Tag Archives: Keith Jarrett

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…

Big band jazz, Yussef Dayes and music from Indonesia – 18/10/23

We don’t often focus on big band jazz on our show – so it was time to put that right. We featured mostly recent records – including two brand albums from the ever-creative Edition Records. We debuted the superb new album from Yussef Dayes – and you’ll really want to hear this! – and we ended with new jazz from Indonesia. And as we’ve gone to press here, news has reached us of the death of innovative pianist, big band leader, composer and arranger Carla Bley. There’s so much we could say about this important jazz musician but here’s one of her most famous compositions, Ida Lupino, in a version from her album Dinner Music. Lupino was an Anglo-American actress and singer, celebrated as a pioneering female filmmaker and the first woman to direct a film noir – The Hitch-hiker from 1953.

1.Colin Towns Mask Orchestra – The Royal Hunt of the Sun from Drama

We began with an album from composer Colin Towns that was in the running for one of the best jazz records of 2015. When he formed the Mask Orchestra in 1990, Towns brought together both new and established players on the UK jazz scene. Twenty-five years on, the Mask Orchestra released the excellent double album Drama – their seventh album with a line-up that included Alan Skidmore, Mark Lockheart and – on our selection – the late, and very great, Peter King on alto sax. As the title might suggest, the inspiration for Drama is works for theatre, featuring new and original music from Colin Towns’ extensive work in that medium, from classic plays (and films) including One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Equus and Macbeth. We began the show with The Royal Hunt of the Sun, inspired by Peter Schaffer’s 1964 play about the clash of two characters from different worlds, Atahuallpa Inca and Francisco Pizarro. This track also includes a spectacular duet between percussionists Joji Hirota and Stephan Maass.

2. Don Ellis Orchestra – Open Beauty from Electric Bath

Next up was an artist who should be better known but is undoubtedly an inspiration for much contemporary big band music. Don Ellis was an American trumpeter and bandleader who led 1960-70s big bands distinguished by their unusual instrumentation, weird time signatures and an openness towards using rock rhythms and electronics. His band included John Klemmer, Tom Scott and Milcho Leviev who went on to record with Art Pepper in his last years. Electric Bath is a good place to start with Don Ellis – there’s no less than five trumpets, three trombones, five reeds, Mike Lang on keyboards, three bassists, drummer Steve Bohannon and three percussionists. For more Don Ellis, have a listen to his 1973 Soaring album – here’s Go Back Home.

3. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Dymaxion from Dynamic Maximum Tension

Argue’s earlier Secret Society albums have been some of Neil’s recent favourites and this new double CD set is no exception. Argue’s music always has a tightly structured thematic base and this one is no exception. Indeed, it’s the most complex of them all (so far). The music references key 20th century thinkers for ideas that can help us in the present, that we can reexamine and reconfigure for our own purposes, says Argue. These include futurist designer Buckminster Fuller, cryptanalyst-computer scientist Alan Turing, composer-arranger Bob Brookmeyer, actress-screenwriter Mae West and the master Duke Ellington – among others. Argue has said that a lot of the tracks on Dynamic Maximum Tension are reflective of my personal journey in going back to the foundations of this music and trying to find ways to incorporate that into my compositional voice. In a pre-launch interview he went on to reference several of these key influences and inspirations. For example, Tensile Curves is a response to Ellington’s Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue, in which Argue uses decreasing tempo as an analog to the diminishing dynamics of the Ellington work. Listen to the celebrated 1956 Newport Jazz Festival performance of Diminuendo right here. It features that remarkable tenor solo from Paul Gonsalves that was almost entirely responsible for resurrecting Ellington’s career. Argue admires how Ellington sets up and foils expectations, doing things one doesn’t anticipate, like taking an unexpected detour on a blues form, but that all this make sense when you reflect more deeply about the music. ‘That’s jazz’ we might want to say.

4. Dave Holland Big Band – Last Minute Man from Overtime

Last Minute Man is the only tune we’ve played before on the show – but it’s so good we wanted to feature it as another good example of a contemporary big band at work. Dave Holland is, of course, the celebrated English bassist, perhaps most noted for his tenure with Miles Davis. But Holland has continued to blaze a trail across the jazz mini-genres – from the avantgarde to big band. Overtime is from 2002 (but unreleased until 2005). Holland deploys players who appeared in in his various quartets and quintets – there’s four saxophones, three trumpets and trombones, and vibes as well as bass and drums. The band includes Chris Potter, Robin Eubanks, Antonio Hart, Josh Roseman, and Alex Sipiagin among others. Chris Potter is on typically fine form and the closing track Last Minute Man is an electrifying end to this exceptional record. Seek it out if you can.

5. Nikki Iles and the NDR Bigband – Awakening from Face To Face

This great new album comes from one of the best big bands around at the moment – the NDR. Unique among Germany’s radio big bands, the NDR Bigband is a jazz ensemble composed of premier soloists of diverse backgrounds and influences who create an original and striking group sound. Like many similar bands, they began in a world of traditional radio and TV shows producing what we used to called light entertainment, but for several years they’ve ploughed a much more creative furrow – often with guest soloists, arrangers and composers. Current band members include Julius Gawlik on tenor, Peter Bolte on alto and Claus Stötter and Ingolf Burkhardt on trumpets. Here with UK pianist Nikki Iles – their Composer in Residence for 2023 – is the first fruit of this partnership, the album Face to Face. I love the NDR Bigband, says Iles, and that seems evident in this joyous music. Face to Face will be released in mid-November but you can check out the music and pre-order in all formats on the Edition Records website.

6. Yussef Dayes – Tioga Pass from Black Classical Music

This is one important record – and another example of the fertility of the UK jazz scene. Drummer Yussef Dayes has been making waves since he appeared on the South London jazz scene in 2016 with fellow Londoner Kamaal Williams on the self-titled Yussef Kamaal album. Better still was the collaboration on Blue Note with songwriter Tom Misch, What Kinda Music. Then on Brownswood in late 2020 came the Live at Joshua Tree EP. Now – a year later – we get the ambitious 19 track release Black Classical Music. Dayes’ regular quartet (which Neil had the good fortune to see in Singapore) are just the heart of a huge studio cast – new keyboardist Charlie Stacey, guitarist Miles James and studio guests including UK jazz royalty Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross and Sheila Maurice-Grey. The ambition of Dayes is clear and this is definitely one we’ll return to. In the meantime, listen to the opening title track and check out the McCoy Tyner influence – I’m thinking Ebony Queen here. What do you reckon?

7. Jasper Høiby – Love Song from Earthness

More new music from Edition Records that’s not released until late in November. Bassist, composer and bandleader Jasper Høiby is both creative and prolific. It was in his birthplace Copenhagen that he laid the groundwork for his career, founding Phronesis, one of the most influential jazz trios in recent memory. They opened for the Wayne Shorter Quartet at London’s Barbican in 2011 (another memorable concert Neil attended) blending intricate melodies with powerful rhythms and engaging improvisations. Since then, Høiby has gone on to release music in several different groups with musicians including Mark Guiliana, Tigran Hamasyan, and Shai Maestro. His new trio is called 3 Elements  and features Noah Stoneman and Luca Caruso.

8. Royal New Zealand Air Force Jazz Orchestra – Bird of Prey from Kaiwhakatere (Navigator)

Ok – so it’s an outlier, but the Royal New Zealand Air Force Jazz Orchestra really do deserve a listen. This is exciting, adventurous big band music with guests including saxophonist Oscar Lavën, whose Questions in Red album made us take notice at the end of last year. The album was co-produced by the Wellington-based Scottish drummer, John Rae. London Jazz News noted that Several observers have already heard the mighty Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band in this team of reservists’ smartly despatched energy and there are echoes of Gil Evans and George Russell in the sense of drama and suspense created. High praise indeed.

 9. Alonzo Brata – Night in Tunisia from Giant Baby Steps

We’re always interested in new talent here on Cosmic Jazz and young Alonzo Brata is a great example. On a recent work visit back to Indonesia, Neil came across Alonzo’s music and wanted to feature it here on the show. He may be only just 20, but  his rich baritone is reminiscent of Mario Biondi and the infectious This Is What You Are – and that’s a direction he could easily travel in. Brata notes that I’m a young vocalist (born in 2003) with a baritone voice and a diverse range of musical interests from jazz standards to synth-wave. From an early age I was inspired by the great jazz artists and song stylists of the past such as Al Jarreau, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra to mention a few. However, like many of my generation, my musical interests are wide and influenced by the gaming culture. Brata launched his YouTube channel in 2021, recorded his first studio album later that year and was nominated for in the category of Best Jazz Album by the AMI Awards (Indonesia Music Awards). That’s a pretty meteoric rise to date… Right now, he’s finding his feet genre-wise – but he’s already appeared at the huge Java Jazz Festival and will be back in the recording studio soon. Check out more on his website here.

10. Joey Alexander – Blue from Continuance

Also from Indonesia, there’s a similar story at work here. Joey Alexander has been featured several times on the show in recent years since his debut album was released at age 11. Mentored by Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock, Alexander won a prestigious AMI award in 2018 for his excellent take on Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice and now he’s about to release his new record Continuance on which he’s joined by Theo Croker on trumpet, Kris Funn on bass and John Davis on drums. We featured the sprightly Blue but head to Alexander’s Bandcamp site here and listen to his reflective take on Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me.

There’s an long tradition of jazz in Indonesia and it’s worth exploring the music of other great musicians from this huge south east Asian country. Try keyboardist Indra Lesmana who has recorded prolifically with jazz artists like Charlie Haden, Tootie Heath and Airto Moreira since the 1980s and his new release – Do the Math – in this 2023 video created and directed by Lesmana himself. And what about Batavia Collective? Their name comes from the Dutch  occupation name for what is now Jakarta and the surrounding hinterland, and this trio began playing covers of popular hip-hop and soul songs but have now incorporated drum and bass, jazz and broken beat into their original compositions. Inevitably, Doni Joesran, Elfa Zulham and Kenny Gabriel are often asked what kind of jazz they are playing. Their response – To tell you the truth we don’t know. We don’t even know if our music can be considered jazz or not. We just happen to play jazz and we love to party. Have a listen to Joni Indo here and then check out their Bandcamp site where you’ll find a video for the brilliant Propulsion. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a complete live performance on Youtube right here. If you know the music of broken beat pioneer Kaidi Tatham them you’ll really like Batavia Collective. We’ll certainly be featuring them on upcoming shows.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon, but in the meantime, here’s the return of Neil is listening to…

Music this time comes from the usual wide range of sources. There’s a focus on Javanese and Balinese gamelan and music inspired by that extraordinary microtonal universe, a selection linked to new and upcoming Tone Poet reissues from Jackie McLean and McCoy Tyner, Yussef Dayes and Kamal Williams live in the Brownswood Basement,  a Keith Jarrett encore from the Tokyo ’84 DVD, Material and Nona Hendryx’s finest moment and – to finish – the all-female group Tokyo Groove Jyoshi with the infectious Funk No.1. Enjoy!

Deep jazz from Edition Records and others – 07/06/2023

Cosmic Jazz this time deals out some serious and deep jazz. Expect Norman Connors (in a guise you may not recognise), a slew of contemporary artists on the Edition Records label and two artists of Latin heritage.

  1. Norman Connors – Morning Change from Dance of Magic

There are a couple of examples in this show of artists not doing what you might expect. Drummer Norman Connors is probably best known for his jazz/funk work beloved of soul and jazz clubbers. But before this he was a serious jazz musician playing with some heavyweight jazz musicians. The album Dance of Magic was his first as leader, but before that he had played with the likes of Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Sam Rivers, Jackie McLean and Pharaoh Sanders. There is also an impressive roster of jazz greats on Dance of Magic – Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Cecil McBee, Stanley Clarke, Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Hart, Airto Moreira and more. Our choice for this show, Morning Change, has a terrific soprano sax solo from the late Carlos Garnett, whose life we celebrated recently on Cosmic Jazz. Norman Connors was featured on Garnett’s Black Love album – the two musicians were close friends and mutually supportive. Morning Change is a tune full of mystery, deep in spiritual and contemplative sounds and definitely one for the heart and soul rather than the dancefloor.

2. Antōnio Neves and Thiaguino Silva – Das Neves from Hidden Waters: Strange and Sublime Sounds of Rio de Janeiro

This great new crowd-funded Brazilian compilation is now available on Bandcamp – check it out right here. Neil was pleased to support the project – and will receive his 2LP set in coming weeks. In the meantime, listen to this example of the endless variety of new music coming out Rio de Janeiro. Featuring 20+ artists from Rio’s resurgent music scene, each bringing an avant-garde edge to bossa nova, samba, jazz and funk. This is the sound of contemporary Rio – a melting pot that pools popular and avant-garde, cutting-edge and traditional, with echoes of everything from Tropicália, samba, disco and Candomblé to lo-fi rock, bossa nova,  experimental electronics and – yes – even jazz. We’ve chosen  jazz upstart Antônio Neves – here alongside Thiaguino Silva. Hidden Waters is compiled by Joe Osborne and Russ Slater,  with artwork by Rio’s much-loved album cover designer Caio Paiva, a sleeve insert of two essays written by eminent music journalist Leonardo Lichote and professor and critic Bernardo Oliveira, and extensive track-by-track notes written by the participating artists themselves. We’ll dip into this collection more on release later this month.

3. Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke – Akwe from Lean In

This is the first track in our sequence of music from the endlessly inventive Edition Records label. Founded by pianist and producer Dave Stapleton, Edition is fast becoming one of the most diverse labels around – with these three choices amply demonstrating this truth. We loved Gretchen Parlato’s last album – 2021’s Flor – which saw her exploring both Bach and Bowie’s posthumous No Plan album. Sure, Lean In is less musically adventurous that that exceptional previous record but it’s full of little joys – including Akwe on which she’s joined by the guitar and voice of Lionel Loueke. On drums and percussion is Mark Guiliana (Parlato’s husband)…

4. Mark Guiliana – Mischief from Mischief

... which leads us nicely into this track from Guiliana himself. Coming hard on the heels of his last record for Edition, Mischief is cut from the same sessions as this record. But it’s even more loose, spontaneous and exploratory with bassist Chris Morrisey, pianist Shai Maestro, and tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby holding down the complex rhythms and wispy melodies. One review noted a comparison with Keith Jarrett’s American quartet – Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian along with Jarrett himself – and it’s not wide of the mark. This is not easy listening but do check out this unique drummer here and on other idiosyncratic recent releases.

5. Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter – Boogie Down from Guilty Pleasures (feat. Nate Smith)

Another Edition partnership and one that, again, really works.  Charlie Hunter has an extraordinary command of the custom eight string guitar he uses – and it’s great in this combination with Grammy-award winning vocalist Kurt Elling. Like Mischief, this EP follows on from a previous record – the excellent SuperBlue album – with this one being released in February 2023. Chicagoan Elling is one of the most thoughtful jazz vocalists around today with the knack of mining lyric sources as diverse as Persian mystic Rumi and beat poet Jack Kerouac. This choice is a little more conventional though – Al Jarreau’s  Boogie Down. On drums throughout is the great Nate Smith whose own Edition records are well worth checking out.

6. Kenny Wheeler – Smatter from Gnu High

ECM (Editions of Contemporary Music) has been a go-to label for jazz enthusiasts since their inception by producer Manfred Eicher in the 1970s. Neil remembers his first ECM purchase very clearly: the superb Keith Jarrett solo piano Bremen/Lausanne box set which he bought in Zurich in 1973. Kenny Wheeler’s Gnu High features Jarrett on piano along with Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The longest track is Heyoke at 22 minutes – fresh and inventive throughout with wonderful drumming from DeJohnette – but we chose Smatter, the shortest piece at just under six minutes. It showcases Wheeler’s supremely melodic approach to the flugelhorn, emphasising what the Allmusic review noted as the warm and cool stance only Wheeler wields, making seemingly simple music deep and profound. Exactly.

7. Arturo O’Farrill & Chucho Valdes – Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters from Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico

Our second challenge to preconceptions comes with the next two tunes which include prominent contributions from trumpeter Adam O’Farrill. His grandfather was the Cuban composer and arranger Chico O’Farrill and his father the composer and pianist Arturo O’Farrill who has played with many Latin and jazz musicians in New York. In 2017 Arturo O’Farrill worked with veteran Cuban pianist, arranger and bandleader Chucho Valdes to produce the album Familia – not only a tribute to their fathers (both prominent Cuban musicians), but – as the title suggests – something of a family affair with contributions from several members of their own current families. Our choice of  Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters includes Adam O’Farrill as a featured soloist. The cover of the CD makes a forthright statement: This recording is not about piano, Latin jazz or Cuba and this tune (although with a trace of Latin influence) proves that point.

8. Mary Halvorson – Amaryllis from Amaryllis

Adam O’Farrill is also featured on this tune providing a fierce solo as a member of the avant-garde New York jazz group led by Mary Halvorson. Derek was fortunate to see  the group with Adam O’Farrill on trumpet at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam earlier this year. They are definitely not a Latin jazz outfit. They provide a challenging but engrossing and enriching listening experience. It is not surprising to find Adam O’Farrill in this band. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York among a rich variety of musical experiences, with both parents as musicians – his mother Alison Deane is a classical pianist. He leads his own band Stranger Days which includes his brother Zack O’Farrill as drummer – check out the self-titled album here on their Bandcamp page.  O’Farrill’s website bio describes his music as both abstract and personal, writing compositions that reflect subjects such as being mixed race, growing up in New York, family history, and spirituality. The people he has performed with make for an impressive list and  include Vijay Iyer, Hiromi, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Samora Pinderhughes and Mulatu Astatke.

9.    Oded Tzur – Noam from Isabela

2022’s Isabela is the second ECM album from New York-based saxophonist/composer Oded Tzur and his quartet. His first album for the label identified Tzur’s consummate ability to meld Eastern and Western traditions while exploring new connections between American jazz, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Israeli traditions. Here, the saxophonist constructs a suite-like sequence across the different tracks, balancing restrained meditative sounds with more powerful statements. Our choice of Noam is perhaps the most hymn-like – only towards the end showing some grain in the saxophone voice. The quartet is Nitai Hershkovits on piano, Petros Klampanis on bass and the better known Johnathon Blake on drums. They’ve worked with Tzur for over five years now – and it shows.

More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

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.

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

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

  1. Rachelle Ferrell – Autumn Leaves from First Instrument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Doug Carn – Sanctuary from Adam’s Apple

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

21 February 2021: the mourning of a star…

Welcome to a reflective Cosmic Jazz. This week we are mourning the loss of three music legends – Chick Corea,  Janet Lawson and Johnny  Pacheco. Our title is taken from Keith Jarrett’s album of the same name which includes the reflective The Mourning of a Star. We begin with Chick Corea and three tunes that reflect his prolific output over five decades. Corea was born in 1941 and – despite the compositional link with Spain – was of Italian descent. Composer, keyboardist, bandleader and – with 500 Miles High, La Fiesta, Windows, Spain and more – the creator of modern jazz standards, Corea had a long and distinguished career in music.

As a member of Miles Davis’ band in the late 1960s (along with luminaries Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Tony Williams) he was there at the birth of what is often called jazz fusion – but is really just jazz stretching out to encompass other musical genres, as it has always done.  Among the most influential jazz pianists along with Hancock, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett, Corea had a unmistakable style that was influenced by his Mediterranean roots and those pianists he most admired – particularly Bill Evans and Bud Powell. The early trio masterpiece Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1968) was re-released in the Blue Note Tone Poets series (see this Cosmic Jazz post) and is highly recommended as a starting point for CJers new to Corea’s music. This is the superb title track which – in the first minute alone – includes many musical motifs that surfaced again and again in Corea’s writing. There is a joyousness in his piano playing that clearly reflected his sunny personality. Aware of his late cancer diagnosis, a Facebook message was posted by Corea on 12 February:

“I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.

“And to my amazing musician friends who have been like family to me as long as I’ve known you: It has been a blessing and an honor learning from and playing with all of you. My mission has always been to bring the joy of creating anywhere I could, and to have done so with all the artists that I admire so dearly—this has been the richness of my life.”

1. Miles Davis – In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time from In A Silent Way

So where do we start with our tribute to this keyboard master? It has to be that most influential of Miles Davis records, In A Silent Way. Released in 1969, this music was revolutionary for a number of key reasons. It took Davis on a journey away from the technical mastery of his second quintet and into completely new territory. In January 1969 Corea was already a core member of the new Davis group. with his ring modulated Hohner keyboard at the centre of the new sound. You can clearly hear its use on the Isle of Wight concert video from 1970 (Keith Jarrett is on the other keyboard). In A Silent Way simply transformed thinking about what jazz could be and also introduced Teo Macero’s studio manipulations into the music. The result was an album that will never date. It sounds timeless. As Rolling Stone writer Lester Bangs noted “It is part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality.” We featured the Joe Zawinul composition In A Silent Way that bookends the second side of the record, with It’s About That Time sandwiched in between. This is one of Zawinul’s most beautiful pieces and has influenced all genres of contemporary music from ambient through to dance. The ethereal beauty of the music carries all before it. To listen to In A Silent Way for the first time is to experience an epiphany.

2. John McLaughlin – Waltz for Bill Evans from My Goals Beyond

McLaughlin’s guitar contributes much of the atmosphere of In a Silent Way and he included a short Corea tune on his My Goal’s Beyond record from 1971. Both musicians would count Bill Evans as a musical influence and so we featured Waltz for Bill Evans, itself a nod to the classic Evans tune Waltz for Debby, itself now a jazz standard like Corea’s Spain. My Goals’s Beyond is something of a lost album. Although it has been reissued several times, it remains little known against McLaughlin’s more electric output, and was something of a forerunner to his long running Shakti project. Both have strong Indian influences, with McLaughlin being heavily in thrall to Sri Chinmoy, the guru de nos jours for some jazz musicians in the early 1970s.

3. Chick Corea and Return to Forever – Spain from Light As A Feather

Wikipedia counts over 30 different interpretations of Spain and Corea himself recorded the tune a number of times in different formats. We featured the original version on the second Return to Forever group’s album Light As a Feather, recorded in London in 1973. The tune may sound familiar because it opens with a melody from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and then continues to use Rodrigo’s chord progressions in Corea’s improvisation. This first version of the Return to Forever group  included Stanley Clarke on bass, Airto Moreira on percussion, Flora Purim on vocals and the under-rated Joe Farrell on flute. A 2CD set from 1998 included a second disc of alternative takes and the track Matrix which first appeared on the aforementioned Now He Sings, Now He Sobs album. It’s not an essential version to have – but the original belongs in everyone’s record collection.

4. Chick Corea – 500 Miles High (Live) from Trilogy 2 (Disc 1)

Return to Forever became more electric as the 1970s counted down. The album Romantic Warrior (1976) was the final recording in this format and Corea experimented with different groups and styles – his piano duet records with Herbie Hancock perhaps the most celebrated of this period. If you can avoid a copy with the bizarre Smurfs cover (a Japanese pressing, for example) the album Friends is worth a look. It’s Joe Farrell again on saxes and flute too. This is Samba Song, featuring the propulsive drumming of Steve Gadd. Corea returned to a more fusion sound with his Elektric Band which, in turn, was complemented by the Akoustic Band of the same era –  a trio that included jazz standards in their repertoire.  The trio format remained a constant with its finest invocation in the ECM Trio records playing once again with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes. Our final tribute track is from yet another trio performance, but this time a much more recent release, 2020’s Trilogy 2, with Corea on acoustic piano, Christian McBride on bass and drummer Brian Blades. This 2CD set featured tracks recorded during trio’s world tour and includes American songbook standards, jazz classics and a reach back into Corea’s own catalogue. By the time of this recording the trio had been together for ten years – and it shows. Like the first live Trilogy release from 2013, this record is a summation of Corea’s jazz journey. Beautifully engineered with a superb sound, Chick Corea’s joy at performing in the classic jazz trio brings us right back to that earlier trio record from 1968 with which we began this post.

5. The Janet Lawson Quintet – You Promised from The Janet Lawson Quintet

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

7. The Janet Lawson Quintet – Sunday Afternoon – The Janet Lawson Quintet

Our next artist to remember is vocalist Janet Lawson, who actually collaborated with Chick Corea and other artists such as Ron Carter, Duke Ellington, Sheila Jordan, Dave Liebman, Cedar Walton, Duke Pearson and Eddie Jefferson – among others.  Born in Baltimore, but NYC based, Lawson really used her voice as another instrument. The British label BBE Records re-released her first self-titled album in 2014 with sleeve notes citing John S. Wilson’s New York Times review which notes that she “places her voice as an element of the instrument ensemble in almost all of her numbers rather than as a singer with instrumental accompaniment.” More than that, “when she takes her solos, Miss Lawson improvises – with or without words – as an instrumentalist would.” He added that Lawson “has the kind of voice that most jazz singers probably wish they had. It is a full, well‐developed, remarkably pliant voice with a lower range whose dark sonorities compare favorably with the deep power of Sarah Vaughan.” High praise indeed. So what happened to Janet Lawson and why is she not more well known?

She travelled the US, and to Latin America and Jamaica, but 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. Gilles Peterson has recently commented that she was a staple at the legendary Sunday afternoon sessions at Dingwalls in London and  the title of one of the tunes we chose suggests it may well have been a firm favourite there. Janet Lawson’s voice is supported by some fine musicians on our three tunes from that first album, originally released in 1981 – Ratzo Harris on bass, Roger Rosenberg on baritone sax, Jimmy Madison on drums and Bill O’Connell on piano. Lawson died aged 80 in January 2020 with just two records to her name. Both are worth looking out for. 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.

8. Johnny Pacheco – Azuquita Mami from Fania All Stars Live/Salsa Caliente

Both Chick Corea and Janet Lawson drew upon and played music with Latin influences. The final artist we remember, Johnny Pacheco, who died aged 85 earlier this month, was a seminal Latin artist – you could say Latin through and through – but jazz remained a key element. Pacheco and his fellow musicians were responsible for fusing jazz, rhythm and blues, funk and other styles into traditional African-Cuban music to create salsa – literally, ‘sauce’, and implying a mix of many different Latin styles.

Johnny Pacheco was born in the Dominican Republic but his family moved to New York when Pacheco was 11 and it was here that he became a major figure as a musician, bandleader and co-founder of the essential Latin music label Fania Records, a joint venture with lawyer and Latin music fan Jerry Masucci. From its humble beginnings in Harlem and the Bronx, Fania brought a new sensibility to the music. Many of the lyrics to the new songs were about racism, cultural pride and the incendiary politics of the New York streets.The tune Azuquita Mami has appeared on many Latin compilations (including Super Salsa Hits released by Charly Records in the UK), but this version is from the French compilation Salsa Caliente released on Universal and bought in Paris. It features several other classic Latin artists, including an excellent band from Japan! If you’re new to music from this inspirational label, it’s worth searching out a superb 4CD Fania compilation called Ponte Duro: the Fania All Stars Story, released in 2012. It captures the All Stars live in New York, around the world and in the studio. You can hear Pacheco (and ‘Symphony’ Sid) introduce the band here live from Spanish Harlem in NYC.

9. Johnny Pacheco – Alto Songo from Introducing Johnny Pacheco

In Pacheco’s home in Dominican Republic, the local merengue music is part of the fabric of everyday life. Among the several instruments he learned to play were the flute and the accordion, both essential to merengue. In New York his flute-playing became handy for playing the Cuban charanga music and he was hired by Charlie Palmieri to play in a charanga band before forming his own Pacheco Y Su Charanga in 1960. But it was that first meeting with Masucci three years later that was to change Pacheco’s fortunes. Pacheco became Fania’s creative director and musical producer, as well as performing his own music and recording with the Fania All Stars and many other artists. The tune Alto Songo was released originally on Introducing Johnny Pacheco on Fania (1989), although it’s available elsewhere including another Charly Records release of 1989. Sue Steward’s sleeve notes to this album inform us that Manny Oquendo was on timbales and that the tune has “growing subtlety out of Rene Hernandez’ whimsical few bars of Rachmaninov’s piano concerto.” It’s a classic Fania tune. Oquendo has been featured on earlier Cosmic Jazz shows (check out here and here) via his band Libre.

10. Hector Lavoe – Mi Gente from La Voz/I Like It Like That

Johnny Pacheco’s influence began to spread widely. In the early 1970s he was greeted by a crowd of 5,000 as he arrived at Dakar airport. His music was a great influence on Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and other West African groups who took back the Latin rhythms that were themselves often derived from traditional African rhythms.  Pacheco went on to release hundreds of records, often in collaboration with other Latin artists like Cuban singer Celia Cruz. His songwriting provided material for other Latin musicians, including one of the greatest Latin vocalists Hector Lavoe, whom Pacheco was to portray in El Cantante, the 2007 biopic of the singer. Mi Gente (translated as ‘my people’) is a Johnny Pacheco composition that was most famously recorded by Lavoe and is considered one of his finest recordings. There are numerous versions, but one of the most popular was recorded with the Fania All Stars in 1974 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) while Lavoe was there to perform at the celebrated Zaire 74 festival prior to the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ –  Mohammed Ali’s title fight against George Foreman. You can see Lavoe’s performance here – and, yes, that’s Pacheco conducting and stage managing the whole performance. The orchestrations, the brass and the big band feel provide ample evidence of the links to jazz. This version is available on a great Fania compilation which include a set of originals together with more contemporary remixes – here’s Louie Vega’s EOL remix of Mi Gente.

Pacheco was to record with a number of jazz musicians including George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann and McCoy Tyner. He’s featured on this version of Duke Ellington’s Duke’s Place from Tyner’s tribute to the great bandleader, McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington (1965). For many years he spearheaded the Johnny Pacheco Latin Music and Jazz Festival at Lehman College in the Bronx, an annual event in collaboration with the college (streamed live in recent years) that provides a stage for hundreds of talented young musicians studying music in New York City schools. His legacy lives on.

20 November 2020: Black Jazz Records and more

This week Cosmic Jazz has a special feature on the Black Jazz Records label,  but there is also an opportunity for more music, including our celebration of the patron saint of music and musicians – St Cecilia – whose feast day is 22 November.

  1. Keith Jarrett – Prayer from Death and the Flower

We began the show with the music of Keith Jarrett who announced recently that, as the result of two strokes in 2018, he has lost the motor skills in his left hand and is unlikely to record more music. Last week we celebrated his music through the famed Standards Trio with Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums with a track from the awesome box set of recordings from the Blue Note Club in New York. This weeks we dip into the recordings of Jarrett’s American Quartet with a track from the 1974 album Death and the Flower on the Impulse! label. This record is one of Neil’s favourite from this period, and one he bought from the much loved Sunshine Records in Little Clarendon Street, Oxford – also regularly visited by Coldcut and Ninja Tune founder Jon More at around the same time. Bought in the original Impulse! gatefold for £3.99 (see the advertisement below), Death and the Flower includes the side-long title track with its extended percussion and wood flute intro. The band are Jarrett on piano, Dewey Redman on saxophones and more, Charlie Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums with the addition of Guilherme Franco on percussion. These records are well worth seeking out – the American Quartet is often overshadowed by the music of Jarrett’s European Quartet on ECM Records, but it is not to be underestimated. Look for this record and the equally good Treasure Island and Fort Yahwuh. Our choice from Death and the Flower – Prayer – is a moving, becalming and contemplative piece, played here on vinyl, a format we are now pleased to include in the show.

2. Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack deJohnette – Moon and Sand from Standards Vol II

More of Jarrett’s music came in the form of our second choice, one of the many records produced by the Standards Trio and all on the ECM label. Standards I and II were recorded at the same session in New York in 1983 along with a third record – Changes –  which featured free improvisations. Our choice – Moon and Sand – is not often covered by jazz musicians, but this 1979 version by Kenny Burrell is a delight as are the versions of Blue Bossa and Stolen Moments on the same release. The Standards Trio went on to record and tour for more than 25 years, recording numerous live and studio albums, almost all of classics from the American songbook. Two live recordings – Inside Out and Always Let Me Go – are the exception as both contain wholly improvised tracks. The telepathic communication between Jarrett, Peacock and deJohnette brought new insights into many familiar tunes and whilst Jarrett has his detractors (his annoying whining can be very irritating), none of 25+ recordings are without often considerable merit. Neil’s personal favourites include Up For It (2003) and After the Fall (2018), both containing outstanding versions of the standard Autumn Leaves. The trio disbanded in 2014 after more than 30 years of playing together – an outstanding achievement. All recordings are on ECM and all are still available, many in all three formats.

3. Mary Lou Williams – Ode to St. Cecilie from Free Spirits/Spiritual Jazz Vol. 11

Volume 11 is one of the latest in Jazzman’s ongoing spiritual jazz collections with a focus on music from the Danish SteepleChase label, the Copenhagen-based imprint that has recorded and released music from some of the greatest jazz musicians from the US and Europe, including many who were living in Europe at the time. These expat musicians were responsible for some classic free jazz recordings from the recently-closed Cafe Montmartre including Albert Ayler’s Ghosts and Abdullah Ibrahim’s Scenes from an African Village. Our choice was under-rated pianist Mary Lou Williams who on this track is accompanied by Buster Williams on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. Williams’ conversion to Catholicism in 1954 dramatically influenced many of her subsequent recordings, including this Ode to St. Cecile from the Free Spirits album of 1975. If you’re looking for something different try the extraordinary Black Christ of the Andes album. Here’s the backstory…

In 1962, the Catholic Church canonised a new saint: a Peruvian brother of the Dominican Order named Martin de Porres, the son of a freed slave and Spanish gentleman who refused to recognise him because he was born with his mother’s dark features. Today, St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of those who seek racial harmony. His story and canonisation was inspiring to Williams and she began composing new material in that year, with the first performance of Black Christ of the Andes taking place in New York in November 1962. “Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary,” Duke Ellington once said. “She is like soul on soul.” The sound of this unique record – which draws on blues, gospel and jazz – can certainly be described as soulful – it truly is music that comes from enslaved black people and their descendants. Listen to an instrumental taste of the album with Miss D. D. right here.

Up next was Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar who has been rather prolific with releases over the last year. We’ve featured two albums from him in recent months on Cosmic Jazz and now up comes a third, the (ironically) titled America the Beautiful. It’s a relatively large ensemble joining the percussionist this time with Corey Wilkes on trumpet and the late Hamiet Bluiett on baritone saxophone. There are two versions of the title tune, Charles Wright’s Express Yourself and a twist on Afro Blue called Sketches of an Afro Blue but we featured Jump and Shout (For Those Now Gone). There’s no doubt about the focus for this music – “Now’s the time for us to collectively invoke a confluence of trust and imagination that will enlighten a future path towards ethical humanity,” El’Zabar writes in the album’s statement of purpose.  The album is on the new UK Spiritmuse label and, as so often these days, you really should give yourself a treat and get it on vinyl – beautifully produced and a joy to look at too with great cover art from Nep Sidhu.

A piece of essential information for any serous jazz lovers (and certainly anyone who loves the music we play on Cosmic Jazz) is that from August 2020 the Real Gone Music record label from  announced a programme to reissue the catalogue  from the Black Jazz Record label on remastered vinyl with some select CD releases too. The label was started in 1969 in Oakland, California by pianist Gene Russell – one of whose tunes starts the sequence on this week’s show – along with percussionist Dick Schory. Black Jazz had an explicit intention – to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers – and released twenty albums between 1971 and 1975. Some of the more notable artists to record for Black Jazz Records were Cleveland Eaton, former bassist for Count Basie and Ramsey Lewis and organist/pianist Doug Carn, whose four albums were the most successful for the label.  Singer Kellee Patterson gained notoriety as the first black Miss Indiana in 1971, before recording her debut album, Maiden Voyage in 1973. With co-owner Dick Schory’s knowledge of state-of-the-art stereo recording techniques, Black Jazz strove for the kind of audiophile status that most 1970s indie labels could barely even dream of and, from 1972 to the label’s end in 1975, each album was issued with a surround-sound Quadraphonic version.

If you’re not aware of the music on Black Jazz, this is your opportunity to discover the many treasures on the label. Original pressings can be expensive and so this Real Gone initiative is a welcome development in this new vinyl era. We featured five tunes from the label, beginning with Gene Russell’s My Favorite Things.

5. Gene Russell – My Favorite Things from Talk to My Lady

Talk to My Lady is classic mid-period Black Jazz, with some original compositions and three covers – Stevie Wonder’s You Are the Sunshine of My Life, Gamble and Huff’s Me and Mrs Jones and the Rogers and Hammerstein classic My Favorite Things. The band included Ngudu (Leon Chancler) on drums who would go on to record with George Benson, Weather Report and Michael Jackson. Russell transforms My Favorite Things with his innovative Fender Rhodes and Henry Franklin is great on acoustic bass – CJ jazz fact: it’s Franklin who played on Hugh Masekela’s hit Grazing in the Grass! Russell’s death at just 48 in 1981 left the Black Jazz catalogue in limbo, but hip hop sampling and championing by DJs like Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish ensured continued awareness of the label. Indeed, through the Japanese Snow Dog label, both Peterson and Parrish reissued their own Black Jazz compilations in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

6. Doug Carn – Chant from Adam’s Apple 

The selection from keyboard player Doug Carn was released in 1975 and was his fourth and final record for the label. Sharing Carn’s approach was a group which included saxophonist Ronnie Laws, who had worked with Earth, Wind and Fire before that band’s big commercial breakthrough. Of the others, guitarists Nathan Page and Calvin Keys had both performed with organist Jimmy Smith. Carn frequently added lyrics to established jazz classics and on this album he gives this treatment to the Wayne Shorter tune Sanctuary. There is also a version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Mighty Mighty (We are people of the sun). Carn – who had in fact played with EWF for a short time, has done keyboard duties with the likes of Nat Adderley, Shirley Horn and Lou Donaldson, as well as his then wife Jean Carne [sic] with whom  the music took in elements of soul. In 2015 he released the album My Spirit, a live recording of tunes from his Black Jazz albums.

7. Calvin Keys – Aunt Lovey from Proceed with Caution 

Guitarist Calvin Keys is another Black Jazz artist who is still around. He was born in Nebraska in 1942  but moved to San Francisco and became part of the jazz community there. He was also an educator and has taught at the Oakland Public Conservatory, as well as giving private lessons and mentoring young musicians. Again, there is an impressive list of musicians that he has worked with – Joe Henderson, Ray Charles, Ahmad Jamal, Bobby Hutcherson and Pharaoh Sanders. On this album he’s joined by pianist Kirk Lightsey on electric piano, Charles Owens on saxes and trombonist Oscar Brashear. Aunt Lovey moves from straightforward funky Grant Green-style licks into a freeish Sonny Fortune-style soprano sax solo and some very overdriven keyboard work from Lightsey before fading out and leaving you wanting more.

8. Walter Bishop Jr.’s 4th Cycle – N’dugu’s Prayer from Keeper of my Soul 

Pianist Walter Bishop Jr. is probably best known for his Muse label records from the 1970s, particularly the excellent Soul Village – a record we have featured a number of times on Cosmic Jazz and which includes a longer take on Soul Turnaround, which had appeared on Coral Keys, his first recording for Black Jazz. In his teens growing up in New York Bishop knew Sonny Rollins and Art Taylor – good friends to have around! On this session from 1973 Ronnie Laws appears on both sax and flute (and, yes, Ronnie Laws is the younger brother of CTI flautist Hubert Laws).  Gene Russell produced and the album also includes a take on Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa.

9. The Awakening – The Ultimate Frontier from Mirage

The Awakening were a six piece Chicago-based ensemble that included AACM alumni Reggie Willis on bass and Ari Brown on flute and tenor sax. Perhaps uniquely for groups broadly described as playing spiritual jazz, The Awakening were able to deliver Art Ensemble frenzy (as on the superb Jupiter) alongside the mellow funk of Brand New Feeling. Led by pianist Ken Chaney, who was writing music for Chicago soul-jazz stars Young-Holt Unlimited in the 1960s (you can hear him on their million-selling 1968 hit Soulful Strut), The Awakening also included trumpet player Frank Gordon from Young-Holt Unlimited and guests on some tunes providing further instruments and vocals. This one has Anita Jeffries and Ben Wright on vocals. The album was released in 1973 with Gene Russell again as producer. This is an album not to miss: the music can be deeply intense and spiritual and contemplative and challenging – and like so much of the music on the Black Jazz Records label was imbued with Black consciousness and pride and so is very much in tune with the times and issues facing those communities. And that, of course, much makes it entirely relevant for these troubling times too…

Look out for more from the Black Jazz label in upcoming weeks on Cosmic Jazz.

07 November 2020: Blue Note then and now

This week’s show is the usual mixture of jazz music across different styles and different ages but with a few tunes from the classic jazz label Blue Note Records – featuring new music and classic compositions – along with a Polish and Brazilian interlude.

  1. Renee Rosnes – I.A. Blues  from Renee Rosnes

A  recent programme on BBC 4 TV in the UK on Blue Note Records (which Derek enjoyed, although Neil was less convinced) prompted the selection of some tunes from the label, including a couple of less well known ones. The sequence started with a 1990 vinyl recording from Canadian pianist and composer Renee Rosnes. The artists involved on the album illustrate the sort of company she has kept during an illustrious career that has produced seventeen records. On this particular record you can find contributions from Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter among others. She has also worked with Jack deJohnette and younger musicians such as Christian McBride, Chris Potter and Nicholas Payton.

2. Artemis – Step Forward from Artemis 

Stepping forward to 2020 and Renee Rosnes appears on Blue Note again, but this time with a new band she leads as producer, pianist – and composer – on one of the nine tunes. The septet Artemis is something of an all star band with Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Melissa Aldana on tenor sax, Anat Cohen on clarinet, Norika Ueda on bass, Allison Miller on drums and Cecile McLorin Salvant on vocals.  Members of the band have contributed compositions but there are versions of the works of other composers, including a take on The Sidewinder by Lee Morgan and Lennon and McCartney’s Fool on the Hill. Incidentally, Renee Rosnes is third from the left on this album sleeve – check out the interview with band members and Blue Note CEO Don Was right here.

3. Lee Morgan – The Rajah from The Rajah 

Having mentioned Lee Morgan, it seemed appropriate to feature a track from Rajah – not one of his better known albums – partly because it was lost in the Blue Note vaults for many years. Recorded in 1965 and only released in 1984  on mono vinyl, I found a copy in a long gone second-hand record shop in Norwich which actually specialised in classical music. I did not know the record, but had the inclination that it was probably worth the £5 price tag – a view supported by its current £70 price tag on Discogs! I have never regretted this purchase and I really love this record.  As well as Lee Morgan on trumpet, it features Hank Mobley on tenor, Cedar Walton on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. Rudy Van Gelder was engineer and Alfred Lion session producer – simply classic Blue Note. The title tune we featured is actually the only Lee Morgan composition on the album – other tracks are by Cal Massey, Duke Pearson alongside a more surprising choice of the pop tunes What Now My Love and Once in A Lifetime. If you don’t have this rarity, the good news is that the The Rajah is going to be available on vinyl once more through the superb Blue Note Tone Poet series in January 2021.

4. Wayne Shorter – Night Dreamer from Night Dreamer 

The Blue Note TV documentary included interviews with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock sitting alongside each other and – along with other younger musicians – they were featured playing a Wayne Shorter composition. His importance to Blue Note and to jazz and his influence on younger musicians was apparent. Pianist Robert Glasper eulogised about his work and was a key musician in the performance. The 1964 album Night Dreamer was Shorter’s fourth album for the label and features McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums – another classic lineup. At this time Shorter noted that his music was changing to a simpler quality – “I used to see a lot of chord changes, for instance, but now I can separate the wheat from the chaff.

5. Jelle van Giel – Tiffany’s Dodo from Songs for Everyone 

The Jelle Van Giel group is a septet based in Antwerp with leader and drummer Jelle Van Giel the principal composer for the group. Their 2017 album Songs For Everyone has now been followed by a new 2020 release titled The Journey. We featured Songs for Everyone on Cosmic Jazz and really liked the group’s melodic, uplifting and cheerful tunes that makes you want to take notice and which are difficult to avoid humming afterwards. Van Giel is joined by Carlo Nardozza on trumpet, Egor Doubay on tenor sax, Tom Bourgeois on alto sax, Tim Finoulst on guitar, Bram Weijters on piano and Janos Bruneel on bass. If you’re trying to find this excellent release then simply go to this page on the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds website that we have recommended many times on Cosmic Jazz.

6. Tomasz Wendt – North from Chapter B 

Tomasz Wendt is a young saxophonist from Poland, born 1990 in Gdandsk. He has already been honoured in Poland, winning first prize in 2015 at an international jazz composition competition and then being feted by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in 2017. Chapter B is his second album – hence the rather less than imaginative title, we assume! The group has no bass or bass guitar but does include violin, and so provides innovative and original instrumentation that produce sounds full of emotion. Wendt is joined by Jan Smoczynski on keyboards, Pawel Dobrowolski on drums and Mateusz Smoczynski on violin and electronics.

7. Art Ensemble of Chicago – Mama Koko from We Are on the Edge

As on previous shows, Neil has contributed five more choices that we have featured previously, beginning with one from the newly reformed Art Ensemble of Chicago. So where to start with this influential group? The initial Roscoe Mitchell Sextet included Mitchell on tenor sax, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors and the great Phillip Wilson on drums. All musicians were multi-instrumentalists and played a huge range of conventional and what they called ‘small instruments’ – from conch shells to whistles. In 1968 they decamped to Paris where they released some of their first records under the AEC banner. Film soundtrack Le Stances a Sophie was recorded at this time – here’s the famous Theme de Yoyo with vocals by Fontella Bass. On returning to the US in 1972 the AEC recorded more than 20 albums through to 2004 – really their period of peak creativity. Their2019 release We Are On the Edge is very much a 50 year celebration of the Art Ensemble of Chicago – and yet it doesn’t really sound like a typical AEoC record. It’s a 2CD set of studio recordings and live performances, with an extended lineup beyond the two surviving members of the group, Roscoe Mitchell and Famoumdou Don Moye. Rapper and vocalist Camae ‘Moor Mother’ Ayewa is bought on for a couple of tracks (including our selection, the reflective Mama Koko) and elsewhere there are contributions from flautist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid and new bassist Jaribu Shahid. Mama Koko has plenty of cultural and historical references with percussive West African sounds and mentions for Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey and the importance of the Congo heritage. We Are On the Edge may not be a typical album that will appeal immediately to AEoC fans but it’s worth a listen.

8. Tony Allen – The Drum Thunder Suite from Tribute to Art Blakey EP

Afrobeat legend Tony Allen was – according to Brian Eno – perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived, and the Blue Note 2017 EP was a tribute to another master kitman, Art Blakey. The album gives a new twist to some familiar Blakey tunes and was recorded live in what was then Allen’s  hometown of Paris. The record was available on a 10in EP and featured a fiery 7-piece band interpreting the Jazz Messengers classics Moanin’, A Night In Tunisia, Politely and The Drum Thunder Suite through Allen’s Afrobeat prism. The EP was produced by Vincent Taurelle, whose production credits also include Allen’s previous album Film of Life. Allen’s sound remained unique with his distinctive drum patterns appearing immediately on The Drum Thunder Suite and his Parisian group sustain the music through some some interesting soloing from Daniel Zimmerman on trombone, Nicolas Giraud on trumpet and Yann Jankielewicz on tenor sax.

9. Milton Nascimento and Belmondo – Nada Sera Como Antes from Belmondo & Milton Nascimento

Nada Sera Como Antes (Nothing Remains the Same/Nothing Will Be as It Was) is one of the many stand out tracks on one of Neil’s favourite albums – Nascimento’s essential Clube da Esquina album, but we feature it here through a surprising collaboration between French trumpeter Stephane Belmondo. Many have recorded this track (which owes much to several Brazilian songwriters’ love for the aforementioned Lennon and McCartney) but this version is a sensitive interpretation that sits comfortably alongside the best. Fancy other versions of Nada Sera Como Antes? Try this one from Elis Regina, this from impassioned vocalist Mark Murphy and an  another from Nascimento’s debut US release, the Milton album which features soprano sax from Wayne Shorter and piano from Herbie Hancock – “holding a teardrop of sun in the mouth of the night.”

10. Gato Barbieri – Bahia from Fenix

Sticking with the Brazilian theme, here’s fiery tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri and his version of the Brazilian standard Bahia. On the Flying Dutchman label, Fenix is one of Barbieri’s best albums with outstanding performances from an all star line up of Lonnie Liston Smith, Ron Carter, Lennie White and Nana Vasconcelos on berimbau. It’s well worth exploring – there are plenty of examples on Discogs on vinyl and CD.  If the tune is familiar, you may have come across it through John Coltrane’s version on the album of the same name. Bahia is something of an underrated record, partly because it was assembled by Prestige Records long after it was recorded: the music comes from 1957-58 but was not released until 1965 and the group is ‘trane’s quartet of the time –  pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor on most tracks – another superb line up!

11. Keith Jarrett – Bop Be from At the Blue Note, June 4th 1994

Celebrated pianist Keith Jarrett has recently revealed that he may never play professionally again: following two strokes in 2018, he has lost the motor skills in his left hand and is unlikely to record more music. In a dazzling career that has seen him embrace the electric phase of Miles Davis, lead both a European and an American quartet, record a number of classical and solo piano albums and – perhaps most notably – lead the Standards Trio with the late Gary Peacock and Jack de Johnette, Jarrett has become one of the jazz world’s most famous figures. Neil has followed his career ever since buying the vinyl box set of his Bremen/Lausanne concerts in 1974 in the Fnac store in Zurich, Switzerland (in the days when you could listen to a whole record in a private booth!) and amassed most of his recordings, including this stand out six CD set of three nights recorded at the Blue Note Club in New York. The interplay among the trio is consistently outstanding and Jarrett does little of the ‘vocalising’ that many find irritating. Not only is the music consistently outstanding, the recording quality is – even by ECM’s exalted standards – excellent. If the six CD set is a daunting purchase, then the single disc version includes both this track and a long take on Autumn Leaves that has one of Jarrett’s best improvised vamps on record.

12. Binker GoldingSkinned Alive, Tasting Blood, from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers 

We were delighted to see that London based and born saxophonist Binker Golding won the Jazz FM 2020 Instrumentalist of the Year award. He has played with several Cosmic Jazz regulars such as Sarah Tandy, Maisha, Moses Boyd and Zara McFarlane. His 2019 album (see the long title above) was a bit of a surprise though. It’s more restrained, melodic and harmonic than much of his previous work (certainly more so than when I saw him play with Moses Boyd in the Moses and Boyd duo) and sounds in places remarkably like a Blue Note session. The musicians on the album include some of the finest young players in London – Joe Armon-Jones on piano, Daniel Casimir on double bass and Sam Jones on drums – and they form a tight quartet that amply demonstrates their jazz chops. Of the many recordings now available from the new crop of UK jazz players, this is one album to really recommend.

13. Shirley Scott – What Makes Harold Sing from One For Me

We ended this week’s show with the Harold in the question here being tenor saxophonist Harold Vick. The tune was composed by Hammond B3 organist Shirley Scott who along with Vick and drummer Billy Higgins formed Scott’s trio on a record released originally by the essential Strata East label in 1974. It has now been re-released by Gilles Peterson’s Arc Records with a new cover photo  by the Blue Note classic photographer Francis Wolff. Indeed, this could easily be a classic soul jazz Blue Note release from the mid 1960s. Scott recorded 40 albums and should be as well known as her then husband Stanley Turrentine on whose Blue Note records she often featured. Best heard on vinyl – of course! – this was a great soulful end to the show.

Week ending 18 August 2018 – old, new and even (sort of) classical

What do you want to see on an album cover? An aesthetically pleasing piece of artwork, a photo of the musicians or an image that grabs your attention? One of the records from which a tune of over sixteen minutes is included in this week’s Cosmic Jazz probably comes into the latter category. It is almost scary in appearance – see  for yourself. The cover, along with playing the music, was brought to my attention by staff at Soundclash Records in Norwich. The record  is Work, Money, Death by Leeds-based tenor saxophonist Tony Burkill.

The show this week includes the outstanding tune from Tony’s album, Beginning and End: an intense tune that builds and builds, with Tony’s sustained sax playing, the insistent rhythms of the Headingley Hand Choir and guest piano from Matthew Bourne (the jazz musician, not the dancer). It is good to see records emerging from across the UK and not just London. Manchester is well established through Gondwana records and Tony is not the only jazz musician to emerge from Leeds – the Roller Trio came out of the music college in the city.

The show opened with two of the artists that over the years rank among the most-played on Cosmic Jazz. The first came from Carmen Lundy, who over a number of years has been right up there among our favourites. She is widely respected but does she get the veneration she deserves, does she perform in the UK as often as we could expect? Probably not.  You’re Not In Love is one of those tunes which illustrate her strength of purpose not only through the lyrics but also her voice which at the same time has a sultry, sensuous quality. It is a live version from a concert recorded at the Madrid Theatre, Los Angeles in February 2005.

The second artist in this category is pianist Keith Jarrett from another live album After the Fall recorded in Newark, New Jersey in late 1998 but released in 2018. The selection this week is a classic tune When I Fall In Love, the first version of which was recorded in 1952. Here Jarrett is accompanied by classic jazz musicians – Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums. Recommended.

The cover of the Jamie Saft Quartet was mentioned last week. Perhaps best ignored for the oblique, idiosyncratic words but the visuals are interesting. The most important thing, though, is the music. It is really good and, at times, outstanding. One of the very best tunes on the album Blue Dream (available on CD or double vinyl) on the excellent Rare Noise label is Words and Deeds. Listen out as the tenor sax of Bill McHenry comes blasting in – a powerful moment.

There a further reggae connectionon the show this week – this time from Nat Birchall, another sax player from the North of England. He has always cited dub reggae as one of his true inspirations and for his album Sounds Almighty has enlisted the support of veteran Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon, whose contributions to vintage ska back in the day are legendary. Also linked to the Caribbean, although more in name and political intent than through the music, is the highly recommended album from Nicholas Payton – Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. Nicholas Payton is one of an increasing number of black jazz musicians who are using their music as a vehicle to express political viewpoints.

The classical connection comes from John Coltrane from the newly-released lost album Both Directions At Once. The tune Vilia Take 3 is Coltrane’s improvisation of a piece from the operetta The Merry Widow by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Christian Lehar.

The show ends with another contribution from the British New Wave. The excellent Maisha from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood compilation We Out Here exemplifies the approach of these new groups.

  1. Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Live at the Madrid
  2. Keith Jarrett – When I Fall in Love from After the Fall
  3. Jamie Saft Quartet – Words and Deeds from Blue Dream
  4. Nat Birchall – Wisdom Dub from Sounds Almighty
  5. Nicholas Payton – Jazz is a Four Letter Word from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  6. Tony Burkill – Beginning and End from Work, Money, Death
  7. John Coltrane – Vilia Take 3 from Both Directions At Once
  8. Maisha – Inside the Acorn from We Out Here

Week ending 28 July 2018: some recent favourites

This was a pre-recorded show and on such occasions I tend to select some Cosmic Jazz favourites from albums we have played before. This week proved to be no exception.

We regularly celebrate emerging jazz artists from across the globe on this show and so we began with two contemporary Blue Note artists – Otis Brown III and Marcus Strickland – and both found themselves in the company of more well known CJ regulars. The 2014 (was it really that long ago?) release on from drummer Otis Brown III The Thought Of You has been a particular favourite and features some notable guests including vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Keyon Harrold – whose recent solo record we have featured – and keyboard player Robert Glasper. It’s tough, contemporary urban jazz. Next up was saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his 2016 album Twi-Life which – surprise, surprise, also included Keyon Harrold and Robert Glasper, this time alongside regular Robert Glasper Trio drummer Chris Dave and a rising star on the skins, Charles Haynes (no relation), who occasionally steps outside of the jazz world to tour with the likes of Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.

There were records from two trumpeters on the show this week. First up was the long-established Polish musician Piotr Wojtasik, whose music we continue to play on the show simply because it deserves to be heard as widely as possible. Wojtasik is a star who is not heard anything like as frequently as he should be on UK (and US) radio. All the more inexcusable when he surrounds himself (as here) with musicians of the calibre of Gary Bartz, Vincent Herring, Billy Harper, George Cables, Reggie Workman and Billy Hart. Yes – all appear on this album! As always, you can track it down at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

Much more celebrated is US trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who, on his album When the Heart Emerges Glistening, did not surround himself with a bunch of starry sidemen but rather introduced a complete band – and it feels like it too. Although piano star Jason Moran (he of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet) produced the album and appears on a couple of tracks, this album has reflective, sensitive playing throughout from all personnel. Akimusire has continued to plough his own furrow: his 2017 live 2CD collection is as uncompromising as ever with alternately introspective and fiery music that bears extended listening. Like many jazz artists before him, Akinmusire appears to have been inspired by his recording venue – New York’s iconic Village Vanguard.

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, and a hit (again) at this year’s SingJazz Festival. Malheiros was born in 1979 so she may not now be a young Brazilian voice but she’s certainly the junior of a clear influence on her sound, Joyce Moreno. Here on Cosmic Jazz we admit to something of an infatuation with Joyce’s music. And – by the way – it’s not that which allows first name familiarity: in the tradition of her compatriots (Ceu, Cibelle and Simone), Joyce has gone by her first name since her earliest recordings. Born in 1948, her classic album Clareana was released a year after Sabrina Malheiros was born and she has continued recording for Far Out since the 1990s. The tune this week came from one of her more recent recordings for the label, the excellent Raiz. All of her work is highly recommended and there is a fine Mr Bongo compilation available to introduce her earlier music. To end our Brazilian sequence we featured another Brazilian veteran – singer/songwriter/guitarist Jorge Ben, master of an afrosamba style that has influenced many more contemporary Brazilian artists. Boiadero comes from one of Ben’s more disco-influenced albums (check the cover!) but is still a great tune. Check out an interesting Ben meets Fela with rap track in Neil’s listening choices (below) and for more Jorge Ben, new listeners should go straight to a mid70s classic, simply called Ben. It features two of his most enduring compositions Taj Mahal and Fio Marahvila, a musical ode to the 1970s star of the Brazilian soccer team Flamengo.

To end the show this week, it was back to the USA and another favourite. Jazzmeia Horn is a young singer born in Dallas, Texas but now  based in New York. She won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015 and her excellent first album A Social Call emerged last year. It may be a record of jazz standards, but it is how Horn – ably supported by some superb musicians – transformed these tunes that made this album a real 2017 highlight.

  1. Otis Brown III – Stages of Thought from The Thought Of You
  2. Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Mirrors from Nihil Novi
  3. Piotr Wojtasik – Escape Part 3 from We Want to Give Thanks
  4. Ambrose Akinmusire – Confessions to My Unborn Daughter from When the Heart Emerges Glistening
  5. Sabrina Malheiros – Celebrar from Clareia
  6. Joyce Moreno – Desafinado/Aquarela do Brasil from Raiz
  7. Jorge Ben – Boiadero from Salve Simpatia
  8. Jazzmeia Horn – Lift Every Voice and Sing/Moanin’ from A Social Call

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…