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

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

1. Ahmad Jamal – Dynamo from Live in Marciac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from Cosmic Jazz very soon.


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

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

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

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

2.    Carlos Garnett – Love Flower from Journey to Enlightenment

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

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

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

4.     Lakecia Benjamin – Jubilation from Phoenix

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

5.     Mary Halvorson –  Night Shift from Amaryllis

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

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

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

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

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

8.     Dwight Trible – My Stomping Ground from Ancient Future

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

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.


Wayne Shorter – Mr Gone: 29 March 2023

In this show we play tribute to one of the foremost artists in jazz – saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter – who died recently at the age of 89. Much has been written about him elsewhere but for both Neil and Derek, Shorter has been one of the most singular voices in jazz. A practising Buddhist, science fiction devotee and masterful improviser, the death of Wayne Shorter leaves a huge hole in the jazz world. This show is devoted entirely to his music.

While growing up in Newark, Wayne Shorter was given the nickname Mr Gone – an indication of his otherworldy air and subsequently the title of a Weather Report album that seemed to acknowledge his slow departure from the jazz supergroup that he had co-founded with Joe Zawinul in the early 1970s. As the excellent Guardian newspaper obituary from Richard Williams recognised, Shorter’s aura of cool detachment helped him to create a musical microclimate that was unique and immediately identifiable.

Unusually, Shorter had two unique and very different tones on both his principal instruments, the tenor and soprano saxophones. On tenor, the gruff, dark complexities were contrasted with the clean, piping clarity of his soprano. Both were immediately identifiable – and there are examples of each in our tribute show. But more than this, Shorter became recognised by many as the greatest living composer in jazz with a string of tunes that were to become modern jazz standards – perhaps none more so than Footprints. His music is often characterised by quirkily angled melodies that leaves space around the notes together with an improvising structure that emphasises subtlety rather than complexity. In another wonderfully evocative phrase, Richard Williams describes Shorter’s music as like a wraith of pale smoke through a door left ajar, curling gracefully around the musical furniture before evaporating as mysteriously as it had appeared, leaving an indelible afterimage.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Ping Pong from Roots and Herbs

All of this is apparent in the music we have selected for this show and we’ve included an iconic compositions from his early days with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers to his later quartet compositions. We begin with Ping Pong which Shorter wrote for Art Blakey. It’s a typical early Shorter tune – memorable, quirky and very stylish. Neil first heard it on an old New Musical Express jazz sampler cassette from the early 1980s and was immediately drawn to this perfect example of hard bop. Familiar with Shorter’s Weather Report compositions, this was the start of Neil’s journey back through the Shorter Blue Note catalogue. Shorter spent four years with the Jazz Messengers and, by the time he came to record his first solo album for Blue Note, he was beginning to become better known as both a composer and unique voice on the tenor saxophone. His run of eleven albums for the label between 1964 and 1970 is one of the most influential series of individual jazz albums from anyone in the jazz world and all titles are highly recommended.

Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil and Infant Eyes from Speak No Evil

We’ve chosen two tunes – the first is the title track from Speak No Evil, recorded in 1966 and the third of those Blue Note albums. In his excellent tribute show on BBC6 radio, Gilles Peterson referred to it as his favourite jazz record and indeed every tune is a compositional masterpiece. The group Shorter assembled was perfect – Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. There’s a telepathic rapport with Herbie Hancock and, indeed, Richard Cook and Brian Morton in the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings call this by far, Shorter’s most satisfying record. Second up from those Blue Note years is Infant Eyes from the same album. This is one of Shorter’s most gorgeous tunes and has – again – become something of a contemporary jazz standard. There’s a lovely vocal version by Doug and Jean Carn(e) from those excellent Black Jazz reissues on the Real Gone label.

Wayne Shorter – 12th Century Carol from Alegria

Next is Shorter at his most lyrical – and this one is a soprano sax feature. The album Alegria was released in 2003 and features the quartet that was to form Shorter’s working group for almost the next twenty years. Shorter is on tenor and soprano saxes, Danilo Perez is on piano, and with John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums this incredibly accomplished quartet released some of the best music of Shorter’s long career. Derek’s choice from this album is as enigmatic as Wayne Shorter himself – a setting of an anonymous 12 century carol that is just beautiful.

Weather Report – Three Clowns from Black Market

We follow this with a first dive into the music of Weather Report, a group Neil was fortunate enough to see twice in two of their very different incarnations. Three Clowns (a typically cryptic Shorter title) comes from 1976’s Black Market, one of the group’s most satisfying records. This tune is rather dismissed by Cook and Morton but it’s actually an atmospheric vehicle for one of Shorter’s excursions with the Lyricon, an electronic wind instrument which had only been developed a few years previously and which allowed him to match the increasingly intriguing sounds being created by Joe Zawinul on his armoury of electronic keyboards. As almost always with Weather Report, the outcome is not bombastic and driven by a desire to impress but rather, the music is subtle, emotive and – above all – creative.

Weather Report – Plaza Real from Procession

The next tune is one that Shorter has revisited a number of times, including with his later quartet. Neil saw the group perform Plaza Real in a shockingly different version on Shorter’s live tour of 2003 but it actually first appeared on the Weather Report album Procession from 1983. Here Shorter is again on soprano saxophone and using that clear, piping lyrical tone that is so immediately distinctive. The whistling (probably by Joe Zawinul) and concertina (from percussionist José Rossy) is a neat touch. This band were all about subtlety. Unfortunately, the later years of Weather Report are characterised by the marginalisation of Shorter’s nuanced approach to composition and improvisation and if you’re a beginner with the group, the early records are the ones to go for.

Wayne Shorter with Milton Nascimento – Lilia from Native Dancer

In the mid-1970s, Shorter began to extend the Brazilian influence that had been apparent on his later Blue Note records and recorded essentially a duet album with singer Milton Nascimento. Gilles Peterson remembers borrowing Native Dancer from his local library and being enchanted by the combination – and Neil recalls very clearly buying the record on release in 1975 from the late lamented Sunshine Records in Oxford. Airto Moreira is on percussion on our choice Lilia and elsewhere on the album Shorter’s Blue Note pal Herbie Hancock is featured. Nascimento’s wordless vocals are featured along with some very fine concluding soprano from Shorter and with a fabulous groove and organ swirls from Wagner Tiso this is a magical tune.

Wayne Shorter Quartet –Joy Ryder from Beyond the Sound Barrier

As we bring this all too short tribute show to an end, we come to another tune that Shorter revisited with his late quartet – the composition Joy Ryder. This take is again very different from the tune’s first incarnation, on Shorter’s 1988 album with the same title. For comparison, check out that earlier version here with, incidentally, the late and great Geri Allen on piano and keys. Neil’s view is that these later Columbia records are really due for a re-evaluation: much dismissed at the time, they now come across as not just typical of the musical zeitgeist of the time (overdriven electronic drums, for example) but actually powerful musical statements by a master composer negotiating a new sound language. Bringing the tune forward to 2005 and Shorter’s version on the live quartet album Beyond the Sound Barrier. This is such a good record and shows Shorter at the height of his later powers, revisiting some of his best compositions. Will Layman of the online review blog Pop Matters, says Beyond the Sound Barrier does more than reinforce the marvel of Wayne Shorter’s return to brilliant, challenging acoustic jazz. This collection of concert recordings makes the argument that Wayne’s long hiatus served an important artistic purpose, On Sound Barrier, Wayne’s quartet plays in a fully interactive style that eschews individual “solos” almost completely. There is not a single track that follows the usual jazz format of melody-solos-melody. Every one of these performances is a thematic exploration resembling a conversation between four equal partners—but a musical conversation of such exquisite cohesion and explosive discovery that each track seems an impossibility of grace. It’s worth giving this quote in full because it really does encapsulate what Shorter was doing with this quartet and which Neil heard in that Barbican, London concert in 2011. Definitely go for this superb record and the next one which signalled Shorter’s return to the Blue Note label after 43 years. Appropriately called Without a Net, this is another very fine album. There’s another take on Plaza Real and an extended cover of Flying Down to Rio, the title song from a 1933 musical!

The Manhattan Project – Nefertiti from The Manhattan Project

We end the show with another return to a classic Shorter composition, Nefertiti. Originally, recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet of which Shorter was a key member in 1968, the composition is noted for its inversion of what usually happens in jazz. Here the horn section repeats the melody numerous times without individual solos while the rhythm section (Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums) improvises underneath, reversing their traditional role. You can hear that magisterial original take with Miles right here. Our version comes from an intriguing jazz supergroup project that involved Wayne Shorter, pianist Michel Petrucciani, keyboardist and synth player Gil Goldstein, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White. Called the Manhattan Project, they released just one album under this name in 1990 – and there’s a DVD of a live performance too.

And so that’s a dip into the extraordinary body of work created by Wayne Shorter. We’ve not had time to reflect on his last album – a 3 CD set titled Emanon which featured music for a chamber orchestra and live recordings from London in 2013. But that wasn’t all: the discs came with a lavishly produced graphic novel which reflected that lifelong interest in science fiction and satisfyingly brought Shorter’s career to a remarkable conclusion. We’ll always come back to this amazing music in future Cosmic Jazz shows, but for now this is where we end.

Cosmic Jazz at The Analog Vault: 23 February 2023

Neil from Cosmic Jazz is now back in the UK but he had time before he left the Little Red Dot to record a final set for The Analog Vault – surely one of the best and most eclectic record stores on the island. The seven years in Singapore has been an awesome experience and Neil is very sad to leave all his local friends – including Leon, Hannah and The Analog Vault collective. It’s also time to pay tribute to the other vinyl emporia who have provided so much crate digging pleasure over the years: notably Cliff and Celia at Retrocrates/The Jazz Loft whose jazz reissue choice is absolutely the best, André at Choice Cuts who are the business when it comes to hip hop new and old school, Hear Records who have such a great selection upstairs – and too many others to mention. Singapore is a real haven for crate diggers – long may it continue. So here’s those last ten choices – enjoy.

  1. Ezra Collective – No Confusion (feat. Kojey Radical) from Where I’m Meant to Be (2022)

First up is one of Neil’s favourite releases of the last year – the excellent full length album from Ezra Collective – part of the huge UK jazz scene that’s really flourishing at the moment. Ezra include some outstanding soloists and on this album they’ve got some special guests too. Let’s name check one of the best key players on the scene – Joe Armon-Jones – and give a shout out to the great Kojey Radical on vocals on this track. Elsewhere you’ll hear Sampa the Great and Emilie Sandé on vocals and a blissful mix of dubwise sounds, Afrobeat, R n B and more. The album includes a funky take on that evergreen classic Smile (written by Charlie Chaplin – yes, indeed!) and a great reading of Sun Ra’s Love in Outer Space to close the record. The record really does all hold together and on orange vinyl makes for a treat on the decks. I can’t recommend this album highly enough. I have it on all formats – but vinyl is the one to get.

2. Vibration Black Finger – Blackism from Blackism (2017)

It’s another UK band up next but – oh – so different. Vibration Black Finger aren’t well known, and this second album from them pretty much disappeared when released some five years ago – but it’s well worth a listen. Andy Smart is on treated trumpet as he awakens the ghost of Miles Davis from the revolutionary On the Corner album. The album’s eclectic mood is held together by Lascelle Lascelles’ drumming – part Can and part James Brown – but there’s lots of other stuff in the mix too. Lascelles (real name, Lascelle Gordon) was a founder of the Acid Jazz Pioneers The Brand New Heavies – but this is a whole new order of heaviness. If you like this you’d probably enjoy Sextant – a fabulous and under-rated album by the British band A Certain Ratio (or ACR). It’s just been reissued – and for a taste of the music here’s the excellent Knife Slits Water. You can’t have my original album (a mint copy will set you back over $170 on Discogs!) but you can get Blackism from those excellent guys at Bandcamp. Neil snapped it up at Joo Chiat’s Choice Cuts.

3. Herbie Hancock – Sleeping Giant from Crossings (1972)

Neil’s played Herbie Hancock in an earlier set but there’s no excuses for playing him again. The reissued album on the Speakers Corner label in a lovely gatefold jacket is something of a revelation – the sound on vinyl is way better than on my original copy (and that doesn’t always happen). The remastering is all analogue and it shows. Herbie Hancock had grown up under Miles Davis’s wing but his music here is as abstract as the late quintet but with what we would now call electronica thrown in. Dr Patrick Gleeson was the synthesizer wizard helping Hancock to achieve those other-worldly sounds but on Sleeping Giant it’s the battery of percussion that is the most memorable. This is a 20 minute + track and we played just the first seven minutes – but what a sound!

4. Nujabes – Luv (sic) Pt. 3 from Modal Soul (2005)

Jun Seba (瀬葉), who tragically died in a car accident in 2010, was a Japanese record producer, engineer, DJ and remixer who went by the name Nujabes (his name reversed) and released just two albums in his life time. Mostly instrumental – his music sampled hip hop, soul and jazz cresting a kind of triphop vibe but with breakbeat and downtempo elements too. Every single track on Modal Soul is brilliant. This is music you just want to listen to over again – and its earworm value is very high. There’s a similar tragic story behind the work of the Serbian producer Mitar Subotić who went by the name of Suba and who worked with many Brazilian artists. He tragically died in a fire in his studio but not before completing his wonderful São Paulo Confessions album – try Um Dia Comum (A Normal Day). There are clear links in the production style here.

5. Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti– Eva from Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti (1972)

This is the sunniest music you will hear all year – guaranteed! Neil first came across this great track on a wonderful new compilation from Mr Bongo Records and then tracked down the original album at Retrocrates here in Joo Chiat Road. Compiled by DJ Luke Una this is a great collection – and it wisely kicks off with this cut from Jorge and Olivetti’s self-titled album from 1972. Neil ended up playing it over and again and when he found the re-released album at Retrocrates it was an automatic purchase. Every track is infectious with hooks, synths and great trombone solos. Both Jorge and Olivetti were highly regarded music producers who worked with the best Brazilian musicians – Marcos Valle, Sandra Sa, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and many more. The music is full of those 1980s tropes – synths, drum machines, handclaps and more and some might say its too AOR. Actually, this is music of the highest order – impossible to recommend highly enough. Brazilliance for sure! The album is available here on Bandcamp.

6. STR4TA – Kinshasa FC from Aspects (2021)

STR4TA is the result of a joint collaboration between DJ and uber-influencer Gilles Peterson and Bluey Maunick, leader of the band Incognito (who’ve played twice at the Singapore Jazz Festival) and several other Britfunk groups including Light of the World and Freez. The music is straight out of the early 1980s – acid jazz at its best. Cheesy listening or easy listening? Either way, this is just a delight. And – if you like this – then check out their most recent 2023 release which includes Lazy Days, featuring Emma-Jean Thackray on trumpet and vocals. Like the previous choice, this is sunny summer music but this time with a British twist – the lyrics include the phrases “cotton sheets” and “pots of tea”!

7. Barney Wilen – Zombiezar from Moshi (1972)

In 1970 French saxophonist Barney Wilen got together a team of filmmakers, technicians and musicians to travel to Africa so they could record the music of native tribes. The result emerged two years later – a dark mix of sound effects, background chatter, African rhythms and avantgarde jazz. Zombiezar is absolutely the funkiest track on the album which you can get on Bandcamp  in a fantastic 2LP set along with a CD of the film made about this amazing expedition. Cut with French and African players including guitarist Pierre Chaze, pianist Michel Graillier and percussionist Didier Leon, this is music with few precedents or followers, covering a range from extraterrestrial dissonance to earthbound, streetlegal funk. Wilen pays little heed to conventional structure, assembling tracks like Afrika Freak Out and Zombizar from the bricolage of street sounds, local music and his studio band. At the time of writing, The Analog Vault had a copy of the original release too – check it out if you’re there!

8. Sun Ra Arkestra – Love on a Faraway Planet from Hours After (1989)

Neil had been wanting to play Sun Ra at The Analog Vault for ages and he was pleased to track down this two record set of music recorded back to back in 1986 in Milan, Italy with a version of the Arkestra including Marshall Allen and John Gilmore on tenor saxes. At age 98 Allen still leads the Arkestra on worldwide tours, making him the oldest living jazz musician still playing and touring. So what can we say about Sun Ra? Well, first up, he claimed that he is literally not of this earth but was born on the planet Saturn and was sent to earth to promote world peace. His music ranges from wild keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians. Also in the mix are electronic sounds, chants and spoken word pieces. Neil was lucky enough to see Sun Ra perform in London around the time this record was created – and what an experience! The full band on stage, female vocalists and a huge array of percussionists with Ra controlling everything with sweeps of his free hand while the other one stabs at his keyboards. The music was wild and unruly – free jazz at its best. Here in the UK, Neil has dozens of Sun Ra albums – and he recorded 100s of them, often privately. For an introduction to Ra you can’t get better than Lanquidity from 1978 and the track Where Pathways Meet. Then start exploring…

9. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Exodus from King Scratch (2022)

We’re now into a completely different genre of music but one that’s familiar – reggae. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was without doubt the most influential producer on the island of Jamaica and this is his early take on Bob Marley’s Exodus. It’s typical of his work – lots of studio effects, found sound elements and tape manipulation that create a looser (and better) sound that on the more processed Marley version. Perry was one of the first Jamaican producers to create alternative dub versions of songs and even whole albums. For an introduction to music on vinyl from his complete career, this new King Scratch compilation is a great place to start. Then check out classic albums like Super Ape (1976) and the wonderful Arkology 3CD box set from 1997 that’s still available on Discogs.

10. Etienne de Crécy – Le Patron est Devenu Fou from Super Discount (1996)

We ended the show with something that’s clearly not jazz – but that’s what we like to do! In French the tune’s title means ‘The boss (shop owner) has gone mad’ – referring to the Super Discount of the title. The tracks on this compilation are credited to different French musicians but there’re all produced by Etienne de Crécy who themed the record Super Discount using one of his own DJ names. The music is essentially a French twist on American house music and became known as ‘The French Touch’ and was really popular in the late 1980-90s. Daft Punk, Air, Cassius and others all came out of this scene. De Crécy released Super Discount in 1998 and it’s a great kind of summary of this influential style: samples, repeated hooks and filter and phaser effects all set in a consistent ‘four on the floor’ beat perfect for the clubs of the times. It still sounds great today!

For more updates on what’s happening at TAV don’t forget to check out both their Instagram account and excellent blog. We’ll be sharing regular links on Cosmic Jazz with our friends in Singapore – watch this space for more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.    Fergus McCreadie – Forest Floor from Forest Floor

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

Chris Potter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.    Don Cherry – Karmapa Chenno from Hear & Now

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

8.    Monika Roscher Big Band – 8 Prinzessinen single

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

The return of Cosmic Jazz: 05 February 2023

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

  1. KARU – Purulli from An Imaginary Journey

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

2. Sunking – Hakim Warrick feat. Raphy from Smug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Marcos Valle – Olha Quem Ta Chegando from Sempre

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

9. Mr. Fingers – Sao Paulo from Cerebral Hemispheres

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

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

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


A spiritual and political musical finale: 06 January 2023

Have you been looking for Cosmic Jazz on Mixcloud? Fear not – we have had a problem with Mixcloud but just click here: Cosmic Jazz 06 January 2023 and you’ll find the latest show. It’s full of spiritual sounds and sentiments, alongside politically inspired tunes are among the dominant themes in this week’s show. There is new music and re-releases from the year 2022 as well as some older tunes to fit in with the overall ambience. The tempi may be more restrained than usual but the music is deep, intense and meaningful.

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

Alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins released his second album, The 7th Hand  on Blue Note in January this year and over the last few months it’s begun to appear on many end of year lists. No. 3 in the Jazzwise Magazine Critics Poll and No. 1 choice of jazz writer Kevin Le Gendre, who in the Black music monthly Echoes describes the record as a wily blend of post-bop and avant-garde vocabularies and truly ecstatic eruptive improvising by the leader. The record as a whole and, indeed, our CJ selection for this show has a distinctly spiritual message. Fugitive Ritual, Selah builds slowly, with the warm, gospel-like tones of Immanuel Wilkins’ alto sax providing the spiritual lead. Wilkins is ably supported by pianist Micah Thomas whose playing is always sensitive and controlled with melodies building up from his right hand while the left comments on the drum and bass support from Kweku Sumbry and Daryl Johns respectively. Flautist of the moment Elena Pinderhughes appears on two tunes and the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble on the opener Don’t Break. The album’s seventh and final track is a 26 minute free improvisation titled Lift in which the group departs from their tightly woven group sound into something much more free – evoking both the spirit of free jazz pioneers like Sunny Murray and Cecil Taylor or alternatively, the power of Coltrane and Elvin Jones. This is undoubtedly spiritual jazz – indeed, the whole album from the title forwards is steeped in Biblical symbolism.

2.   KARU – Nyia from An Imaginary Journey

KARU have a religious and spiritual feel drawing upon a diversity of cultures from China, to Papua New Guinea, to Mali and more and a sound that is both haunting and mysterious. The band is the project of double bass player Alberto Brutti who states that his sound explores the connection between music’s ancestral rhythm on tribal culture and the freedom of jazz. It’s all strongly evident in the tune Nyia. There are chants, pounding double bass lines, shamanic sax interludes, avant-garde electronics, samples and more. A truly border crossing of spiritual  influences and musical heritages. It is hard to determine whether the sound represents a joyful religious celebration or is providing the backdrop to the last days and it’s all part of the intriguing mystery of the record.

3.   Sunking – Uncle Kane feat Alex Dugdale from Smug

If you want jazz in short, sharp bursts from a band with a DIY underground punk attitude try Sunking and their album Smug. The tune Uncle Kane with its wild saxophone blast is possibly the shortest tune ever to appear on Cosmic Jazz. Sunking are a duo of Bobby Granfelt and Antoine Martel – also members of the Seattle-based experimental jazz collective High Pulp, whom we have featured and enjoyed on the show. We’re trying to embrace a certain amount of discomfort with the music explains Granfelt. There is certainly something unsettling and challenging about the music which never settles – but surely some of the most inventive jazz often has this effect…

4.   Jasper Høiby – Spiritual Geniuses from What it Means to be Human

Bass player Jasper Høiby found fame with the superb acoustic trio Phronesis from 2005-20 but he has gone to greater things with his work on the British Edition Records label. What It Means To Be Human is the second in a series of four albums from Høiby’s Planet B group. As with the first release from 2020, it’s the same line-up – Høiby on bass and electronics, Josh Arcoleo on saxophone, and Marc Michel on drums. Focussing on global topics of vital importance, this new release continues where the last album left off, with themes of humanity, climate change, artificial intelligence and monetary reform all intelligently juxtaposed and integrated into the music. Planet B is very much an international trio with the Dane Høiby, Arcoleo from the UK and Michel from France. Like other current jazz albums we’ve featured recently, the music is enhanced by soundscapes of electronics and interspersed with powerful, emotive text by some unique and forward-thinking women including Grace Lee Boggs, Ruby Sales and Jane we can do to improve.

5.   Sun-Mi Hong – Letter With No Words from Third Page: Resonance

As the title implies, Third Page: Resonance is the third album for Korean born, Amsterdam-based drummer Sun-Mi Hong, and it marks her debut on the Edition label. Hong is one of the rising stars in European jazz and has already built a formidable reputation, not only for her drumming – employing Korean techniques together with more conventional jazz – but also for her composing. She is the winner of the SENA Dutch Jazz Competition 2018 and Edison Award Winner 2021 in the National category for her last album A Self-Strewn Portrait (ZenneZ Records). Her current group is a quintet lineup with Nicolò Ricci on tenor saxophone, Alistair Payne on trumpet, Chaerin Im on piano and Alessandro Fongaro on bass. Hong grew up in South Korea where her passion for drumming was not encouraged and so ten years ago she relocated to Amsterdam, facing a new culture and language. The questing, changeable nature of her compositions reflect this dislocation and our choice – Letter with No Words – begins with sustained bowed bass and single piano notes before the horns introduce a melody only to have it dissolve into fractured notes from Payne’s trumpet which are then softened by Ricci’s tenor tones. These changes are typical of most of this album – it’s not an easy listen but there is no doubt about Hong’s drumming prowess or her compositional skills.

6.   Makaya McCraven – So Ubuji from In These Times

This is a really interesting 2022 record that has divided many. We have long championed the music of ‘beat scientist’ Makaya McCraven, but In These Times is really something different. McCraven himself has acknowledged the protracted genesis of this record, claiming that it’s taken him seven years to finish it. And indeed it plays very differently from his earlier releases which were assembled in much the same way as Teo Macero did in an analog form with the Miles Davis records In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew: chopping up, rearranging and overdubbing live recordings into new structures. But In These Times feels and sounds very different from this.  There’s still that rhythmic imprint of hiphop, but the whole sounds more composed, deploying subtle string arrangements and simple, hooky melodies. Yes, this is an easy listen but the simplicity is deceptive. Listen repeatedly and you hear more intricacies every time. It all feels very deliberate, and this is reinforced by the Harry Belafonte quote we hear on the opening track. It’s a sample from a radio interview that Belafonte gave to Studs Terkel, in which he talks about the John Henry story. In Belafonte’s view, Henry wasn’t against the steam drill but rather he wanted to preserve the dignity of those who had given their lives to the tunnel. I ain’t really opposed to the machine, I just feel that the machine can’t take the place of the soul and the sweat for the many men who died to help build this tunnel, It’s easy to understand the resonance of this quote for McCraven, who has based his work on the synthesis of jazz improvisation and electronic manipulation. The question now? Where will he go next?

7.   Tribe – Marcus Garvey from Hometown Detroit Sessions 1990-2014

Marcus Garvey comes from the first compilation bringing together the modern era recordings of Tribe, Detroit’s independent jazz collective. They began as a musical ensemble in 1971 co-founded by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin but soon expanded into a broad amalgam including a live collective and independent record label. Tribe album releases like Harrison’s An Evening With The Devil (1972) and Harrison and Ranelin’s A Message From The Tribe (1973) became early ‘70s milestones in Detroit jazz – and we’ve featured this music on past shows. This new Hometown compilation focuses on the later era of Tribe and Rebirth Inc., with rare and previously unreleased recordings including Harold McKinney and his McKinfolk family of musicians (Wide And Blue and dance celebration Juba); Phil Ranelin’s re-working of He The One We All Knew; Poet Mbiyu Chui (Williams Moore), pianist Pamela Wise and percussionist Djallo Djakate (the uncompromising Ode To Black Mothers and our choice, the rallying cry of Marcus Garvey). It’s a really good compilation with both available formats of LP and CD including sleeve notes by journalist Herb Boyd and rare photos from Wendell Harrison’s personal archive.

8.   Joyce with Mauricio Maestro – Feminina from Natureza (produced, arranged & conducted by Claus Ogerman)

We’ve featured this Far Out Records release previously on Cosmic Jazz but this time we have gone for the tune that began the search for this elusive record. Recorded in the US in 1977, Natureza has finally emerged – but not without its problems as the complete original tapes could not be found and some tracks emerged from a tape copy retained by Joyce herself. The Brazilian singer has long been a favourite of Cosmic Jazz and we have featured her music over the years. Despite being declared “one of the greatest singers” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and having recorded over 30 albums, Joyce never quite achieved the international recognition of the likes of Jobim, João Gilberto or Sergio Mendes all of whom had hugely successful international careers. But there was a moment when it seemed Joyce might be on the cusp of an international breakthrough: while living in New York, she met the great German producer Claus Ogerman and ended up recording Natureza. The record features fellow Brazilian musicians Mauricio Maestro (who wrote/co-wrote four of the songs), percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and drummer Tutty Moreno, and some of the most in-demand stateside players including Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell and Buster Williams. But the album was never released and Joyce didn’t get that international career. She returned to Brazil and contact with Ogerman was lost. A few years after the success of her albums Feminina and Agua E Luz in Brazil, Joyce’s music began to find its way to the UK, and Feminina became a hit on  the underground jazz-dance scene of the late 1980s. Thanks to Mr Bongo’s Dave Buttle, import copies of the Feminina album became available – and that’s when both Neil and Derek bought the first of many Joyce recordings. This much extended version did appear on a rare Brazilian compilation (where Neil first heard it) and now we have the rest of the album to enjoy. Check it out – on Bandcamp or the Far Out Records site.

9. Gilles Peterson/Lionel Loueke – Watermelon Man from HH Reimagined

More adventurous music, this time released on the British label Edition Records. Guitarist Lionel Loueke was born in the West African country of Benin, then moved on to Cote d’Ivoire, then Paris and then the US. In 2020 he released a record featuring music by his long-term mentor Herbie Hancock and now DJ and music director Gilles Peterson – an admirer of Loueke and with a shared love of Herbie Hancock’s music. On this 2022 release, Peterson and co-producer Alex Patchwork re-imagine, refocus and reinvent the 2020 release with parts of it re-recorded by Lionel Loueke. The result is an electronic, sparse, experimental sonic surprise.

10. Herbie Hancock – The Eye of the Hurricane from Maiden Voyage

Perhaps our choice was a little predictable, but no apologies for following a record paying homage to Herbie Hancock with a tune from the man himself. This one is from Maiden Voyage, one of the great Blue Note records of the 1960s recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studios in March 1965 with Herbie Hancock joined by Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, George Coleman on tenor sax, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. Yes, we could have followed the electronics above with Herbie Hancock music from his more electronic vein rather then the more accessible hard bop of Maiden Voyage, but this amazing record is not without its experimentation – and on The Eye of the Hurricane it’s not before we hear Freddie Hubbard soloing at his inventive best. Just revel in the quality of this Blue Note performance – it’s six minutes of stunning creativity.

11.  St. Germain – Family Tree from St. Germain

St. Germain, alias Ludovic Navarre, sounds better every time Derek listens to him. This French composer/music director/programmer does not produce too many records , but when they arrive they demand your attention. He is an an obvious choice for our end of show genré-crossing moment with a beautiful, haunting and atmospheric tune from his self-titled 2015 album. Navarre draws on a wide range of Black musical styles – jazz, blues, reggae and more. He incorporates keyboards, saxophone and electric guitar with samples and electronic loops creating an African-influenced deep  house but with this album there’s another influence too. The balafon, the kora and – on our chosen track – the n’goni, a small lute-guitar with 4-6 strings. St Germain was recorded and mixed in Navarre’s own studio, and draws upon the experience of an international boundary crossing line-up of musicians. Family Tree includes Brazilian Jorge Bezerra on percussion (a member of the Joe Zawinul Syndicate), Malian Adama Coulibaly on vocals, kamela and n’goni (he’s played with Salif Keita), Add in Senegalese star Allaune Wade on bass, Edouard Coulibaly from Guadeloupe on saxes and, from Martinique, Didier Davidas on keys, and St. Germain does indeed present a melting pot of ideas, techniques and experience – highly recommended.

More from Cosmic Jazz in 2023!

20 November 2022: Jaimie Branch, British Jazz, Brazil and more

This show starts with powerful music from the late Jaimie Branch. It then goes back to Detroit’s Tribe, calls into Brazil, features contemporary British jazz and comes up with a surprise at the end.

1. Jaimie Branch – Prayer for Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2 from Fly or Die Live

We start with some really important (and poignant) music from trumpeter and vocalist Jaimie Branch who died in August this year. You can read here comments about her, including her own statement that “I want them to know that I mean every note that I play.” The fire, the intensity, the unpredictability of her music, coupled with political statements – as in this tune – bears all of  this out. That trumpet played music that was free, that was avant-garde, that made statements for our time. The same site contains a significant quote from trumpeter Dave Douglas “She brought us so many insights into how the trumpet could engage in the music differently… She had a vision for synthezising the  voices of her inspirations and taking them to new levels no one had thought possible.” Check out some of the other words people have had to say and, after listening to the music, add your own thoughts in a comment.

2. Tribe – Ode to Black Mothers from Hometown Detroit Sessions 1990-2014

Tribe began as a musical ensemble in 1971 co-founded by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin that soon expanded into a live collective and independent record label. Harrison’s ideas of independence, self-determination and education were central to the Tribe ethos: “I might be possessed with a drive to get the knowledge out,” explained Harrison, “because I see this as sustaining the future of the jazz diaspora, the jazz tradition.” Tribe album releases like Harrison’s An Evening With The Devil (1972) and Harrison and Ranelin’s A Message From The Tribe (1973) became early 1970s milestones in Detroit jazz. This Hometown… compilation places the spotlight on the later years of Tribe and Rebirth Inc., with rare and previously unreleased recordings. Poet Mbiyu Chui (Williams Moore), pianist Pamela Wise and percussionist Djallo Djakate feature on our selection, the uncompromising Ode To Black Mothers. The album comes with sleeve notes by journalist Herb Boyd and photos from Wendell Harrison’s personal archive and you can track it down here on Bandcamp.
3. Sabu Martinez – Hotel Alyssa – Sousse, Tunisia (Danny Krivit edit) from Mr Bongo edits Volume 1 (12in single)

New York-born DJ and remixer Danny Krivit has lived and breathed music all his life. His father managed trumpeter Chet Baker and his mother was an accomplished jazz singer. As a DJ in two NY clubs opened by his father, he met many of the most famous DJs of the day, including Nicky Siano (of the Gallery), Walter Gibbons (of Galaxy 21), and David Mancuso (of The Loft). It was at The Loft that Krivit began his long time friendships with DJs Larry Levan (from Paradise Garage) and Francois Kevorkian. With the arrival of hiphop in the early 1980s, Krivit began scratch mixing and working alongside Grandmaster Flash and Africa Bambaata and his DJing and remixing work has successfully continued through to today. This new reworking of the Sabu Martinez track should send you straight to the original Afro Temple album which has been reissued a number of times over recent years – you can find them here on Discogs. Beware – the only original copy pressing available on Discogs will set you back €500.00 so go for a good repress (like the French Pure label one from  1993) at a much more reasonable £25.00.

4. Joyce with Mauricio Maestro – Moreno from Natureza, arranged and produced by Claus Ogerman

We’ve been waiting for this album for a long time. Recorded in the US in 1977, Natureza has finally been released on the UK’s Far Out Records. Joyce has long been a favourite of Cosmic Jazz and we have featured her music over the years. Despite being declared “one of the greatest singers” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and having recorded over 30 albums, Joyce never quite achieved the international recognition of the likes of Jobim, João Gilberto or Sergio Mendes all of whom had hugely successful international careers. But there was a moment when it seemed Joyce might be on the cusp of an international breakthrough: while living in New York, she met the great German producer Claus Ogerman and ended up recording Natureza. The record features fellow Brazilian musicians Mauricio Maestro (who wrote/co-wrote four of the songs), percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and drummer Tutty Moreno, and some of the most in-demand stateside players including Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell and Buster Williams. But the record was never released and Joyce never had that international career. She returned to Brazil and contact with Ogerman was lost. A few years after the success of her albums Feminina and Agua E Luz in Brazil, Joyce’s music began to find its way to the UK, and Feminina became a hit on  the underground jazz-dance scene of the late 1980s. Thanks to Mr Bongo’s Dave Buttle, import copies of the Feminina album became available – and that’s when both Neil and Derek bought the first of many Joyce recordings.

Joyce in Singapore – July 2022

Coming full circle, Neil was privileged to see Joyce and husband Tutty Moreno perform in Singapore earlier this year in a show that vividly demonstrated her still beautiful voice. So, some 45 years after the initial recording in New York, Natureza is now available. Sadly, only two tracks are from the original master tapes, with the rest being sourced from an unmixed tape copy that Joyce had kept – but overall, the sound quality is fine. A CJ recommended purchase.

5. Gal Costa – Presente Cotidiano from Índia

We stay with Brazil for this masterpiece from the late Gal Costa, one of the most important musicians to emerge from the post-Tropicália scene. Índia features an incredible line-up of Brazil’s finest musicians – including Gilberto Gil, Arthur Verocai, Dominguinhos, Rogério Duprat and Tenorio Jr. amongst others. Costa’s voice is as clear and inviting as always, but it’s the dramatic range of the arrangements here that is the most spectacular aspect with Gil’s arrangements of strings, accordions, horns and reeds all contributing to the unique atmosphere of every song here. Índia was Costa’s most controversial album – probably less for its allegorical lyrics than for its cover image of a woman’s torso with a red thong-like bikini. The military banned the album sleeve and ordered Costa’s record company to sell it only inside an opaque blue plastic cover. As often, this gesture was the best publicity possible and Brazilians queued at record stores to buy it. Meanwhile, Costa emerged as something of a feminist icon… She once told an interviewer: “People have to respect differences. The other doesn’t have to be like you. You have to have freedom to be, to exist, whatever you may be. That’s implicit in me, in my way of being.” This is an album that – like those of Arthur Verocai – that will grow with every listen.

6. Ezra Collective – Welcome to my World from Where I’m Meant To Be

This is Ezra Collective’s finest hour – so far. Released just a few weeks ago, it takes just one listen to the album to be convinced about what a leap forward this is for the band. There’s a new level of maturity in the songs and their arrangements. The snippets of conversation that punctuate some of the songs (and which in the wrong hands can often be merely irritating) here actively contribute to the powerful atmosphere of the album. So, a song called Belonging follows snatches of a phone conversation with the film director Steve McQueen; there’s a nod to Damien Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock and starting No Confusion, the voice of the late Nigerian drummer Tony Allen intones: “I’m playing jazz my way.” Guest vocals come from Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical and Emile Sandé – and each is a substantial contributions to the record. Interestingly, the cover image seems to pay tribute to both Bob Dylan’s The Basement Tapes and Thelonious Monk’s Underground – what do you think?

7. KOKOROKO – War Dance from Could We Be More?

We like to reflect the extent, importance and variety of the current British jazz scene on Cosmic Jazz. So, Ezra Collective are followed by another band, KOKOROKO, who have their first full length album Could We Be More released on the Brownswood label. It is an album with, at times, dreamlike elements and some simply beautiful, melodic tunes. War Dance is one of the more up-tempo numbers that brings into full effect the brass section with bandleader Sheila Maurice-Grey producing soaring trumpet sounds, Cassie Kinoshi on alto saxophone and Richie Seivwright on trombone backed by driving beats from bass guitar, guitar, drums and talking drum. It has the unified sound of a mighty band moving forward in love, togetherness and purpose.

8. Binker Golding – Howling and Drinking in God’s Own Country from Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy

We return to that album of country ‘n’ western jazz… Well, not really, but the interventions of Billy Adamson’s guitar do suggest a certain c & w twang. In fact, this is the latest album by highly respected British jazz saxophonist Binker Golding and our choice of tune really swings, at no time more so than when Cosmic Jazz favourite Sarah Tandy wheels away on her piano break. The record finds Golding moving towards a new sound that incorporates elements of blues, heart-land rock and Americana while remaining firmly rooted in the jazz idiom. It is sharp, incisive, jazz with a purpose, led by a player now well established on the British jazz scene in a number of roles. He is a player who selects long, fascinating and intriguing titles for his albums and in this particular case for the tune as well. Check him out.

9.  Alina Bzhezhinska  & Hip Harp Collective – Afro-Blue from Reflections

It’s always good to hear instruments that are not common in jazz. The harp would come into this category and Ukraine-born harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and her Hip-Harp Collective are now part of the British scene. Alina is also playing an important role in raising funds for Ukranian musicians. Derek saw her playing in August outdoors at Snape Maltings – excellent it was too. The subsequent release Reflections does not quite capture the power of her captivating live performance, but pays important respects to those who have influenced Bzhezhinska, in particular harpists Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. The album includes some original compositions but Afro Blue is a Mongo Santamaria tune of which there have been versions by John Coltrane and Robert Glasper, among others. Alina has gathered some key members of the UK scene musicians to join her Collective and on this number they include Jay Phelps on trumpet, Tony Kofi on saxophone and the impressive Joel Prime on percussion.

10. Val Bennett – Take Five (aka The Russians Are Coming) from Tighten Up Vol 1, Disc 2

We return to a past feature of the show, namely including as the last track something that might be a little different and/or surprising and/or stretches the boundaries of jazz. This time we head to Jamaica and the saxophonist Val Bennett with his excellent version of the tune Take Five – with Bennett’s addition in brackets aka The Russians are Coming. Written originally by sax player Paul Desmond and a chart hit for the Dave Brubeck Quartet, this was the biggest selling jazz single ever. It is not so surprising, though, that a Jamaican version should appear. Several early ska/reggae musicians learnt their instruments through playing jazz-related music, as at the famous Alpha Boys’ School. Val Bennett led a number of bands on the Jamaican hotel circuit from the 1950s and he became a regular session player for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and other Jamaican music producers, including Edward ‘Bunny’ Lee, with whom this tune was made. Both of the Trojan Records Tighten Up compilations are well worth exploring, especially in their deluxe editions on CD which offer a huge number of additional tracks. Here’s the Discogs link for you.

More Cosmic Jazz music soon.


06 November 2022: jazz from Britain and New Zealand, electronica from Japan + a soulful end

Your latest Cosmic Jazz majors on contemporary British jazz (and two pioneers from the past), some new jazz from New Zealand, an inventive Japanese take on A Love Supreme and a more soulful end to the show, including a signature tune from  the late Ramsey Lewis.

1.  Binker Golding – (Take me to the) Wide Open Lows from Dream Like A Dogwood Wild Boy

We began the show with Binker Golding – a musician we have followed since his beginnings in Enfield, north London some years ago. Do not be put off by the opening of this tune – Golding is not a country and western artist, nor a rock star – he is a tenor playing jazz musician, and you’ll soon find out after the intro. Golding has recorded five duo albums with drummer Moses Boyd  -all of which we have featured on CJ – but his latest album, Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy, is something of a departure even for a self-confessed ‘line crosser’. The band is familiar though, with the wonderful Sarah Tandy on piano who provides one of her inventive features on this track, Billy Adamson on guitar who definitely adds something different, the excellent double bass player Daniel Casimir and powerful drummer Sam Jones. There’s lots of jazz of course, but don’t be surprised at the hints of Americana, blues and – dare we say it – rock too. Golding will be performing on the opening night of this year’s upcoming London Jazz Festival later this month.

2.  KOKOROKO – Tojo from Could We Be More

Another much-praised 2022 release came from octet KOKOROKO. Could We Be More, their first full length LP following an influential appearance on Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here compilation from 2018 and an EP in 2019. The new record follows the same path as previously – a blend of contemporary jazz, R&B, juju and Afrobeat. The group is led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey and features, saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, trombonlist Richie Seivright, percussionist Onome Edgeworth, keyboardist Yohan Kebede, guitarist Tobi Adenaike-Johnson, bassist Duane Atherley and drummer Ayo Saluwu. The lead in track is Tojo – a blend of ambient sounds, dubwise bass and Afrobeat horns with an excellent trumpet break from Maurice-Grey.

3. Don Rendell Sextet – The Odysseus Suite part 4: Veil of Ino from The Odysseus Suite

Don Rendell was one of the elder statesmen of jazz in the UK. Until his death in 2015, he had worked with the cream of British jazz artists, most notably with trumpeter Ian Carr in the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet. Over many years, we have featured the music of this very special band and included music from seminal albums like Shades of Blue (1965) and Dusk Fire (1966). If you’re familiar with the classic 1970 Lansdowne Recordings Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises by Neil Ardley, Don Rendell and Ian Carr then you’ll recognise the four compositions on this EP from the closing segment of that collection. The versions included here however, are taken from a separate session recorded around the same time and reveal that Rendell had a grander vision for them than simply to round off a collaborative album. Not only are the tracks here nearly 20 min longer in total than the Lansdowne sessions, they also include two additions to the personnel in Peter Shade on vibes and flute, and Rendell’s colleague from the recently-disbanded Rendell/Carr Quintet, Michael Garrick on piano.

4. Elton Dean Quartet – Dede-Bup-Bup from On Italian Roads (Live in Milan, 1979)

This is a really special new release from the excellent British Progressive Jazz label – also responsible for the Don Rendell track above. The 2022 release of On Italian Roads (Live at Teatro Cristallo, Milan, 1979) marks the only official release of saxophonist Elton Dean with the all-star quartet of Keith Tippet on piano, Harry Miller on bass, and Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums. Right from the beginning of this exceptional live album, the quartet plays with a brilliant, edge-of-your-seat ferocity with five original Elton Dean compositions. We’ve chosen one of the shorter ones – Dede-Bup-Bup – but the band on fire nonetheless. Dean is on tenor, alto and the little-played saxello with its wailing tone. The album is well worth looking out for, if only to hear Tippett’s percussive performance on the opening track Oasis.  This one is well worth exploring.

5. Nat Birchall Unity Ensemble – Unity from Spiritual Progressions

Nat Birchall has recorded multi-tracked solo efforts in recent years, but this new release marks his return to group recording with a new band, the Unity Ensemble.  On Spiritual Progressions he’s joined by long time musical partner Adam Fairhall on piano, plus the bassist in Nat’s group for several years, Michael Bardon, with Paul Hession returning on drums (he was part of the group who recorded Live In Larissa a few years ago). The ensemble is completed by percussionist Lascelle Gordon and the result is a really fine album that’s well worth exploring. Birchall has commented that “This particular group of musicians has a very unified sound, each player has a very individual sound and concept but they all come together in this group and blend incredibly well. Making music with this band is pure joy.” Here at CJ we can only agree and the first track Unity endorses that view of a complete group cohesion that’s much more than the sum of their parts. Highly recommended.

6.  Takuru Okada – A Love Supreme from Betsu No Jikan

Now time for a bit more left field music: this is like no other take on Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme. With jittery electronica and percussion effects throughout, the version opens with a chord that could take us to Coltrane’s vocal refrain but instead wanders around a series of recessed sax and keyboard figures before finally closing with a spectral version of the tune. This new 2022 album Betsu no Jikan features artists from both within Japan and abroad including Shun Ishiwaka, Carlos Nino, Sam Gendel, Jim O’Rourke and Marty Holoubek with an appearance from Haroumi Hosono formerly of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Okada’s approach is subtle and with many influences over the course of the whole album. It’s worth checking this one out – you can find it here on Bandcamp.

7. Goldsmith Baynes – Teo Reo from E Rere Rā

Alanna Goldsmith from New Zealand (Aotearoa) and Mark Baynes from the UK have worked together for over ten years and this 2022 project is a celebration of that collaboration. Singer Alanna Goldsmith comes from the Tairawhiti region on the east coast of Aotearoa’s North Island where her former band Wakakura were a favourite at jazz festivals across the region. Pianist Mark Baynes is originally from Hampshire, England  but he’s studied with vibes legend Gary Burton at Berklee and and performed with a wide variety of musicians including saxophonist Eric Marienthal. Nine of the eleven songs on the album are in Māori with lyrics that lean to the poetic and with a deep grounding in Māori culture. Goldsmith notes, for example, that one song, Hei Kawe i a Au is taken from a whakataukī, or proverb, that translates as ‘Let me be carried by the easterly breeze’ and is suggesting that we shouldn’t be in a hurry, but to wait until the time and conditions are right.” The musicians involved in this project are Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa on drums, Alex Griffith on electric bass, Tom Dennison on acoustic bass, Riki Bennett and Cameron Allen on saxophones, with Jono Tan on trombone, Mike Booth on trumpet and Kim Paterson on flugelhorn and trumpet. You can find this intriguing album here on Bandcamp.

8. Oskar Lavën – Cold Old Mould from Questions in Red

The second of our journeys to New Zealand couldn’t be more different. Oscar Lavën is a product of the Wellington jazz scene and has appeared with – among others- John Beasley’s MONK’estra and the Wellington Mingus Ensemble He’s performed worldwide and is a real multi-instrumentalist, being equally adept on trumpet, clarinet and bassoon. On his new album Questions in Red, the focus is on the tenor sax  where he’s accompanied by award winning drummer John Rae, bassist Patrick Bleakley, trumpeter Mike Taylor and pianist Ayrton Foote. The variety of different styles that appear on the album may suggest that Lavēn has still to find his voice, but the the range is typical of his musical searching. Two tunes make reference to, firstly, Ben Webster (Rasp) and then Ornette Coleman (Jesus Saunters Across the Hudson Wielding a Plastic Saxophone)  and there are more styles explored as the album progresses. A digital only release at the moment, this album is worth checking out.

9. Mavis Staples – Why Am I Treated So Bad from Live: Hope at the Hide Out

Released on US Election Day in 2008, this album of freedom songs is a late-period triumph for singer and social activist Mavis Staples. Staples introduces her set with a preacher-like invocation: “We’ve come here tonight to bring you some joy, some happiness, inspiration, and some positive vibrations! We want to leave you with enough to last you for maybe the next six months” and that’s just what the crowd at Chicago nightclub the Hideout get. At the age of 69 when this album was recorded, Staples was still in fine voice: the range isn’t there but she uses what she’s got to excellent effect on a growling version of Ramsey Lewis’s Wade in the Water. There are spirited renditions of I’ll Take You There and Freedom Highway in which the three-piece band of Rick Holmstrom on guitar, Jeff Turnes on  bass and Stephen Hodges on drums are used to great effect. Our choice is Staples’ take on her father Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples’ classic Why Am I Treated So Bad – also made famous by Cannonball Adderley on his album of the same name from 1967 – and featuring Joe Zawinul on Fender Rhodes.

10. Ramsey Lewis – The “In” Crowd (Live) from The In Crowd Anthology

Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis died on 12 September this year. He had a very successful career (too successful it would seem for some  jazz purists), but it is difficult to disregard someone who has recorded  with Max Roach, taught jazz at a Chicago university, hosted a long-running and syndicated jazz show (Legends of Jazz) and received the Jazz Masters Award at the US National Endowment for the Arts. It is true that the quality of his prolific output was variable and his covers of pop tunes may not please every Cosmic Jazz  fan but his crossover successes did, however, have their moments none more so than The “In” Crowd (Live). It became a favourite for jazz dance floors and long before that was a Top Ten hit in the US. (probably not a recommendation in some jazz circles).  Do not be deterred – it’s  upbeat, catchy and atmospheric with the live crowd providing an essential, dynamic input. Recorded in 1965 at the Bohemian Caverns Nightclub in Washington D.C. with drummer Isaac ‘Redd’ Holt and bass player Eldee Young. This is one to enjoy and dance to.

More Cosmic Jazz coming soon.

08 October 2022: Pharoah Sanders – journey towards the light

We have another Cosmic Jazz special for you here as we celebrate the remarkable life and extraordinary music of Pharoah Sanders whose death earlier this month signals the end of a musical era that began with saxophonist John Coltrane. In the last years of his life, before his death from liver cancer at the age of just 41, Coltrane took the much younger Sanders under his wing including him in his post-Quartet groups – more of which later.

Following his tenure with Coltrane, Sanders went on to become the true father of ‘spiritual jazz’ – a loose term that encompasses much but which centres on modal structures, Afro-Asian timbres and an ambience that seeks to create a transcendental state for both musicians and listeners. At his death, Sanders was the inspiration for so many younger artists – including the UK’s Matthew Halsall, New Zealand’s Lucien Johnson and, of course, Kamasi Washington from the USA. His final performance was at Gilles Peterson’s We Out There festival in the UK – perhaps a fitting end to a 50 year career as he performed with his UK group in front of fans young and old. Sanders was born Farrell Sanders in Little Rock, Arkansas before moving to Oakland, California and then to New York. Here he practised long and hard before being spotted by Coltrane who encouraged the young saxophonist to find his own unique sound – and what a magisterial sound it was! Immediately recognisable with a distinct use of harmonics, overtones and shrieking high notes this was a sound that explored the limits of the tenor saxophone’s register. But Sanders could be lyrical and tender too – in his later years covering American songbook standards favoured by his mentor, John Coltrane.

Pharoah Sanders recorded prolifically for the Impulse! label between the late 1960s and mid-70s with albums including ones we’re featuring on this show – Tauhid, Thembi, Jewels Of Thought, Wisdom Through Music, Black Unity and Elevation. From the late 1970s onwards his music changed direction somewhat and he found a new audience with 1979’s Journey to the One on the Theresa label.  This included the anthemic You’ve Got to Have Freedom with the great John Hicks on piano. Sanders collaborated with many other musicians over his long career, creating unlikely but memorable partnerships including with the post-punk UK group 23 Skidoo, Moroccan Gnawa musician Maleem Mahmoud Ghania and Kahil El Zabar’s Ritual Trio. Most recently, last year he worked with Sam Shepard under his producer guise of Floating Points, along with none less that the London Symphony Orchestra in a moving testament to a lifelong career of exploratory music making. As Kevin Le Gendre noted in his excellent Jazzwise obituary, he was channeling spirits that are set to live on in hearts and minds for years to come. His loss is keenly felt. His legacy is eternal.

1. Pharaoh Sanders – Greetings to Idris from Journey to the One

Our tribute begins with Greetings to Idris from that wonderful Journey to the One album. Idris is, of course, drummer Idris Muhammad who went on to release his own eclectic funk-driven albums. On the reflective Kazuko (Peace Child) he incorporates the Japanese koto, just as McCoy Tyner did on his superb Sahara album. Journey to the One also features Coltrane’s After The Rain in a straight reading much like Coltrane’s original. Sanders deploys a much larger group on this album including pianist John Hicks, flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson, bassist Ray Drummond and Idris Muhammad. Greetings To Idris is one of the many highlights of this record, released as a double LP in 1980, with excellent solos from Sanders and Hicks and the album also contains You’ve Got to Have Freedom – long associated with the UK jazz dance scene – with which we end this tribute set. It’s one of many memorable compositions on a faultless record that belongs in anyone’s collection.

2. Pharaoh Sanders  – Morning Prayer from Thembi

Greetings to Idris is appropriately followed by Morning Prayer from 1971’s Thembi,  the fourth of those Impulse! albums and featuring Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards, Michael White on violin and Roy Haynes on drums. Recorded with two different ensembles, Thembi was a departure from the slowly developing, side-long, mantra-like grooves Pharoah Sanders had been pursuing on his earlier Impulse! albums. The tunes are much more concise but also more diverse too – lots of percussion, a bass solo from Cecil McBee (on the track simply called Love) and Bailophone Dance which both mixes everything together in a percussive blender and often sounds more like Don Cherry than Pharoah Sanders. Morning Prayer is a percussion-driven tune win which Sanders gives a noticeable amount of space to his fellow travellers – it’s a wonderful choice from Derek. Of particular interest on this album is the opening track Astral Travelling, composed by Lonnie Liston Smith, and the first time he’d ever played electric piano. Sanders’ tone here on soprano is just gorgeous.

3. Pharaoh Sanders – Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt from Tauhid

The first of Neil’s choices and a tune which features Sanders’ distinctive screeching over Sonny Sharrock’s hypnotic guitar line and Henry Grimes’ magical bassline. We featured just the second half of this side-long piece. The tune has been sampled and used in a number of different contexts: the bass line in Herbie Hancock’s Rockit uses the vocal melody from Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, various elements of the track were also used by J Dilla in his fragment Upper Gogypt, Lower Gogypt and Ras G and the African Space Program sampled the tune on the track Sunrise. Strangely, Impulse! haven’t had a vinyl reissue programme for these wonderful albums but if you can find an original copy of this 1967 release or one of the better Japanese reissues the recording is excellent.

4. Pharaoh Sanders – High Life from Wisdom Through Music

Wisdom Through Music is one the lesser known Impulse! releases but it features some fine music, including High Life – something of an outlier in the Sanders canon. As the title suggests, High Life is a tribute to the music style of West Africa and Sanders really does emulate the high life style with an stellar band including Joe Bonner on piano, Cecil McBee and several percussionists, including Miles Davis alumni Mtume and Badal Roy.  This record and Village of the Pharoahs were reissued by Impulse! on a single CD in 2011 and this ‘two for one’ set is worth looking out for. Village of the Pharoahs is probably the stronger album of the two, but both records (released originally in 1973) have their great moments.

5. Pharaoh Sanders –  Jitu from Shukuru

Next up is from one of the best of the Theresa label albums, Shukuru from 1985. We could probably do without the synth choir but Jitu is a sparking tune. Support comes from William Henderson on keys (including the rather dated sounding Kursweil 520), Ray Drummond on bass and Idris Muhammad again on drums – and vocalist Leon Thomas on two tunes. There are a couple of standards from the American songbook here – something Sanders would increasingly include in his later albums. So first up is Sanders’ take on Body and Soul (recorded by Coltrane too) which has a spacious, lush and more conventional sound as does the second Coltrane-influenced tune – Too Young to Go Steady, which appeared on Coltrane’s beautiful Ballads album and includes a lovely solo from Henderson on acoustic piano. Shukuru was re-released on vinyl in 2022 on Pure Pleasure Records and is well worth looking out for.

6. Pharaoh Sanders – Peace in Essaouira  from The Trance of Seven Colors

The later, more lyrical Sanders is also featured on a more unusual album – a collaboration with Gnawa master guimbri player Maleem Mahmoud Ghania. Peace in Essaouira begins with an extensive Sanders solo – and it’s a good one. Ghania is heard on lead vocals, tbel (tambourine), and Guimbri, a bass-like, hollow-bodied instrument roughly three feet in length. The body, which can be struck by the musician as the strings are plucked, is covered with camel skin, while the strings are made from goat intestines. The title of the album refers to the fact that in Gnawa trance ceremonies (which can last eight or more hours over one night) the Maleem, or master musician, guides the group through a cycle of invocation of seven spirit states, each of which is characterised by a different colour, rhythm, melody and type of incense. Originally released in 1994 on bassist/ producer Bill Laswell’s Axiom imprint, The Trance Of Seven Colors is a wonderful record – and easy to get hold of now that it’s a recent reissue on vinyl – you can track it down here on Bandcamp.

7. Sleepwalker feat Pharaoh Sanders – The Voyage from The Voyage

It was to be expected that Sanders had something of a cult following in Japan, beginning in 1966 when Coltrane took on his first and only tour of the country leading to the Live in Japan recording from 1973. This included less than half of the two concerts which were only released in their entirety in a 4CD set in 1991. Sanders’ playing here is definitely at the more extreme end of his repertoire! More typical of Sander’s later output is this collaboration with Japanese jazzers Sleep Walker on their album The Voyage from 2006. Led by keyboard player Hajime Yoshizawa, Masato Nakamura on saxes, Tomokazu Sugimoto on bass and Nobuaki Fujii on drums. Sanders appears only on the final title track and is superb – but the album is worth getting hold of for the other tracks too (a couple of which feature vocals from Bémbé Ségué and Yukimi Nagano). There are copies available on Discogs – have a look here and see what you can find.

8. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme from A Love Supreme Live in Seattle

We went back to Pharoah Sanders with John Coltrane for the next choice – from the recently unearthed live version of A Love Supreme, recorded in Seattle at the Penthouse Club in 1965. The music on this unique take on A Love Supreme is pretty extraordinary. The recording places Elvin Jones’ drums front and centre but the additions to Coltrane’s regular quartet (Coltrane, Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison) of Pharoah Sanders on tenor, alto saxophonist Carlos Ward and a second bassist, Donald ‘Raphael’ Garrett, changes both the sound and the feel of the music. The spiritual fire of A Love Supreme is now added to with the more chaotic, ‘out there’ approach brought largely to the group by Sanders. It’s magnificently executed and – as a record of where Coltrane was heading in his later years – well worth getting hold of.

9. Pharaoh Sanders – The Creator has a Master Plan from Live in Paris (1975)

Next up in this Pharoah Sanders special is a live take on The Creator Has a Master Plan from a 1975 concert in Paris from an album also still available on Bandcamp. The band includes Calvin Hill on bass with Danny Mixon on piano and organ and Gregg Bandy on drums. A better recording than the previous track, this features some excellent playing from Sanders and some crazy chords from Mixon on the Radio France Auditorium theatre organ. It’s a recognition that seeing Sanders perform live was always a remarkable experience. One of the Youtube videos we have featured before on the show is the remarkable footage of him playing in an abandoned subway in Los Angeles – and it’s time to show it again. The tune is a version of Kazuko (Peace Child) from Journey to the One and Sanders is accompanied by Paul Arslanian on the harmonium at the other end of the tunnel. Check it out right here – it’s simply beautiful.

10. Pharaoh Sanders – You’ve Got to have Freedom from Journey to the One

We end the show with a perennial favourite – from Journey to the One comes the majestic You’ve Got to Have Freedom. It’s as good a place as any to end this celebration of the life and music of one of the most remarkable musicians of our age. With the same personnel as Greetings to Idris which began our show – that’s John Hicks on piano, Ray Drummond on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums together with (on this track only) Eddie Henderson on flugelhorn – this is a celebrated jazz dance classic and a tune we never tire of. We reckon it’s impossible not to feel better after listening to this glorious music which is why – as with Miles, ‘trane and a few others – Pharoah Sanders is a jazz musician we return to over and again at Cosmic Jazz as we all journey towards the light. More great music coming soon.

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