who can be found on one of the tracks on Alfa Mist’s album), Savannah Harris, Nate Wood, James Maddren, Gard Nilsson and on Hawk Mountain American drummer Eric Harland, whose credits include working with  Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland and Joshua Redman. The music is complex and tough and the arrangements include a total of sixteen instrumental collaborators comprising harpists, French horn, marimba players, keyboards and synths. This  music demands careful listening that will bring considerable rewards.

11. Kasia Pietrzko Trio – Passiac Avenue from Forthright Stories

The young 27 year old Polish pianist Kasia Pietrzko has become a regular on Cosmic Jazz and someone whose music we have liked to champion after coming across her through the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Her music is challenging, original and complex. Pietrzko studied jazz piano at the Krakow Music Academy and later in New York with, among others, Aaron Parks. She now has two albums released, Ephemeral Pleasures 2020 but Passiac Avenue can be found on her first album Forthright Stories, a title which almost sums up her approach to the music. Check her out on her Facebook page where you can find live solo and group performances.

12. The Awakening – Glory to the Sun from Mirage

More from Black Jazz Records to celebrate the re-release of the complete label catalogue from Real Gone Music. With only twenty records issued during the short life of the label, there’s a very high hit rate, with some essential jazz classics to look out for. This is one of them. The Awakening were the only group on the Black Jazz roster, and should have been heralded as one of the great bands in early 70s jazz. That they’re not is largely the result of the Black Jazz label’s distribution woes – if you can find an original copy of this record today you’ll be paying handsomely for it. Mirage was their second (1973) album and the last one they made together. The lineup is the same Chicago-based, AACM-centric musicians as on the first album, with the notable addition of bassist Rufus Reid on a couple of tracks. Spiritual jazz, free jazz, soul jazz, fusion jazz? It’s pretty much all represented here. This is the first vinyl re-release of this record – remastered at Sonic Vision and with new liner notes by Pat Thomas, it’s a keeper. Neil picked up his vinyl album from the excellent Analog Vault in Singapore but you may need to move fast for your own copy.  We say, music to inspire, to lift the spirits and to soothe mind, body and soul.

13. Jane Bunnett – Spirits of Havana from Spirits of Havana/Chamalonga Disc 1

The show ends with another artist that we keep turning back to – namely Jane Bunnett, Canadian soprano sax and flute player whose love of Cuban music has informed her playing over many years. Spirits of Havana was first released in 1992 and then reappeared as an expanded 25th anniversary CD in 2016. Bunnett and her husband, trumpet and flugelhorn Larry Cramer, travelled to Cuba in 1990 where they  assembled a collection of great Cuban musicians, including vocalist Merceditas Valdes and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The recorded outcome was a perfect, polished, precise feast of music that presents authentic Afro-Cuban, folk and jazz rhythms. This title tune has it all: blaring horns, tight percussion and crystal-clear vocals with spiritual choral responses. There is no feeling of the outsider going in and merging musical styles. This music feels and sounds natural and authentic. Bunnett brought together top musicians who simply gave their best. Highly recommended.

Neil is listening to…

It’s a Neil is listening to…  special for this Cosmic Jazz show with a chance for you to share the June Record Store Week edition of The Analog Vault’s Analog Club – tracks played and mixed by Leon and Nick from TAV.  This edition kicks off with a track from Khan’s Jamal’s 1984 Infinity album and doesn’t look back. Music also includes Gary Bartz, Cymande, the remarkable reissue EP from Ben Tankard and more treasures including a track from the new Brownswood South African compilation Indaba Is. For more from The Analog Vault, check out their 2020 top 20 – a jazz-heavy selection of great music.

10 July 2021: looking back – classic conscious and uptempo jazz

From time to time on Cosmic Jazz we present a show where we forget about new music and go back to dig out some classic tunes from across the jazz spectrum. This show takes a journey from tunes with conscious messages on to some uptempo jazz funk.

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind and Spirit

Cosmic Jazz regulars who click the Mixcloud tab will know there are a few records that we love to play again and again. But there is only one that Derek vows to play at least once every calendar year and – yes – it’s that time again. Black Renaissance was a band led by keyboard player Harry Whitaker – probably best known for his work with Roy Ayers (Whitaker played keys on We Live in Brooklyn). He was also Roberta Flack’s music director and he played piano on Gwen Guthrie’s classic Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent). Whitaker also played on recordings by – among others – Terumasa Hino, Norman Connors, Carmen Lundy, Phyllis Hyman, Gary Bartz and Mtume. His standing can be judged by the quality of the musicians he assembled for the Mind, Body and Spirit session – Woody Shaw, Azar Lawrence, Buster Williams, Billy Hart and the aforementioned Mtume. Here at Cosmic Jazz we think that you just HAVE to hear and own this record. It’s as essential (and influential) as Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme and Mingus Ah Um. Without it no jazz record collection would be complete. We have described in previous blogposts how amazing this 23 minute tune really is: it’s simply a wonderful piece of free, spontaneous and Afrocentric jazz, soul and rapping – before rap was known. In effect and reality, the whole piece was a jam session recorded in one take and – rather fittingly – on Martin Luther King day in 1976 and very, very difficult to find until released by Ubiquity Records in 2002. It is soulful, spiritual, modal, unpredictable and highly charged. There are instruments and voices, poetry and rap in the same year that rap supposedly started. The first rap record? You can listen and download the record here on Bandcamp, but look out for a vinyl repressing if you can.

2. Harold Land – Black Caucus from Choma (Burn)

The excellent Boplicity series (part of the Ace Group of reissues) has had a look into the Mainstream catalogue for some jazz which is – well – not always mainstream. And there’s no better example of this than the track we featured from Harold Land’s album Choma (Burn). It’s easy to think of Land as a straightahead small bandleader (check out the classic early album The Fox) but he’s definitely not on the featured Black Caucus where, with the help of extraordinary vibesman Bobby Hutcherson, the music fizzles and sparks with authority. Land is one of those undersung jazz saxophonists that deserves more attention. The band also featured Leon Ngudu Chancler who went on to provide the unique drum backbone on Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Another of Land’s Mainstream albums, the excellent A New Shade of Blue, was rereleased in 2018 on the WeWantSounds label and is well worth looking out for. Here’s the title track.

3. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color

It’s Joe Henderson’s tenor solo you can hear on the Horace Silver classic Song for My Father, but his recording career spans some forty years, appearing on over 30 albums on the Blue Note label alone.  Henderson never made a disappointing record and Black is the Color from 1972 is a good example of his later recordings with the Orrin Keepnews Milestone label.  Henderson used a lot of overdubbing on this record so we get to hear him on flute, alto flute, tenor and soprano and percussion in addition to the appearance of a synthesizer. Dave Holland, Airto Moreira and Jack DeJohnette were also on the sessions. Henderson went back to Blue Note where he recorded the superb two volume live set The State of the Tenor in 1985, essential recordings that are now part of the Tone Poets series. Here’s the beautiful Sam Rivers composition Beatrice.

4. Blue Mitchell – Mi Hermano from Soul Village/Martin Freeman & Eddie Pillar present Jazz on the Corner

We’re back with Mainstream now and one of the albums trumpeter Blue Mitchell recorded for the label in the 1970s. It made an appearance on the Jazz on the Corner collection from UK aficionados actor Martin Freeman and Acid Jazz label entrepreneur Eddie Pillar – itself an excellent collection of jazz cuts. There’s some great music here, including Kamasi Washington’s The Rhythm Changes. Soul Village (also often titled Blue Mitchell) was his first for the label and features his regular quintet at the time – tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, pianist Walter Bishop Jr, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Doug Sides. The title track is by Walter Bishop Jr. – and we’ve included his version on previous shows.

5. Byron Morris & Unity – Kitty Bey from Blow Thru Your Mind/Soul of a Nation: Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher

Now this is a really rare one. If you want an original copy of the 1974 album Blow Thru Your Mind which includes this track, then you need to head to Discogs with around £500! Fortunately you can find it on at least three compilations, included Jazz is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher – itself a reference to one of our favourite tunes by guitarist James Blood Ulmer. This is a two part compilation from the always reliable Soul Jazz label and was linked to the Soul of a Nation – Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in the UK in 2017 before travelling worldwide. The two Soul Jazz record sets that emerged from this included this second one.  The selection of music is an excellent introduction to this vibrant, creative period in American black music and includes tracks from The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Don Cherry, Funkadelic, Gil Scott-Heron and many more – including  lesser-known artists like Sarah Webster Fabio and the Har-You Percussion Group, all of whom were exploring new Afrocentric polyrhythmical styles of music – radical jazz, street funk and proto-rap – while at the same time taking on the Black Power and civil-rights inspired notions of self-definition, self respect and self-empowerment in their own lives.. You can also find an interesting take on Kitty Bey from Toshio Matsuura on LOVEPLAYDANCE, his album of substantially reworked covers.

6. Patrice Rushen – Jubilation from Prelusion/Before the Dawn

In case you did not realise it, Patrice Rushen has been and still is a serious jazz musician: you would have to be to appear on a Sonny Rollins album – The Way I Feel on Milestone Records, which includes the Rushen composition Shout It Out – or to have toured with Abbey Lincoln and performed with Herbie Hancock. Jubilation was originally released in 1975 on the Prestige album Before the Dawn, when Rushen was just twenty years old and has since been re-released on CD along with another of her jazz albums Prelusion. Jubilation has a Latin feel and provides a showcase for flute player Hubert Laws. Rushen was originally classically trained and among her many compositions have been symphonic works commissioned for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. There have also been scores for film and television. Rushen has been active in education at university level and also in schools with the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. In June 2021 she returned to performing live, appearing at the San Diego Jazz Festival.

7. Shirley Scott – Don’t Look Back from One for Me

This 1974 Strata-East record was re-released on Arc Records, Gilles Peterson’s new imprint. Shirley Scott is on organ and mellotron (a sure sign of the times!), with Harold Vick on tenor, Billy Higgins on drums and a lone appearance by drummer Jimmy Hopps on cowbell on one of the four tracks. Shirley Scott was a soul jazz organist who often featured on albums by her then husband Stanley Turrentine. One for Me was her sole outing for Strata-East and its great to have it back on vinyl through Arc – check it out in all formats on Bandcamp here. Shirley Scott is typically restrained, giving lots of space to Harold Vick who plays with real passion on this record. He recorded just a handful of albums as leader (including one for Blue Note called Steppin’ Out) but he’s appeared on several albums we rate highly here at Cosmic Jazz. Look out for the aforementioned Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys, The Almoravid from bassist Joe Chambers and Pharoah Sanders’ Live at the East. The latter is one of Sanders’ most inspired live recordings – here’s the magnificent Healing Song.

8. Irakere – Chékere Son from Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Vol. 1

The show normally ends by crossing musical borders and this week is no exception. The tune Chekere Son comes from Cuban band Irakere and can be found on a compilation put together by Kev Beadle, a British DJ who regarded this tune as one for serious dancers. Irakere was a band put together by pianist Chucho Valdes in 1973 – his son Chuchito took over the leadership in 1997. There were distinct Cuban sounds in their music but jazz was a major element too, as was the ability to encourage dancefloor moves. Chékere Son dates from 1976 and introduced a style of Cubanized bebop-flavoured lines, that departed from the style more typical in Cuban popular music of the time. It’s actually based on Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce – all the phrases are there, but not in the same order! Irakere were a large band and performed with a huge percussion section, including the remarkable  Anga Diaz, whom we have played on Cosmic Jazz previously. Along with Valdes, Diaz performed with trumpeter Roy Hargrove on the album Cristol Havana and released the innovative Echu Mingua album from World Circuit Records that includes this latin version of A Love Supreme.  Irakere also included musicians Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera,  who both became more widely known as leaders of their own bands after they defected to the United States and worked with US jazz musicians. Chucho Valdes (himself the son of celebrated pianist Bebo Valdes) went on to a successful jazz career, recording the excellent Live at the Village Vanguard for Blue Note in 2000. All three editions of Kev Beadle Presents… are recommended with hard to find musical treasures in each. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.