Tag Archives: John Coltrane

Three tributes and the wide world of jazz influences – 12/01/2024

This first Cosmic Jazz show of 2024 includes tributes to three artists who have recently died, with music ranging from Portuguese folk to classic soul jazz to neo soul. In between there’s lots of great jazz and more.

1. Sara Tavares – Balancê from Balancê

Portuguese singer Sara Tavares sadly died in November 2023 at just 45, leaving behind a small legacy of music. Although Portuguese was the main language of her songs, Tavares’ repertoire includes multilingual songs mixing in Portuguese Creole and English, sometimes even in the same song. Her third album Balancê showcased more of her Cape Verde roots and is highly recommended. You might also be able to track down an excellent 3 disc package of Balancê, her breakthrough record Mi Ma Bô and a live concert from hometown Lisbon on DVD. Derek was lucky to see Sara Tavares at the London Jazz Festival in 2006.

2. Eddie Harris and Les McCann – Compared to What from Swiss Movement

Swiss Movement is a great title – the music was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969 and acknowledges the precision of these two jazz giants. Sadly, McCann died in December last year but his back catalogue is still widely available. Compared to What is a protest song written by Gene McDaniels and first recorded by Roberta Flack for her debut album First Take (1969). For the Montreux album, McCann is on piano and vocals and Eddie Harris is on his Varitone tenor sax. They’re joined by Benny Bailey on trumpet, the great Leroy Vinnegar on bass and on Donald Dunn on drums. A 30th Anniversary edition included the additional track Kaftan. McCann maybe best known as a soul jazz player but his adventurous early synth album Layers from 1972 is one of Neil’s favourites – here’s The Dunbar High School Marching Band. The opening tune Sometimes I Cry was famously sampled by Massive Attack for the drumbeat backdrop of Teardrop.

3. Ferge X Fisherman – Adults (feat. Jerome Thomas and Takuya Kuroda) from Good Mother

Vocalist Fritz and musician Ferge originally met as teenagers while skateboarding in their home city of Nuremberg. An immediate chemistry between the two swiftly extended to involve crack jazz quartet Nujakasha, who have become an integral part of the FXF set-up both live and in the studio. FXF have previously released three well received jazz-infused albums, but for their upcoming new record Good Mother they deploy gospel choirs, vintage strings, soulful Rhodes chords and wah-wah guitar pedals to give the entire record a distinctly ‘70s film soundtrack vibe. Adults features Blue Note trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, London-born soul singer Jerome Thomas and Barcelona native singer Ceeopatra.

4. McCoy Tyner – His Blessings from Extensions

Just reissued in the ongoing Blue Note Tone Poet vinyl series, this is an essential McCoy Tyner album from 1972 and unique in that it features Alice Coltrane on harp. Also on board with Coltrane are Gary Bartz on alto with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones (of course!) on drums. Reviewing the album for jazz.com, Jared Pauley notes that This performance matches the superb quality of previous Shorter and Tyner albums where members of the Davis and Coltrane groups recorded together. The opening track Message from the Nile is the best thing on the album but for this show we went with the reflective His Blessings which closes this highly recommend album.

5. Fumio Itabashi – Makumba from Nature/J Jazz Vol. 4 – Deep Modern Jazz from Japan

We’re huge fans of Fumio Itabashi’s many renderings of the Japanese folk tune Watarase and have featured several versions on previous shows. But this is from his debut 1979 album Nature, reissued on Soul Jazz a few years ago and more recently on Mule Musiq. The record features bass players Hideaki Mochizuki and Koichi Yamazaki, drummers Kenichi Kameyama and Ryojiro Furusawa, soprano saxophonist Yoshio Otomo and vibes player Hiroshi Hatsuyama. For a different aspect of this album check out the spiritual jazz-inflected closing track Ash.

6. Nucleus – Torrid Zone from Elastic Rock

From the album Elastic Rock (1972) – and a newly remastered 6CD box set featuring every track released by Nucleus for the Vertigo label between 1970 and 1975 – comes this perfect slice of jazz rock. The trumpeter and flugelhorn player Ian Carr saw the potential in fusing these two musical sensibilities and  Nucleus was the result – at the same time as Tony Williams was pursuing new paths with his band Lifetime and Miles Davis was experimenting on the album In a Silent Way. With saxophonist and keyboard player Karl Jenkins, the late drummer John Marshall, saxophonist Brian Smith, bassist Jeff Clyne and guitarist Chris Spedding, Nucleus recorded the ground-breaking Elastic Rock in January 1970, with the album receiving widespread praise. On a series of influential follow up albums, Carr guided a diverse band of musicians through some of the most innovative music of the time. The bargain 6CD box set is a good place to start and both Belladonna (1972) and Alleycat (1975) have recently been reissued on vinyl.

7. Cal Tjader – On Green Dolphin Street from Catch the Groove: Live at the Penthouse 1963-67

Vibes player Cal Tjader rose to fame during the Mambo craze of the late 1950s, and his bands often featured both seasoned Cuban musicians and upcoming jazz talents. Tjader and his band opened the second Monterey Jazz Festival in 1959 and he was to play there on many subsequent occasions. He signed with Verve Records in the 1960s, recording his most famous album Soul Sauce in 1964. The title track (also known as Guarachi Guaro), written by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, has become something of a standard and has been recorded and remixed by dozens of artists – try this Fila Brazilia remix, for example. Catch the Groove is a live double CD/triple vinyl package from Zev Feldman (the Jazz Detective) and was certainly one of Neil’s highlights from the most recent Record Store Day. If you can find a copy you’ll be rewarded with an amazingly well recorded and expansive live set that runs the gamut from jazz classics like our choice On Green Dolphin Street through to Latin originals like Davito. Most of the later tracks include the celebrated conga player Armando Peraza but also along for the ride on many of these previously unreleased tunes are pianist Clare Fischer, bassist Monk Montgomery and drummer Carl Burnett. The LP and CD versions both come with comprehensive liner notes from fellow vibes players like Gary Burton and Joe Locke and there a wealth of photos and interviews to check out too. You can catch the groove on Bandcamp if you’re quick – there are currently just five copies left!

8. Donny McCaslin – Stria from I Want More

The current crop of recent Edition Records signings include saxophonist Donny McCaslin whose new album extends the jazz boundaries even further. That’s not surprising given his most famous credential as the man behind David Bowie’s Black Star album. As he explained to Edition, the new album is a hybrid of jazz-rooted music but [one] that was acceptable to a rock audience and we knew it had to come from a sound and from the soul. It wasn’t about just getting the right music and the right musicians playing it. It was about the right sound which required the right mixer and producer. And in this case, it was Dave Fridmann [The Flaming Lips] who has never worked in jazz. But it‘s that very thing that gave us the edge. The result is I Want More – and the clue about how it sounds is in that album name. The album begins with Stria and it certainly sets the tone  a captivating track which sets the tone for what is to follow. Throughout the album there’s a tight interplay between McCaslin’s tenor sax, Jason Lindner’s synths and Wurlitzer, Tim Lefebvre’s electric bass, and Mark Guiliana’s drums – and there’s a distinctive producer’s sound here too. A CJ recommended listen.

9.   Eparapo – My Beautiful City from Take to the Streets

The word ‘eparapo’ means ‘join forces’ in Yoruba but it’s also the title of a tune by the late, great Tony Allen – drummer for Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and lifelong friend and mentor of Dele Sosimi who also features on this album. The force behind Eparapo is bassist, composer and producer Suman Joshi who’s a longtime member of Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Orchestra. Vocalist on My Beautiful City is Ghanaian percussionist Afla Sackey and the band members include Tamar Osborn – saxophonist, composer, producer and bandleader of Collocutor – and trumpeter Graeme Flowers. My Beautiful City has been on heavy rotation on Jazz FM in recent months and deservedly so. You can find the album (and a bunch of remixes) here on Bandcamp.

10. Amp Fiddler – Eye to Eye from Waltz of a Ghetto Fly

We bookend the show with another sad jazz-related death and, just as Derek saw Sara Tavares in 2006, Neil saw and met Amp Fiddler at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2004 in a great triple bill along with Gilles Peterson and trumpeter Harry Beckett. Joseph ‘Amp’ Fiddler was a native of Detroit who played with George Clinton, Moodymann, Prince, the Brand New Heavies, Maxwell and many more. Perhaps even more importantly, he was a huge influence on hip hop producer J Dilla, also a native of the Motor City, introducing him to Fiddler’s Akai sampling drum machine on which the young Dilla began to create his celebrated beats, including the now iconic Welcome 2 Detroit.  You can still find the 20th Anniversary edition here on Bandcamp – listen to this instrumental version of Think Twice to hear how those hip hop beats merge with jazz in music by artists like Blue Note’s Robert Glasper. Chillin’ with Amp Fiddler seems a fitting end to this show – look out for more new music from Cosmic Jazz soon.

Neil is listening to…

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

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

1.  John Coltrane – Stellar Regions from Stellar Regions

We like to acknowledge what is going on around us in relation to the jazz world and so it was to our sheer delight that BBC Radio 3’s five hour-long episodes of Composer of the Week – almost universally the reserve of classical composers – was devoted to the work of John and Alice Coltrane. Presented by Kate Molleson, a specialist in  new classical music and with contributions from Kevin Le Gendre, the jazz broadcaster and writer, this is something to search for on BBC Sounds – here’s the first programme. So to celebrate what is a long overdue recognition, we begin the show with a short (by Coltrane standards), magical, spiritual blast from his tenor saxophone on Stellar Regions, the title tune from this posthumous 1995 release. Wife Alice Coltrane is on piano, with Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. It was one of John Coltrane’s late recordings made on 15 February 1967, unearthed from ‘lost’ tapes found by Alice and son Ravi Coltrane. None of the compositions  had a title at the time they were recorded with Stellar Regions actually being an alternate version of Venus which had appeared on the earlier Interstellar Space record. In the liner notes, critic David Wild notes These recordings all have a similar aura. Among Coltrane’s final phrases, they are almost the last notes to be captured on tape, performances thus haunted by our foreknowledge that what will follow them is silence. More importantly and perhaps even more compelling, they represent a suggestion of the evolution his music would have taken had his life not been cut so short, a tantalizing glimpse of an unrealized future.

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

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

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

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

4. Makaya McCraven – Dream Another from In These Times

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

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

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

6. Hiromi – Desert On the Moon from Brain

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

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

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

8. Jonathan Blake – Passage from Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

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

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

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

1. Kenny Garrett – Backyard Groove from Do Your Dance

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

2.  Roy Haynes – Quiet Fire from Quiet Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Kokoroko – War Dance from Could We Be More

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

7. Sleep Walker – Eclipse from Into The Sun

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

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

 

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.

12 September 2022: a Creed Taylor special and more

In this show we celebrated music produced by the late Creed Taylor for Impulse!, CTI , Verve and other great labels – and it turned out to be a surprisingly varied and boundary crossing selection too. Derek also added music from two artists he has seen recently at the Snape Maltings venue in Suffolk, UK.

  1. Alina Bzhezhinska – Los Caballos from Inspiration

For the last two years, the Snape Maltings centre in Suffolk UK – founded as a music venue by the composer Benjamin Britten – has held free outdoor concerts featuring excellent musicians from a range of styles. Derek has enjoyed some of the jazz artists featured and this year that included the Ukranian harpist Alina Bzhezhinka and her hip-harp collective. Very good it was too, with an interesting combination of harp, percussion, drums and electric bass, playing a mixture of compositions by Alina and tunes from fellow harpists Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, including material from the collective’s forthcoming album. Los Caballos is an Alice Coltrane composition from the album Inspiration which features Joel Prime on drums and percussion, Tony Kofi on saxes and Larry Bartley on double bass. Alina has made something of a unique journey from being an outstanding  performer and teacher of classical harp to being a significant jazz harpist. She is very active in supporting Ukraine – indeed, as she explained at Snape, her brother is fighting to combat the current Russian invasion and she is raising funds for Ukranian musicians. You can support this by purchasing hereMake Music Not War t-shirt.

2.  Jason Moran – Blue Blocks from Ten

Jason Moran also performed a recent solo piano show in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall which Derek attended. Moran – Texas-born but now New York resident – stressed the importance, the qualities and the power of the piano in solo performance. He was was very well received by a disappointingly small audience with a rapturous response to his  virtuosity and amazing, dexterous skills.  He drew on and showed respect for the jazz traditions (as befits an artist who has recently celebrated the life and works of Fats Waller) but he pulled in more contemporary sounds, acknowledging a personal musical journey that has encompassed jazz and hiphop. The tune Blue Blocks comes from Moran’s superb Blue Note album Ten and features a trio that includes Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheen Waits on drums. Moran has played a host of other celebrated jazz musicians, including Archie Shepp, Greg Osby and CJ champion Charles Lloyd with whom you can find his stunning piano work on the tune Booker’s Garden from the ECM album Rabo de Nube recorded live at Theater Basel in 2007. This is a tune that has been included many times on Cosmic Jazz over the years, and it’s a shared favourite of both Derek and Neil.

3. Jimmy Smith – Got My Mojo Workin’ from Got My Mojo Workin’

Much of the programme is devoted to the late jazz producer and record label owner Creed Taylor (1929-2022). The range of jazz styles he produced was astounding, as you will see from our selection. One of the people he worked with was bluesman, and Hammond organ player Jimmy Smith. This provided an appropriate follow-up to  Jason Moran, who was keen in live performance to draw upon and stress the importance of the blues. Got My Mojo Workin is from a 1966 Verve album of the same name by ‘The Incredible’ Jimmy Smith who’s supported by an incredible line-up including Kenny Burrell on guitar and Phil Woods on alto sax. This first of our Creed Taylor tributes was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder and arranged by Oliver Nelson (see below). It’s one of those catchy, hummable and easily recognised tunes with Smith’s driving, and at times intricate organ solos, backed by persistent and repetitive drum and bass, with Smith’s gravelly voice either side of the instrumental section explaining that his mojo is just not workin’ on you – but  who the ‘you’ might be we are not sure. Simply  irresistible, a tune that has filled many a dance floor over the years and could still do so today.

4. John Coltrane – The Damned Don’t Cry from The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions

In contrast to getting a mojo working, Creed Taylor also produced for the Impulse! record label including John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass date in 1961 – his first for the label. Rudy Van Gelder was the recording engineer for this celebrated Coltrane Quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, and for The Damned Don’t Cry they are joined by Booker Little on trumpet – Charles Lloyd’s childhood friend after whom Booker’s Garden (above) is named. The Damned Don’t Cry was written by trumpeter Cal Massey and apparently, it was recorded in a hurry, as the session was in danger of running over its allotted time and it’s likely that none of the performers had seen the music prior to the session.  Again, the influence of the blues isn’t far away. The Africa/Brass album (and do get the Complete Africa/Brass reissue from 1995 if you can) includes that poignant acknowledgement  of Black History, Song of the Underground Railroad, which we have played previously on the show. The album also includes Coltrane’s take on the English folk traditional song Greensleeves!

5. Oliver Nelson – Stolen Moments from The Blues and the Abstract Truth 

Also on Impulse! and also recorded in 1961 at the Van Gelder Recording Studio was the final studio album by arranger and tenor player Oliver Nelson, The Blues and the Abstract Truth from which comes the jazz classic Stolen Moments. Eric Dolphy is on flute (he conducted the Coltrane album above but not the track selected), Freddie Hubbard is on trumpet, George Barrow on baritone sax, Bill Evans piano, Paul Chambers bass and Roy Haynes drums. It’s worth noting how influential Taylor was on developing the visual identity of the Impulse! albums with their distinctive laminated orange and black spines and gatefold sleeves – something he would follow through with his next venture, the CTI label. Sublime, a masterpiece, and dignified melancholy are some of the pertinent  comments below the YouTube upload of Stolen Moments and this is borne out when you learn that this is a tune that’s been sampled and recorded by an impressive list of musicians, including the Ahmad Jamal Trio, the United Future Organization, Booker Ervin, Frank Zappa, Mark Murphy, Carmen MacRae, Betty Carter and Roy Ayers. It’s almost impossible to beat the original of course, but one of our personal CJ favourites is Mark Murphy’s peerless 1978 take which includes his own superb lyrics.

6. Freddie Hubbard – First Light from First Light

In 1967 Creed Taylor founded his own record label – CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated) – and immediately began establishing a new identity. The record sleeve design here took record art to a different place from those celebrated Reid Miles Blue Note covers and, indeed, the typical artist portraits on the Impulse! albums. Using a number of photographers, and most often Pete Turner who had designed Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth, these oversaturated colour covers now bore no direct relationship to the music but instead featured a dramatic image that suggested a mood. The full cover images travelled across the front and back of the jackets and often featured dramatic landscapes with animals. We all have our favourites – Neil’s include Jobim’s Wave with its giraffe against a vibrant green sky and Stanley Turrentine’s evocative Sugar cover. CTI soon acquired an impressive roster including George Benson, Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, Bob James, Stanley Turrentine and Freddie Hubbard, along with Brazilian artists, Eumir Deodato, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Walter Wanderley. Note the interconnections across the Blue Note, Impulse! and CTI labels here – Taylor had his pick of many of the greatest jazz artists of the day. Derek chose a favourite from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard – the title track from his First Light album. Recorded at – you’ve guessed – the Van Gelder Studio, you may well have heard this tune of Cosmic Jazz previously but Derek could not resist this opportunity to play again. He loves it, and first heard it being played in a record store in Oxford Street, London. It was clearly popular with those in the store – another listener beat Derek to the counter to seek it out but luckily they had another copy. Yes, it could be described by some as schmaltzy and saccharin, safe and bland, deeply tuneful and melodic – but that is exactly what makes it so good. The guitar break from George Benson gets Derek every time. Either side is Freddie Hubbard himself playing firstly with fire and then later with restraint – but it all still demands your attention. A chilled song; an ethereal soundscape that flows and builds said Rhythm and Life – a perfect testament. It should be noted that the other musicians included Richard Wyands on piano, Herbie Hancock on Fender Rhodes, Ron Carter bass, Jack DeJohnette drums and Airto Moreira percussion – impressive!

7. Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro) from Soul Sauce

After leaving Impulse! Verve Records also employed Creed Taylor as producer, where he worked with Jimmy Smith (see above) but could also be  found producing vibes player Cal Tjader in the celebrated 1964 recording of the Dizzie Gillespie/Chano Pozo Latin jazz tune Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro) – this time at the A & R Studios, New York. Tjader wasn’t of Latin origin – being born in Missouri, and raised in California to Swedish parents – but, like Dizzie Gillespie and others, had a love of Latin music and played with many Latin musicians including percussionist Willie Bobo. The tune Soul Sauce was Cal Tjader’s greatest hit and entered the Billboard Top Fifty chart in 1965. It’s a catchy, dance-orientated groove which still works today – a masterpiece of Latin jazz.

8.  Airto – Tombo in 7/4 from Fingers/Bossa Jazz Vol. 1

In an interview Taylor recalled, “I went down to Brazil a few times and spent some time at Jobim’s house and met all the players down there. Then of course after Desafinado became a hit, Jobim wanted to come up and see what New York was like, so he came in to see me right off the bat. That started a long friendship and series of albums.” It was clear from the outset that Taylor loved Brazilian music and from the early 1960s onwards he produced albums with many of Brazilian musicians in New York. Percussionist/drummer Airto Moreira arrived in New York in 1965 with his wife, vocalist Flora Purim and Tombo in 7/4 was released as a single on the CTI label in 1973. Airto and Flora both feature on this composition by the talented Uruguayan keyboard player Hugo Fatturoso, whose superb keyboard playing features prominently. The British label Soul Jazz Records re-released the number on their Bossa Jazz compilation so it should be easy to find. It is an anthemic, spirited number with a stirring climax that has had listeners singing along for years. If you’re discovering classic Brazilian recordings, it won’t be long before you come across – and remember – this classic – and if you’re looking for more classic CTI covers then its appearance on Airto’s superb 1973 Fingers album will be a further dramatic reminder.

9. Walter Wanderley Set – Capoeira from When it was Done/Bossa Jazz Vol. 1

Also re-released on the Soul Jazz compilation is the beautiful and sensitive version of Capoeira from 1968 by Walter Wanderley, whose austere-looking photo appears on the back of the notes to accompany the Soul Jazz record. This is our final Creed Taylor produced choice and is another product of the Van Gelder Studio. Walter Wanderley was a Brazilian Hammond organist born in Recife, who first became well known through his collaboration with Astrud Gilberto, but he’s probably best known for his instrumental version of the song Summer Samba which became a worldwide hit. It’s not up there among our Brazilian favourites but his music is well worth exploring further. Capoeira is an hommage to the Brazilian dance/sport/combat activity with a typically silky Don Sebesky arrangement, drawing upon a number of regular CTI musicians including Hubert Laws on English horn, flute and oboe. In all there are nine violinists, two viola players,  two cellists and a harp in the mix. Sounds sweet? It is – but don’t let that put you off.

10. James Brandon Lewis Trio – Bittersweet from No Filter

We end the show with an acknowledgement of the sudden death of the fiery and inventive trumpeter Jaimie Branch. Branch was a take-no-prisoners kind of artist with a unique sound and style. You can find her music on the ever-reliable Bandcamp, including this great album – Fly or Die Live. We’ve not got any of her music to hand for this show but she did, however, play with the James Brandon Lewis Unruly Quintet, who are seen  here at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2019 playing an incredible, free and challenging set, with breathtaking interplay between Jaimie Branch and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis. Lewis has made several previous appearances on Cosmic Jazz and his 2017 tune Bittersweet seemed an appropriate choice on this occasion.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

15 August 2022: in celebration and in tribute

Welcome to another Cosmic Jazz! Our celebration acknowledges the 80th birthday of drum maestro Jack DeJohnette, but we also remember two jazz artists who died recently. British saxophonist Barbara Thompson is remembered with a Neil Ardley track and we also acknowledge prolific songwriter and singer Lamont Dozier with one of his greatest compositions. And – of course – there’s much more besides for your contemplation and enjoyment.

  1. Orrin Evans – Mynah/The Eleventh Hour from The Magic of Now

Pianist Orrin Evans studied with Kenny Barron at Rutgers University, played as a sideman with various groups, spent three years with The Bad Plus and then decided to branch out on his own. The result is The Magic of Now album for which he’s assembled a quartet. It includes Bill Stewart on drums,  with whom he had played in Steve Wilson’s band and of whom he says his cymbal choice, the tuning of his tom-tom, the way he plays his bass drum It’s not like anybody else and  alto sax the is the young player Immanuel Wilkins, whose recent album The 7th Hand we have featured previously on Cosmic Jazz. Incidentally, Wilkins as an 11 year-old attended a summer camp where Evans was an instructor. Now Evans says can hear in his music and conversation a dedication to culture, a dedication to building a library, a dedication to history. On bass is Vicente Archer who provides a powerful drive to the opening of Mynah (composed by Stewart), before Evans and Wilkins come in with their solos. Without a break the tune goes effortlessly into the Mulgrew Miller tune The Eleventh Hour which Evans had been determined to record for some time.

2. Melissa Aldana – Los Ojos de Chile from 12 Stars

Melissa Aldana is a tenor saxophonist  born in 1988 in Santiago, Chile who was already playing in Santiago jazz clubs in her teens where she was spotted by Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez. He invited invited her to play at the Panama Jazz Festival – and also to apply for US music schools. She ended up training at the Berklee College of Music before moving to New York to train under veteran tenor player George Coleman. The album 12 Stars is her first solo recording  for Blue Note, although she has previously recorded for the label with the group Artemis, whose record we’ve also played on Cosmic Jazz. The title is linked to the tarot symbols which she studied during lockdown and then composed music for each of the symbols. Los Ojos de Chile (The Eyes of Chile) was inspired by the uprisings of people in Chile who got shot by police officers using riot shotguns with rubber bullets. Many of them lost their sight. Chilean musicians in New York played and raised money for an organisation called  Los Ojos de Chile which provided money for those who were affected and so it’s not surprising that the music on the album has, overall,  a sense of gravity, intensity and deep sincerity.

3. Jack DeJohnette – India from Special Edition

Drummer Jack DeJohnette is one of our Cosmic Jazz heroes. Neil was lucky enough to see him perform in London in 2005 when he celebrated the music of Miles Davis and in particular the album Jack Johnson. With a backdrop screening of William Cayton’s legendary 1971 documentary charting the life of the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, DeJohnette was teamed up with four of the British scene’s hottest young musicians – saxophonist Jason Yarde; trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Byron Wallen; David Okumu on guitar; and Neville Malcolm holding down the bass. It was a memorable demonstration of DeJohnette’s tumbling drum rolls matched to the fight footage, with cymbal crashes accentuating each jab from Johnson. But DeJohnette is much more than a heavyweight percussionist. He was the drummer in Keith Jarrett’s longtime standards trio but he began his career in the influential Charles Lloyd group of the 1960s before working with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew in 1970. He moved to ECM Records in the mid 70s for a sequence of superb albums – we chose his take on Coltrane’s India from the essential Special Edition record – a first outing for his group, with saxophonists David Murray and Arthur Blythe in tow. The track follows their take on Central Park West, another Coltrane standard from his 1960 album Coltrane’s Sound – check it out right here. This one has DeJohnette on melodica – and India features DeJohnette on both piano and drums. Blythe and Murray are sensational on alto and bass clarinet respectively. It’s a superb record and a definite Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

4. Neil Ardley – Rainbow Four from Kaleidoscope of Rainbows

Originally released in 1976 and promptly proclaimed a landmark of British jazz-rock (Melody Maker termed it “one of the great musical achievements of our age”), Kaleidoscope of Rainbows includes contributions from Ian Carr, Tony Coe, Dave MacRae (no relation!) and saxophonist Barbara Thompson who died recently. The record was very much part of the astonishingly vibrant British jazz scene of the time, recently captured in the superb Tony Higgins compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain (2021) – check out a Guardian newspaper review here. The reissue of Kaleidoscope of Rainbows was timed to coincide with a memorial service for Ardley following the composer’s death in February 2004 and the music works as a complete suite, with Rainbow Four showcasing Thompson’s superb solo on soprano saxophone. Married to drummer Jon Hiseman, Thompson composed music for film and television, wrote a musical of her own and songs for the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble and her small group Paraphernalia. Journeys In Modern Jazz: Britain (2021) is still available on double CD and double vinyl with the latter having a beautifully produced 20,000 word essay on jazz in Britain. Look out to for the Jazz in Britain site on Bandcamp – lots of great music here too.

5. High Pulp – Astral Travelling from Mutual Attraction Vol. 1

High Pulp are an experimental Seattle collective with a cross-pollinated jazz fusion, hip-hop, post-rock, and electronic sound. Mutual Attraction Vol. 1 is the first of three EPs that were further expanded on in their 2022’s Pursuit of Ends album. Before that came three Mutual Attraction albums, with this one celebrating the music of Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra. Much of the group’s sound stems from drummer/bandleader Bobby Granfelt’s infectious beats and here he’s joined by longtime bandmates keyboardists Rob Homan and Antoine Martel, guitarist Scott Rixon, and saxophonists Andrew Morrill and Victory Nguyen. Together, they play with a textured, deeply analog groove aesthetic that draws from a wide array of influences but here tempered to focus on the more hypnotic spiritual elements of these three influences. All three Mutual Attraction EPs are worth exploring – with Vol. 2 focused on beatmaster J Dilla and Vol.3 on rapper Frank Ocean.

6. Archie Shepp/Jason Moran – Wise One from Let My People Go

We first featured this duo in 2021, when we also played their take on John Coltrane’s Wise One. Saxophone elder Archie Shepp and pianist Jason Moran first met backstage at Belgium’s annual Jazz Middelheim Festival in 2015 and these live performances came from Paris’s annual Jazz à la Villette festival in 2017 and the 2018 edition of the Enjoy Jazz Festival in Mannheim, Germany. Despite the age differences, there are some close similarities: both were born in the deep South, raised up in the sound of the blues and black gospel with Shepp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Moran in Houston, Texas. Both developed an ever-expanding appreciation of pioneers like Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Thelonious Monk, but with an ear for contemporary styles too: Shepp with 1960s free jazz, and Moran with hip hop of the late ‘80s through to today. Their version of  Let My People Go includes some stunning piano work from Moran and on Wise One there’s a breathy, stately tone from the 84 year old Shepp while Moran provides deep rippling chords underneath. It’s moving (and beautifully recorded too). For Coltrane’s original, listen right here.

7. Mark Murphy – Why and How from Midnight Mood

This Mark Murphy album Midnight Mood was released in 1967 on the iconic German jazz label MPS with the US vocalist teaming up with members of the Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke Big Band for a recording made in Köln. Recently, this track appeared on a Jazzwise magazine MPS sampler – the label founded in 1968 by audio engineer Hans George Brunner-Schwer (HGBS) built a sophisticated recording studio in the living room of his house. It was later moved to larger premises but, starting with pianist Oscar Peterson, he was able to attract a number of artists  from around the world into his studio – musicians impressed by the audio quality of the recordings. These included George Shearing, Monty Alexander, Don Ellis, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Ella Fitzgerald, Sun Ra, Mark Murphy, Ali Akbar Khan, Baden Powell and many more. There were also recordings from young German jazz artists before the label concentrated on classical music. In 1983 HGBS sold most of his rights to Polygram and after his death in 2004 the recordings dried up – but then his son began to revive the jazz recordings. In 2014 the label found a new home with the German label Edel Edel who have combined a programme of new music releases with digging out and re-releasing  past treasures – including this one. The album also includes one of Neil’s favourite Murphy songs tracks – his take on Jimmy Woode’s gorgeous Sconsolato.

8. Somi – Jike’lemaweni feat. Angelique Kidjo from Zenzile: the Reimagination of Miriam Makeba

We’ve featured this excellent album from singer Somi before on CJ.  Zenzile is an ambitious and fully realised tribute to South African singer Miriam Makeba and it’s really something special. The lead single was a take on Makeba’s classic Pata Pata and that was been followed by Khuluma, featuring South African  singer songwriter Msaki. This time round we’ve chosen  Jike’lemaweni featuring Benin’s Angelique Kidjo who has been just as innovative with her 2018 reimagining of Talking Head’s masterpiece Remain In Light. Check out her superb take on The Great Curve. Somi’s lifelong love of Makeba’s music and personal strength shines through on this record and she notes that the album “is my attempt to honor the unapologetic voice of an African woman who inevitably made room for my own journey and countless other African artists. In short, I owe her. We all do.” Highly recommended.

9. Lamont Dozier – Going Back To My Roots from Peddlin’ Music On the Side

On the principle that if you like jazz you will like this, it seems appropriate to remember Lamont Dozier who died earlier this month. He is undoubtedly best known as a member of Holland-Dozier-Holland  songwriting team for Motown that produced hits for Marvin Gaye, Martha & the Vandellas, The Four Tops, The Isley Brothers, The Supremes and many others.  After the partnership broke up Lamont Dozier went solo and later worked and supported other musicians. Derek has two much-loved solo albums Bittersweet (1979) and Peddlin’ Music On The Side (1977). It is on the latter that Dozier’s masterpiece Going Back To My Roots can be found. At the time he was working with the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and, along with McKinley Jackson, Masekela arranged the rhythm for the tune. It is a tune that builds and builds with  strident piano (Joe Sample), thumping bass (Wilton Fender),  up-front percussion (Paulinho da Costa and Bill Summers), a heavenly choral response and occasional whistles and screams. It is a joyful, exhilarating and wonderful experience – a must-hear/must-have record. Going back to my Roots/To the place of my birth/Back down to earth sings Dozier and these words along words in the chorus from an unspecified African language, the use of Nigerian saxophonist Orlando Julius (not credited on the record sleeve) and the percussive sounds have led to the assumption that this was Dozier’s statement of African consciousness inspired by the Roots TV series. But in an interview with Blues & Soul in 1977, Dozier denied this and stated that while living in Los Angeles his roots were in Detroit and he needed to keep returning there. Some still continue to interpret it otherwise. There have been several covers of the tune but the original is the one. Play it loud – celebrate and enjoy.

31 July 2022: summer vibes and serious jazz

For this show – recorded in record-breaking UK summer weather – the music of Brazil and the Latin community of New York seemed appropriate. We also acknowledged Gilberto Gil’s 80th birthday, and the 55th anniversary of John Coltrane’s tragically early death at the age of just 40. Music selected by Neil in Singapore and Derek in the UK included deep jazz from Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders and funky, sunny Latin beats to bookend the show. Throughout, we stayed cool – enjoy the vibes!

1.   Lettuce – Let the World Know from Unify

The show starts – as it has done before  – with soulful, jazzy grooves and beats from the Boston-based funk outfit Lettuce. Unify is their eighth studio album and it doesn’t disappoint. Pre-pandemic, Lettuce were constantly on the road but after the touring was halted the band were, explained drummer Adam Deitch, “Dealing with the pandemic, being in separate places, trying to survive without our best friends, without touring, not to mention the political divide in this country… We really needed to unify.” Lettuce are now well into their 50 date world tour and will be in the UK for an appearance at London’s Scala Theatre on 20 September.

2.   Sabrina Malheiros – Vai Maria from Clareia

As often on Cosmic Jazz, we changed the tone with a Brazilian sequence. Singer/songwriter Sabrina Malheiros – daughter of the Azymuth bass player Alex Malheiros – produces cool but joyful samba/ jazz influenced music, and her record Clareia (released on the UK’s Far Out label in 2017) is a wonderful example of the genre. The record was produced in London by Daniel Maunick, son of Incognito founder Bluey Maunick – himself no stranger to Singapore, where he has performed with Incognito on many occasions. The family links are often so strong in Brazilian music: Neil is still recovering from singer Joyce’s superb performance as part of the annual Jazz in July concerts here. During the show with husband and drummer Tutty Moreno, she chose a song about the remarkable Caymmi family from Bahia – father Dorival Caymmi and musical children Dori, Danilo and Nana (who was briefly married to Gilberto Gil). Caymmi may not be as well known, but he’s perhaps second only to Tom Jobim in creating the modern Brazilian songbook with compositions that reflect Bahian landscape where he grew up. Most famous song? Probably Promise of a Fisherman – presented here in an original recording from Caymmi and again in a celebrated version by Santana from their Brazilian-influenced Borboletta album.

3.   Friends from Rio – Cravo e Canela (Cinnamon and Clove) from Friends from Rio Vol. 2

Friends from Rio is a project begun by Far Out label founder Joe Davis to bring together many of their artists in a project originally aimed at the dance floors of London. Started in 1994, Friends from Rio releases continued to appear on the label – the last one emerging in 2014. Cravo e Canela was written by another Brazilian musical heavyweight, the great Milton Nascimento and has been recorded by many musicians over the years. It first appeared on one of Neil’s all-time favourite records – Nascimento’s superb collaboration with Lô Borges called Clube da Esquina – listen to that version right here. This is string-driven take on the tune – light, but with a driving core. It works well in a club context too!

4,   Gilberto Gil – Toda Menina Bahiana from Realce

Realce is one of Gilberto Gil’s most disco-influenced albums and is very much a document of the end of military dictatorship in Brazil. Released in 1979, the aforementioned Dorival Caymmi features on one track (Marina) and Não Chore Mais is a string-soaked take on Vincent Ford and Bob Marley’s tune No Woman, No Cry. Our choice, the summery Toda Menina Bahiana is one of Gil’s most recorded tunes and, once more, a celebration of Bahian life – and particularly its girls (meninas). Now, in a rather unlikely partnership with Amazon, you can see Gil demonstrating that Brazilian family vibe in At Home with the Gils (Em Casa Com os Gil)!

5.   Mark de Clive-Lowe – Thembi from Freedom

And so began a short set of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders tunes and influences, selected by Neil in Singapore beginning with pianist, composer and live remixer Mark de Clive-Lowe who’s back with a 2LP/CD set featuring the music of Pharoah Sanders. As with previous records, this one was recorded live at LA’s legendary Blue Whale jazz club in Little Tokyo with MdC-L’s arsenal of samplers, keyboards, drum machines and grand piano alongside longtime associates Teodross Avery on saxophone, Corbin Jones on bass, drummer Tommaso Cappellato and Carlos Niño on percussion. This time round though, they’ve recruited renowned spiritual jazz vocalist Dwight Trible on some numbers. It’s a fine set and well worth exploring. The vinyl edition is sold out on Bandcamp but you can get hold of the DL and CD versions right here.

6.   Pharaoh Sanders – I Want to Talk About You from Live in Paris (1975)

This rare live recording captures Sanders in Paris with  I Want to Talk About You, one of Coltrane’s most beautiful ballads. Neil was reminded of this tune when he heard it performed live by the Ravi Campbell Trio in Choice Cuts, one of his favourite record stores and clubs here in Singapore and it seemed appropriate to feature this version. The later Sanders has often recorded the standards Coltrane featured on many of his earlier albums, and this 1975 recording (released in 2020 and still available on vinyl here on Bandcamp) is a good example. There are versions of The Creator Has a Masterplan and Love is Everywhere too.

7.   Sean Khan – Afro Blue from Supreme Love: A Journey Through Coltrane

This take on a Coltrane classic comes from saxophonist Sean Khan’s tribute, issued last year on BBE Records. Intriguingly, there are three parts to the album: The Future Present mostly comprises material written by or closely associated with Coltrane, reimagined by a plugged in, medium-sized, with-strings-and-harp ensemble that includes takes on Acknowledgement and Afro BlueThe Past has versions of Coltrane standards – including Equinox and Impressions; and finally there’s The Future Past with two remixes of Khan originals by broken-beat pioneer Kaidi Tatham. Our choice of Afro Blue features some fine soprano sax from Sean Khan and a vocal by the Cinematic orchestra’s Heidi Vogel. “I made a conscious effort to represent all of Coltrane’s main artistic periods,” says Khan of the album. “From hard bop, to sheets of sound, to spiritual jazz and finally his last, most experimental and cosmic period. I have never heard a record that attempts to reflect all of the great man’s epochs in this way and use the recording artist’s autobiography, my own, as a conduit to these ends. So here I am, for better, for worse.” It’s a noble project and is a Cosmic Jazz recommendation.

8.   Nat Birchall – Mode for Trane from Tunji

UK saxophonist Nat Birchall is a long-time advocate of the music and sound of John Coltrane and here he’s taken a tune from pianist Billy Gault – another jazz musician who should be better known – check out another of his great modal compositions The Time of This World is at Hand from the early album When Destiny Calls. Birchall is on something of a roll at the moment – he’s released several superb albums over the last few years including Cosmic Language (2018), The Storyteller (2019), Ancient Africa (2021), Afro Trane (from earlier this year) and – most recently – his new album Spiritual Progressions, which will be released in August 2022.

9.   John Coltrane – But Not For Me (Mono) from My Favorite Things (2022 Remaster)

Back in the UK in June, Neil couldn’t help but buy the newly issued 2LP mono and stereo version of Coltrane’s classic My Favorite Things record from 1961. The back story is that in March 1960 while on tour in Europe, Miles Davis bought a soprano saxophone for Coltrane – an  instrument used in the early days of jazz but (with the exception of Steve Lacy) somewhat rare in the 1950s and 60s. Coltrane was intrigued, and he began to play it in performance. In the summer of 1960 he put together what would be the first version of his classic Quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Steve Davis on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.  It was this group that would feature on My Favorite Things. According to Lewis Porter’s biography, Coltrane described the album is “my favorite piece of all those I have recorded”.

10. The Janet Lawson Quintet – So High from The Janet Lawson Quintet

We last featured vocalist Janet Lawson in February 2021 following her death earlier in the year. A singer who used her voice as another instrument, Lawson collaborated with many jazz luminaries over the years, including Chick Corea, Ron Carter, Cedar Walton, Duke Pearson and Eddie Jefferson and many others. Most of her work was in New York clubs and from 1968-69 was a regular guest on Steve Allen’s New York TV show. Lawson was also involved in improvisational acting, teaching master classes in vocal improvisation and was a founder member of Women In Music, a group of six musicians. So High was a staple at the legendary Sunday afternoon sessions at Dingwalls in London. You can still download her 1981 debut here on Bandcamp, but her follow up album Dreams Can Be from 1984 will be more difficult to track down. Here’s the title track featuring the same excellent band and some lovely scat singing from Lawson herself.

11. Nuyorican Soul – Habriendo el Dominante from Nuyorican Soul

Here on Cosmic Jazz we both like to return and replay music that we love. This debut concept album was released in 1997 and featured guest appearances from George Benson, Roy Ayers, Tito Puente, the Salsoul Orchestra and – on the celebrated cover of the Rotary Connection classic I Am the Black Gold of the Sun – US vocalist Joscelyn Brown. The brainchild of the Masters at Work pairing of Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez and ‘Little’ Louie Vega, Nuyorican Soul was a celebration of their jazzier, old-school latin influences – and it totally works. With a collection of well-chosen covers and sympathetically written new material all interpreted by some old school guests the album is a Nuyorican (New York/Puerto Rican) masterpiece that seamlessly brings together club and street into a mix that still sounds good twenty years down the line. The album includes takes on Bob James’ Nautilus (bracketed here as MAWtilus), the Salsoul Orchestra’s Runaway and the superb original It’s Alright, I Feel It! – easily the equal to some of those classics. The album closer, George Benson’s You Can Do It (Baby) is unforgettable – listen to the full 15 minute version right here. This time round we chose the pure Latin sounds of the gorgeously-produced Habriendo el Dominante – what an end to the show!

More from Cosmic Jazz soon…

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

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

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

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

2. James Copus – From the Source from Dusk

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

3. Noemi Nuti – Sunny Perfect Sunday from Venus Eye

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

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

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

5. Keith Jarrett Trio – Poinciana from Whisper Not

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

6. Cal Tjader – Borneo from Several Shades of Jade

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

7. Booker Ervin – Tyra from The In Between

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

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

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

9. Lettuce – Gravy Train single from album Unify

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

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

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

More Cosmic Jazz music soon.

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

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

  1. Sergio Mendes – Pipoca from Brasileiro

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

2. Hermeto Pascoal – Guizos (Bells) from Hermeto

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

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

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

4.  Fergus McCreadie Trio – Forest Floor from Forest Floor

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

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

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

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

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

7. Orrin Evans – Libra from The Magic of Now

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

8. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration

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

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

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

More Cosmic Jazz music for body and soul coming soon.

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

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

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

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

2.   Keyon Harrold – The Mugician from The Mugician

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

3.  James Brandon Lewis – Resonance from Code of Being

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

4. Immanuel Wilkins – Emanation from The 7th Hand

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

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

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

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

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

7. Gil Scott-Heron – Spirits from Spirits

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

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

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

9. Lester Bowie – For Fela from African Children

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

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

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