Tag Archives: Keith Jarrett

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…

Week ending 24 February 2018: saxophone sessions

This week’s show has a very different feel from last week’s deep jazz sounds. We began with a new discovery from Brazilian master Hermeto Pascoal and the lost Vice Versa studio sessions. The track is Casinha Pequenina – all 26 minutes of it. Recorded in Sao Paulo in just two days in 1976 and not released until November last year, this is exciting improvised music, most of it recorded in first takes and still unedited. Guitarist Toninho Horta is there but Nivaldo Ornelas on tenor saxophone is one of the highlights too. You can download the whole Far Out Records album from Bandcamp right here or find it at your local independent record store. If you like this, check out the epic Slaves Mass album recorded by Pascoal in the following year and (apparently) noted for the use of squealing pigs as one of the sound effects…

Next up was one of the edits from a new BBE Records release from the Chicago DJ and producer Mark Grusane, but featuring bandleader Choker Campbell who appeared (anonymously) as saxophonist on numerous Motown hits. Campbell was also the writer of Albert Jones’ track Mother Nature, with a string section famously sampled on the title track of one of our favourite rap albums, Common’s ecstatic Be. You can check out the wonderful Be (Intro) here.

Deep jazz is never far away from our playlists and it was a return visit to one of the best compilations from last year – this one featuring baritone sax maestro Hamiett Bluiett on the track Oasis from a Soul Note album from 1981, before heading leftfield once more with more new music. This time, the new artist is Polish/Danish band Beam, led by alto saxophonist Bartosz Czarniecki. The quartet also features Anna Roemer on guitar, Michał Nienadowski on bass and Emil Thorenfeldt on drums.

Trumpeter Marquis Hill made a name for himself in 2017 and he continues to surprise. His latest EP is simply called Meditation Tape and includes some spoken word comments from drummer Marvin ‘Bugalu’ Smith at the end of each track. It’s music to wind down with – whereas Daniel Crawford’s take on Fela’s classic Water get No Enemy is an upbeat way to end the show from his very under-rated jazz/neo-soul album The Awakening.

  1. Hermeto Pascoal/Grupo Vice Versa – Casinha Pequenina from Viajando Como Som/The Lost ’76 Vice-Versa Studio Session
  2. Choker Campbell edit. Mark Grusane – Carioca from The Real Sound of Mark Grusane
  3. Hamiet Bluiett – Oasis from You Need This: an Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note 1975-1986
  4. Beam – Kerteminde from One
  5. Marquis Hill – Good Morning from Meditation EP
  6. Daniel Crawford – Water No Get Enemy from The Awakening

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

  1. Ntjam Rosie – Take A Good Look At me
  2. Ntjam Rosie – Never Give Up
  3. Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams
  4. Nicholas Payton – Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  5. Havana Meets Kingston feat Solis & Randy Valentine – Candela

Week ending 25 November 2017: analogue sounds

These are good times for jazz in the UK. There are some excellent young musicians around, including the superb quartet led by saxophonist Camilla George who I saw this week. Their pianist Sarah Tandy, who has her own trio, was something else. As a classical pianist, she’s a former BBC Young Musician of the Year but is now getting noticed as an exciting and inventive jazz artist. In performance, she just takes off and goes you cannot predict where when it’s her turn to feature, while still maintaining the level of invention while supporting others. She has been chosen by  eminent jazz critic John Fordham in the current edition of Jazzwise magazine as his musician to look out for in 2018.

Ironically, this week’s CJ doesn’t contain music from any native UK artists but – in compensation – we include many excellent, pioneering musicians from the Americas.

As promised last week, I trawled through my record racks and dug out some I have ignored for a while. As a result, the first tune on the show is from Don Cherry – a world musician long before the term ‘world music’ was used as an understandable way to find music in record shops. This comes from the celebrated Mu albums, recorded on the Actuel/BYG label in Paris in 1969.  Here Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell play as a duo with Cherry on flute and Blackwell on percussion. Cherry continued his explorations of music influenced by middle eastern, traditional African and Indian musics and between 1978-82 he recorded the three Codona albums for ECM with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and sitar/tabla player Collin Walcott. These have now been reissued as a 3CD box set – highly recommended if you want to explore this pioneering music.

Kelan Philip Cohran (08 May 1927-28 June 2017) is someone whose death this year we should have acknowledged earlier on the show. His role playing mainly trumpet with the Sun Ra Arkestra from 1969-71 provided him with essential Cosmic Jazz  credentials. This week he is featured playing with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble,  eight of whose nine members are his sons. Look out for their new album Book of Sound just released on UK Honest Jon’s label.

Reggae in jazz is not new. When record producer Coxsone Dodd  was choosing musicians in Kingston for what became The Skatalites he looked for jazz musicians and chose Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso and Tommy McCook. Cedric im Brooks was another Jamaican musician brought up on jazz whom we have featured here on CJ. It was great, however, to play a 2017 released tune with a reggae-meets-jazz feel to it. Trumpeter Keyon Harrold supplied this with the title tune of his new album The MugicianThere are CJ-friendly musicians on the album including, on this powerful, forceful tune, James Poyser and Marcus Strickland.

Marcus Strickland also appears on the next selection which is complex and full of surprises. It came from the new 2017 Blue Note All Stars who comprise Lionel Loueke, Ambrose Akinmusire, Kendrick Scott, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge and Strickland on saxes. Our choice from the album featured two masters from an ealier generation – Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock – in a version of Shorter’s tune Masqualero, first heard on the Miles Davis album Sorcerer in 1967.

Two or three weeks ago Neil posted on his current listening selection a collaboration between Chilean musicians  (Newen Afrobeat) and Seun Kuti. DJ and long-established record compiler John Armstrong has now assembled a collection merging Afrobeat with another Latin American country, this time Brazil. Excellent it is too. The Camarao Orchestra, like Newen Afrobeat, show how musicians from one country can draw upon and play successfully the music of another – pretty much what many jazz musicians across the world have done since the music began… And eagle eared listeners may have that nagging feeling that they have heard a version of the riff that appears partway through the wonderful Afoxe – perhaps this link from the previously mentioned Herbie Hancock may help…

To end the show we featured a long track from William Parker released in 2002 with soul/hip hop vocals from Leena Conquest, who lists many causes including Native Americans to Civil Rights leaders. I have tried to track down this album for some time but have just managed to do so via the superb Soundclash Records in Norwich. I will play more.

Finally, a shout out to another excellent record shop, and one selling exclusively vinyl – Bury St Edmunds’ excellent Vinyl Hunter. Along with my MC buddy Derek, this week Cosmic Jazz took to the streets of Bury and presented a set of Caribbean music courtesy of Vinyl Hunter. It’s very encouraging to see a small market town the size of Bury St. Edmunds supporting analogue music and, in its dual role of cafe and record store, the place was heaving yesterday. Business is good too – Vinyl Hunter have recently opened a second store in Elmstead, Essex. It’s interesting that the current vinyl revival is not experiencing the much predicted slowdown. The fascination with the format has been taken up by advertising agencies too – vinyl is seen as not only cool but also authenticHere it is with a Rega Planar turntable taking centre stage in a recent Specsavers advertisement. The music is Lester Bowie’s take on The Great Pretender, the title track from his 1981 ECM album. More convincingly, this is Raphael Saadiq chillin’ out in a loft apartment to his own excellent Movin’ Down the Line (Don’t You Go).

  1. Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell – Omelejo from Mu First Part
  2. Kelan Philip Cohran and The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Frankincense and Myrrh from Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
  3. Keyon Harrold feat. Josh David Barrett – The Mugician from The Mugician
  4. Blue Note All Stars feat. Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock – Masqualero from Our Point of View
  5. Camarao Orchestra – Afoxe from John Armstrong presents Afrobeat Brazil
  6. William Parker feat. Leena Conquest – Raining On the Moon from Raining On the Moon

Neil is listening to…

19 July 2017: an all Coltrane show

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 July saw a significant anniversary in jazz – it was exactly 50 years since the death of saxophonist John Coltrane, and so here on Cosmic Jazz we have been celebrating his life and work over the last three weeks. Tonight is our final look at Coltrane’s music – but this time through the interpretation of others.

We began the show with a track featuring the classic Coltrane quartet – Coltrane on tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Tunji comes from the 1962 album Coltrane and is dedicated to Babatunde Olatunji, the Nigerian percussionist who influenced Coltrane’s music.

CJ then celebrated the influence of Coltrane’s music on other musicians, beginning with one of our most underated British saxophonists Alan Skidmore on a 2CD set recorded live at the Boxford Fleece, here in Suffolk. We chose Skidmore’s take on Resolution, the second part of Coltrane’s most famous composition, A Love Supreme and followed this with a take on Countdown, first recorded by Coltrane on the Giant Steps album of 1960 – a virtual template of jazz standards including the title track, Naima and Mr P.C. The artist was the young Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander, whom we have featured on the show previously. Alexander is something of a phenomenon, having recorded his first album at the age of 11 – titled, My Favourite Things, it featured both this and his treatment of Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

We had to play at least one Pharoah Sanders tune and I chose a live version of Naima, recorded on the Crescent with Love album from 1994. Sanders was, of course, a member of Coltrane’s expanded groups of the mid and late 1960s. He first worked with Coltrane in 1965 on the Ascension album, perhaps the most free of Coltrane’s releases. His albums from the 1970s onwards featured Alice Coltrane. Now 76, Sanders continues to record although mainly as a featured artist on other’s recordings.

Dwight Trible’s rich, deep baritone voice has featured on several recent recordings – including his Living Water album of 2006 which featured a vocal version of one of Coltrane’s most beautiful tunes, Wise One. The track we featured – Dear Lord – is very much in the same tradition. It comes from Trible’s new release on Manchester based Gondwana Records and features Matthew Halsall on trumpet.  We will feature more from this excellent album in future programmes. British tenor player Denys Baptiste is one of a number of jazz musicians who have released albums celebrating the music of John Coltrane in recent months, and Late Trane appears on the excellent Edition Records – our label of the year for 2016. Baptiste is joined by Nikki Yeoh on piano and keys, Gary Crosby on bass and with special guest Steve Williamson on tenor on some tracks, including the beautiful After the Rain.

Nat Birchall’s excellent website indicates his debt to his first love – Jamaican dub. This is significant as Birchall makes clear he was an enthusiastic listener before becoming a musician – sound has always been the first and most important thing about music to me, he says. In this he shares much with John Coltrane who released an album simply called Coltrane’s Sound. Writer Ben Ratcliff refers to Coltrane’s continual search for a sound in his thought-provoking book Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, identifying the restless searching that puzzled so many of those around him. As Ratliff explains in his introduction, the book is about jazz as sound. I mean ‘sound’ as it has long functioned among jazz players, as a mystical term of art: an in, every musician finally needs a sound, a full and sensible embodiment of his artistic personality, such that it can be heard, at best, in a single note.  It’s easy to conclude that we have still not caught up with Coltrane’s journey, even fifty years after his death – something that’s not true now of his contemporary, Miles Davis, whose most out-there music (for example, On the Corner, released in 1972) is now appreciated as a ground-breaking work that has influenced so much modern music from Steve Reich to techno and trance. Much like those who worked with Davis at this time,  Coltrane’s own sidemen in the mid sixties had little idea of what Coltrane was up to. Elvin Jones simply shrugged and said Beats the shit outta me and for many listeners this is still what is often thought of Coltrane’s experiments in sound.

We ended the show with something of a contemporary favourite. Several remixers have tried to put their own stamp on Coltrane’s iconic A Love Supreme – but none have succeeded like Berlin duo Skinnerbox. It’s not easily available anymore as a download, but you can listen to the edited dub version here on Soundcloud. Highly recommended.

Finally, to expand your thinking about John Coltrane and his influence, read this feature from Jazzwise magazine by one of our favourite writers, Kevin le Gendre. Incidentally, he would never make Neil’s elementary mistake on the show of referring to Coltrane as an alto saxophonist – although it is true that ‘trane played alto on some of his earliest recordings as well as his final Japanese tour in 1965…

  1. John Coltrane Quartet – Tunji (alternate take) from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  2. Alan Skidmore Quartet – Resolution from Impressions of John Coltrane
  3. Joey Alexander – Countdown from Countdown
  4. Pharoah Sanders – Naima from Crescent with Love
  5. Dwight Trible – Dear Lord from Inspirations
  6. Denys Baptiste – After the Rain from Late Trane
  7. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocations
  8. Skinnerbox – A Love Supreme Remix download

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Neil is listening to…