Tag Archives: Pharoah Sanders

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

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

1.  John Coltrane – Stellar Regions from Stellar Regions

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

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

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

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

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

4. Makaya McCraven – Dream Another from In These Times

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

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

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

6. Hiromi – Desert On the Moon from Brain

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

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

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

8. Jonathan Blake – Passage from Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

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

Braziliance! – 21/06/23

This week’s Cosmic Jazz is dedicated to the music of Brazil. We’ve long been fans of the diversity of music in this huge South American country. Like Japan, there’s something special about the way it takes a musical genre and twists it into a unique sound. So, acknowledging the recent death of Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, this time we’re focusing on some of our favourite Brazilian sounds both old and new.

1. Otis Trio – Montag’s Dream from 74 Club

Sāo Paulo’s Otis Trio released their 74 Club album in 2014 – and then seem to have fallen silent. Surprisingly perhaps, their roots lie the European and American free jazz scenes of the 60s and 70s. Some five years in gestation and recorded on vintage analogue equipment for period authenticity, 74 Club is (as the Far Out press release of the time noted) both deftly subtle and furiously intense with the standard trio configuration of guitar, bass and drums augmented with both vibes and a posse of free blowing horn players who together create a sound which reverberates with echoes of Ornette Coleman, Sonny Sharrock and Pharoah Sanders. Whew! Montag’s Dream may start off as more of a straight ahead modal excursion with vibes very much to the fore – but it’s not long before some Pharonic tenor sax kicks in. We like it and we hope you do too.

2. Stan Getz/Joāo Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema from Getz/Gilberto

Up next was Astrud Gilberto herself from her first recording with her then husband Joāo Gilberto and saxophonist Stan Getz. There are numerous stories around on how this young, inexperienced singer appeared on the record but her appearance inaugurated the whispery, vocal version of that languid, delicate characteristic of the bossa nova – nylon strung guitars creating a reduction/synthesis of samba percussion. Gilberto – who died earlier this month aged 83 –  sang on just two tracks on this 1964 album but this was enough to seal her place in musical history. The Girl from Ipanema might be seen as nothing more than a wine bar cliché but the lyrics remain a powerful evocation of Rio’s most famous district. We played the edited 45 single version of the tune which omits the Brazilian lyrics of Joāo Gilberto but emphasises those carioca qualities of the girl ‘who passes by’.

3. Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave from Wave

The writer of The Girl from Ipanema, Tom Jobim, is one of Brazil’s greatest composers. The album Wave from 1967 was arranged by Claus Ogerman following his move from Germany to become the house arranger at Verve Records and so co-created hundreds of records including albums by Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Diana Krall. Wave features two of Jobim’s most famous tunes – the title track and the beautiful Triste and is the definition of that Brazilian style in which evocative and sometimes complex lyrics are embedded in an unforgettable melody: the fundamental loneliness goes whenever two can dream a dream together…

4. Baden Powell – Coisa No. 1 from Baden Powell Meets Jimmy Pratt

From the heydays of the bossa wave comes a successful cooperation between Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell and American drummer Jimmy Pratt on the unimaginatively-titled album Baden Powell Swings with Jimmy Pratt. Composer of our choice Coisa No.1, Moacir Santos is heard here on baritone saxophone. You can listen to the original orchestrated version of that Santos tune right here on the album Coisa from 1965. Coisa just means ‘thing’ and each of these ten ‘things’ are mini-masterpieces. It’s a bonafide Cosmic Jazz recommendation. Guitarist Baden Powell was, of course, deeply influenced by jazz but was also a more than proficient classical guitarist whose favourite composers included Bach and Tárrega. For another side to Baden Powell, check out Canto from his excellent MPS album Images on Guitar from 1972.

5. Tamba Trio – Influēncia do Jazz from Tamba Trio

Perhaps the most talented of all the bossa nova group of the 1960s, Tamba Trio pretty much created the bossa-pop sound, fusing bossa nova melodies with close harmony vocals. Their take on Jorge Ben’s Mas Que Nada became the best-known version of that much-covered tune. Influēncia do Jazz comes from their first self-titled album, itself full of excellent tunes including compositions Luíz Eça from the band, Jobim and Joāo Donato. In 1968, Eça reformed the band as Tamba 4 and recorded two albums for Creed Taylor’s CTI label – We and the Sea and Samba Blim. Both are worth looking out for with the former including a great take on their earlier hit Consolaçāo.

6. Sandra (de) Sá – Ohlos Coloridos from Sandra Sá (5)

Neil first heard this record when crate digging in the Brazilian section in a small regional record shop in the UK. Ohlos Coloridos or Colourful Eyes is the standout track from her fifth self titled album (1986). It’s based on an infectious guitar and bass riff and the lyrics refer to Sá’s Cape Verdean ancestry – You laugh at my clothes/You laugh ar my hair/You laugh at my skin/You laugh at my smile/But the truth is: you also/Have creole blood. In Brazil, tri-racial people with African, European and Amerindian heritage are referred to as sarará. Check out this live version from Brazilian television to capture some of this song’s energy.

7. Marcos Valle – Cinzento from Cinzento

Marcos Valle is something of a Cosmic Jazz hero. Neil has been lucky enough to see him live in the UK and has written previously on the Cosmic Jazz blog pages about the personal importance of Valle’s music but this is the title track on Valle’s most recent record. The set was recorded in 2020 for the independent DeckDisc label and there while there are some references back to earlier records, Valle looked to a younger generation of artists as his lyricists. These include Kassin, Moreno Veloso and rapper Emicida, who appears on two tracks on the album including this one.  Cinzento (or Grey) includes poetic lyrics about the recycling not of materials but of time and life itself. In the bridge, Valle sings: In everything I find grace/Even in the midst of disgrace/I understand and laugh at grace/That life is still for free…if everything is a cycle, I recycle and become more beautiful… While Cinzento doesn’t have the dancefloor pace of its predecessor Sempre from 2019, it’s instead a change of pace and a reaffirmation of how Valle (an impossibly youthful 79) remains a composer and performer of rare sophistication.

8. Stan Getz/Joāo Gilberto – Corcovado from Getz/Gilberto

And so we return to the inspiration for this show – the unique voice of Astrud Gilberto. Corcovado was written by Tom Jobim and is an evocation of the mountain outside Rio on which the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer stands looking out over the city. The subtitle of the song is Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars and reference a view of the mountain from the  city: Quiet nights of quiet stars/Quiet chords from my guitar/Floating on the silence that surrounds us/Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams/Quiet walks by quiet streams/And a window that looks out on Corcovado… The English lyrics by Gene Rees conclude in that typically lyrically Brazilian way: I, who was lost and lonely/Believing life was only/A bitter, tragic joke have found with you/The meaning of existence, oh, my love… There are numerous versions of this endlessly malleable song – for something different, try this surprisingly subtle drum and bass take on Corcovado from Everything But the Girl, featuring similarly breathy vocals from Tracey Thorn.

9. Sabrina Malheiros – Clareia from Clareia 

Sabrina Malheiros was born in Rio and is the daughter of Alex Malheiros – bass player with Azymuth and now the only surviving member of the original trio. Title tune Clareia comes from her 2017 album on the UK’s Far Out label. As with much of Malheiros’ music for the label, the tune was written in collaboration with her father and producer Daniel Maunick – son of Bluey Maunick, founder of British jazzfunk legends Incognito. Father Alex plays bass on much of the album and it’s a classy effort that’s well worth exploring. Incidentally, Alex Malheiros continues to record his own material – his most recent album Tempos Futuros emerged in 2021 – here’s the track Prece which returns the favour with Sabrina on vocals.  Finally, there’s a rather good IG Culture remix of Clareia that will get you moving – the 12inch record is still available here on Discogs.

We return to a more jazzy mix for the next show – look out on Twitter and Facebook for news.

08 October 2022: Pharoah Sanders – journey towards the light

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

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

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

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

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

2. Pharaoh Sanders  – Morning Prayer from Thembi

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

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

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

4. Pharaoh Sanders – High Life from Wisdom Through Music

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

5. Pharaoh Sanders –  Jitu from Shukuru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 August 2022: in celebration and in tribute

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

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

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

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

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

3. Jack DeJohnette – India from Special Edition

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

4. Neil Ardley – Rainbow Four from Kaleidoscope of Rainbows

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

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

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

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

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

7. Mark Murphy – Why and How from Midnight Mood

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

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

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

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

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

31 July 2022: summer vibes and serious jazz

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

1.   Lettuce – Let the World Know from Unify

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

2.   Sabrina Malheiros – Vai Maria from Clareia

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

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

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

4,   Gilberto Gil – Toda Menina Bahiana from Realce

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

5.   Mark de Clive-Lowe – Thembi from Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

8.   Nat Birchall – Mode for Trane from Tunji

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

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

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

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

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

11. Nuyorican Soul – Habriendo el Dominante from Nuyorican Soul

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

More from Cosmic Jazz soon…

24 January 2021: Sivuca, new Polish music and Pharoah Sanders

This week we have a brief pre-release preview of Brazilian artist Sivuca, a mix of music from Neil featuring Pharaoh Sanders and artists that may be new to you, three piano-led Polish trios – including the wonderful Kasia Pietrzko – and important messages from Somi and Michael White’s violin-led sounds.

1. Sivuca – Ain’t No Sunshine from Sivuca

Everyone will know this tune – written and performed by Bill Withers and available on his debut album Just As I Am from 1972. In this original version the sentiments of the lyrics and the way Withers delivers it conveys messages of sadness and regret. But when the same tune is sung by Severino Dias de Oliveira (aka Sivuca) it becomes a joyous, hip-swinging, mood-changing event that brings forth the sunshine, rather than denying it. This is my favourite version of the song. For the first time, the album where you can find this version – the eponymous Sivucawill be re-released in vinyl on 26 February 2021 by our friends at Real Gone Music. Moreover, the first 750 copies will be issued in purple vinyl!

2. Sivuca – Adeus Maria Fulo from Sivuca

Adeus Maria Fulo (in translation, Goodbye Mad Maria!) was most notably covered by Os Mutantes – the Tropicalia group who played alongside Brazilian superstars like  Caetano Veloso and Airto Moreira. Sivuca’s original is an altogether more relaxed take on the song with superb saxophone contributions from Morris Goldberg who also features on Ain’t No Sunshine. Goldberg is a veteran of the South African jazz scene although he’s now based in New York. One of his most memorable contributions on record is on Dollar Brand’s iconic Mannenberg. Sivuca was from Brazil but ventured beyond to play with musicians including Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, often proving to be a star on tours with these artists. He played accordion, guitar and keyboards, as well as having a powerful singing voice. He often used makeshift instruments alongside conventional ones and combined traditional regional Brazilian styles such as forro and choro along with jazz and bossa influences. This album originally appeared on the Vanguard label in 1973 – and it’s great to have it back again. We may have ignored Brazilian music lately and so this gives us an important reason to play more. Expect further tracks from Sivuca in coming shows.

3. Contours – Balafon A feat. Seth Sutton from Balafon Sketches

This self-release from Contours appeared in July 2020 beginning as a series of live jams in Cumbria, UK. Instrument builder, musician, painter and ceramicist Seth Sutton experimented with balafons and a gamelan alongside his homemade string and percussive instrumentation. The tracks’ foundations were built running these elements of tuned percussion through delay and reverb pedals, experimenting with interlocking polyrhythms and the overtones and textures created by the raw recordings. The group then built upon these recordings utilising a range of live instrumentation such as synthesizers, drum machines and other organic percussion – much provided by producer Tom Burford. Cellist Abel Selaocoe and saxophonist/ flautist Callum Connell feature on some tracks with violinists Simmy Singh and Beka Reid also contributing. The music was available on a cassette tape (with handprinted linocut!) but this is now sold out. Check out the digital version here on Bandcamp. Note that 100% of profits from this release are donated to charities Kids of Colour and Colours Youth Network.

4. Menagerie – Hope from Many Worlds

Australian nine-piece group Menagerie released Many Worlds, their third album, on 15 January 2021. The group was founded by producer, songwriter, guitarist and DJ Lance Ferguson and are clearly inspired by post-Coltrane jazzers and labels like Strata-East, Impulse! and Black Jazz. The track Hope could easily be from a 1970s Sonny Fortune album – it’s that good. Think, for example, of Thoughts from the undervalued album Waves of Dreams (1976). On Many Worlds there’s a fusing together of strong melodies and cosmic jazz grooves with horns, guitar solos, acoustic and electric keys, along with some funky percussion rhythms in the mix – and it all works. We’ll play more from Menagerie in coming shows. 

5. Pharaoh Sanders – Love Is Everywhere from Live in Paris (1975)

When Pharoah Sanders played tenor saxophone with John Coltrane in the 1960s, his tone was harsh and wild. Soloing alongside Coltrane on challenging records like Ascension, Om, and Live in Japan, Sanders’ horn would shriek and howl and cry, reaching a pitch of earth-shaking intensity on pieces that pushed jazz to the limits. But after Coltrane’s death in 1967, Sanders began exploring a different path. Playing with Alice Coltrane on Ptah, the El Daoud and and Journey in Satchidananda and on his own albums for the Impulse! label, his sound was still searching, but now more lyrical in more trance-like musical settings. When Sanders and his band played Paris in 1975 his Impulse! period was behind him but this live Radio France studio set (where Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, and Grant Green also recorded) sees a consolidation of those earlier records into extended vamps much like the second half of Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt from Tauhid – one of our perennial favourites here on Cosmic Jazz. The quality of the sound on this recording is ok too – if you’re new to this mid period Sanders, why not start here? Take care with the ending though (where did that organ come from?)…

6. Kasia Pietrzko – Dark Blue Intensity Of Life from Ephemeral Pleasures The show now enters a run of Polish jazz trios led by pianists. The first comes from Kasia Pietrzko, who we have already featured on the show and will continue to include. Perhaps we were a little slow to catch up on this 2020 release but we have tried to make up for it since. The word ‘intensity’ appears in the title of this tune – it’s a vital word to describe any of her music. It requires serious and sustained attention , but it is so deep, so emotional and powerful that it more than rewards these efforts. Do follow her on Facebook – she has released videos where she emerges onto a darkened stage, plays one of her tunes solo on piano and then walks off again. The setting and the playing is always perfect.

7. Domink Wania Trio – Une Barque Sur L’Ocean from Ravel 

This is another record we are catching up on again. We actually first played tracks from this album back in 2015 but have begun to appreciate its qualities once more and have featured several tracks in recent shows. Pianist Domink Wania is joined by Max Mucha on double bass and Dawid Fortuna on drums. Wania is an outstanding pianist and this debut album was much anticipated. It remains his only solo album but there is a long list of Polish jazz musicians on whose records he has appeared and made a major contribution, including Tomasz Stanko – one of the Polish greats. He’s also played with jazz artists from further afield, including Americans Marcus Miller, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz, Don Byron and Eddie Henderson. He is also an educator in Krakow and Katowice and released his first solo piano album, Lonely Shadows, in November 2020. Check out this video of the track Subjective Objectivity – there’s a glimpse of ECM founder and producer Manfred Eicher in the background shadows.

8. Piotr Matusik Trio – Native Dancer from Independence 

This is the second album from pianist Piotr Matusik, released in 2020 and with all nine tunes  composed by him. There are many opportunities for Matusik’s solo improvisations but there are also opportunities for the other trio members, Alan Wykpisz on double bass and electronics, who has some particularly fine moments, and Patryk Dobosz on drums. Like so many of the Polish releases this is a record from young musicians who are developing and making their mark. How does Poland manage to produce so many? Certainly it would seem there are some outstanding academies/universities where they can study and emerge as outstanding musicians and one presumes their music education began much earlier. In a world in which musicians are finding it hard to survive there’s an important message for governments here – we can’t neglect this most universal art form and so supporting music education is an essential commitment for any country.

9. Somi – Four African Women from The Lagos Music Salon 

Somi was born in Illinois to parents who came to the US from Rwanda and Uganda. She has just released a live album with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band – Live at Alte Oper recorded at an 18th century opera house, which is currently nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.  It includes versions of tunes from her two studio albums – Petite Afrique about the situation for African immigrants in Harlem in the face of gentrification and The Lagos Music Salon which was inspired by an 18-month music sabbatical in Lagos. It is from this album that this week’s selection is taken. Somi is a performer who uses her music to tell stories and she has an impressive range of collaborators and achievements. Her activism led to a performance at the UN General Assembly for the International Day of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

10. Michael White – The Blessing Song from Pneuma 

We end the show with a tune we keep coming back to on Cosmic Jazz – we first featured it on a show in 2008! The Blessing Song was released on Impulse! – nothing unusual there – but this was a band led by Michael White, a violin player and there have not been too many of those in jazz. Besides, the violin is not always associated with music that is jaunty, danceable and totally uplifting as this track is. It is interesting to note that the people at Jazzman Records have selected this for the Spiritual Jazz 12 Impulse! compilation. It seems  pretty good to end the show, with a piece that includes the invitation Lord come into our hearts with your blessing/Lord come into our hearts with your love. We need blessings and love at this time.

01 December 2020: Black Jazz and beyond to the outer edges…

This week is an example of how we mix things up on Cosmic Jazz – there’s music from some of the jazz greats but also some surprises for you as we travel down a latin road in the second part of the show before making diversions into more electronic territory.


  1. John Coltrane – Lonnie’s Lament from Crescent

But we begin with a jazz master. Saxophonist John Coltrane will never be far from our thoughts and ears: he always provides us with music that touches heart, soul and mind – and there are times when we need just that. His instantly recognisable tenor sound is simply life affirming and this ability to provide musical transcendence is epitomised by a tune like Lonnie’s Lament from the Crescent album.  The Impulse! label embarked on a ‘vital vinyl’ reissue programme in 2019 and included Coltrane’s 1964 recording Crescent as one of the titles. This reissue retains the original gatefold cover with liner notes by Nat Hentoff. The music was recorded in April and June 1964, produced by Bob Thiele and engineered by Rudy van Gelder. The personnel on the album is the classic Impulse! quartet – Coltrane is supported by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. While familiar with some of the key tunes on the album, Derek did not own the record – until now. If you don’t have Crescent, then now is the time to get a copy that truly reflects the deep intensity of the music. Lonnie’s Lament is the longest track on the album and includes a bass solo from Jimmy Garrison as well as some beautiful quartet playing. We can’t help but recommend that you also listen to this version of Lonnie’s Lament from the Pharoah Sanders Crescent With Love tribute which also includes versions of Wise One, Naima, Crescent and After the Rain – all Coltrane compositions. We’ve mentioned this album before on CJ but it is an essential one, with some of the most poignant playing of Sanders’ career and wonderful support from William Henderson, Charles Fambrough and Sherman Ferguson.

2. Kazia Pietrzko Trio – Episode II from Ephemeral Pleasures 

More Polish music from our friends at the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds (and don’t forget to check out the new website!). Pianist Kazia Pietrzko is an immense talent and the serious nature and depth of her music makes her an appropriate follow-up to Coltrane. She studied in Krakow and New York, including classical studies of Prokofiev. She has original compositions that are intense and full of emotion: fellow pianist Aaron Parks (whose own new music was included in the show a few weeks ago) has written the sleeve notes and comments on the music as “patient, inquisitive, bold”. The trio includes Peter Budniak on drums and Andrzej Swies on bass. In fact the tune Episode II is one of several episodes on the album and contains the second amazing bass solo of the show – this time by trio member Andrej Swies. We’ll feature more music from this new release in our next show and may well return to her excellent debut album Forthright Stories.

3. Open Trio – To the Moon and Back from Heal the World

Also at Steve’s Jazz Sounds you’ll find an album whose title Heal the World sounds like an anthem for our times, even though it was recorded in 2017. It’s from the Swedish Open Trio, led by pianist Joakim Simonsson with Daniel Olsson on drums and Par-Ola Landin on bass. We have come across the words ‘Polish melancholy’ to describe much Polish jazz but – not to be outdone – the Open Trio have been described as ‘Nordic melancholy’ – I’d rather describe them as lyrical and melodic… The jazz piano trio has  been a staple format since the 1950s and – for more Scandi-jazz trio music – the wonderful EST (or, more accurately, e.s.t) should not be ignored. Esbjörn Svensson led the trio until his untimely death in a scuba diving accident in 2008 and the excellent Live in Gothenburg was released last year. Here’s the official video of the superb From Gagarin’s Point of View from the album of the same name.

4. Cleveland Eaton – Moe, Let’s Have A Party and Kaiser from Plenty Good Eaton 

Last week we featured music from the Black Jazz Records label with the exciting news that the label Real Gone Music have obtained the rights to re-release the entire catalogue from this label run by and for black musicians. On 08 January 2021 they will re-release the 1975 album Plenty Good Eaton from bass player Cleveland Eaton, who sadly died in the summer of this year. It was recorded shortly after he had left the Ramsey Lewis band and illustrates how he crossed over from jazz to soul/funk to R’n’B to blaxploitation sounds and on to a unique jazz fusion. The two tunes on this show illustrate this variety. Playing with Eaton on this album are (from the Chess label) keyboardist Odell Brown and percussionist Morris Jennings, with Steve Galloway and Arie Brown from the Black Jazz group The Awakening. The album will be re-released on all three formats – we think it’s essential music to start the new year.

5. Jack DeJohnette – Salsa for Luisito from Sound Travels

We love latin music here at CJ and we recognise the many connections between all its many variants and the world of jazz. To mark this, we’re starting something new as a regular feature in the show. The Latin Quarter will provide a dose of latin music as an integral part of the show. We start with Jack deJohnette, usually known as a drummer but also a pianist on this album. He featured in last week’s show as part of Keith Jarrett’s trio but this week the music comes from his own Sound Travels album, recorded in 2011 and which we played on the show at that time. Scanning his music collection, Derek came across the record again and wanted to play a track. It is a superb album with a stellar line-up including Esperanza Spalding on vocals and acoustic bass, Lionel Loueke on electric guitar and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Salsa for Luisito is dedicated to the captivating percussion player on the album – Luisito Quintero. The Caracas-born player has played on over fifty records to date including those of Fania stars Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente. His jazz links are many and various – George Benson, Herbie Hancock, and Ravi Coltrane to name a few. More recently, he has been an integral part of Louie Vega’s Elements of Life group (see more below).

6. Louie Vega presents Luisito Quintero – Quintero’s Jam (feat. Hilton Ruiz) from Percussion Maddness Vol I

As if to illustrate this link and the careful planning that goes into each Cosmic Jazz show (!) the next tune is from Quintero himself. Now an essential part of the New York latin scene, this album is produced by another stalwart of NuYorican sounds, producer and DJ Louie Vega. We loved this album on its release in 2006 (and the remix album which we included in our CJ live shows) and there has since been a further follow-up: eight years later, Part 2 of Percussion Maddness was released along with two 7in singles.  The package is available here on Bandcamp. For Quintero’s Jam, the piano maestro Hilton Ruiz is featured.  One of Neil’s favourite piano players, Puerto Rican-born Ruiz stood astride the latin and jazz worlds with no compromise. His 1970s albums on SteepleChase and the 1980s ones on Novus are uniformly excellent, with the trio of El Camino (1988), Strut (1989) and Doin’ It Right (1989) being the place to start. Here’s Soca Serenade from Strut. Sadly, Ruiz was found dead in 2006 in mysterious circumstances in New Orleans.

7. The Hermes Experiment – The Linden Tree from Here We Are

We make no excuses for playing this tune again. For one thing its individuality fits the boundary crossing of this particular programme but we also simply love it. “Meticulously nuanced, witty and chic” says a quote from The Times on the album cover – and we won’t disagree with that. The record is comprised mainly of contemporary classical compositions from, for example, Errolyn Wallen and Anna Meredith but The Linden Tree is jazzy with classical and folk mixed in there too. It is a composition by the jazz bass player, composer and arranger Misha Mullov-Abbado, son of the classical conductor Claudio Abbado. As Gramophone noted in their review of this record, “The Hermes Experiment’s main strength lies in its ability to adapt to the particular needs, demands and peculiarities of each piece contained on this deeply engaging collection.”

8. Jackie McLean and The Cosmic Brotherhood – Camel Drive from New York Calling/Spiritual Jazz Vol 11: Steeplechase Records

McLean was one of Blue Note’s finest alto sax players but this record is from later in his career when he was working with his son René McLean and a new generation of jazz talent. The Cosmic Brotherhood’s take on 1970s advanced hard bop is full of good tunes, several by pianist Billy Gault. René McLean is on tenor, alto, and soprano sax and is a fine performer in his own right. The elder McLean doesn’t dominate the session and The Cosmic Brotherhood come across as a tight group of equals. Great percussion from drummer Michael Carvin whose duet album with McLean – Antiquity – provided the cult jazz favourite De I Comahlee Ah. In his later years, Jackie McLean may not have equalled his superb run of Blue Note classics but he was never afraid to experiment and he stands out as a Blue Note artist who changed his alto tone into something more contemporary in his later albums for the label. The turning point was his essential Let Freedom Ring album from 1962 but McLean continued to explore new sounds throughout his career. In his later years he established the African American Music Department at Hartford University in Connecticut and was celebrated as a jazz educator as much as performer. Anyone new to McLean could start with the new Blue Note bargain audiophile Tone Poet release of the 1964 It’s Time album – here’s the superb title track. You can find all the excellent Tone Poet albums here – and all are worth investigating as among the best vinyl pressings available at the moment.

9. DJ Krush and Toshinori Kondo – Mu-getsu from Ki-oku

Trumpeter Toshinori Kondo died last month. He should be better known to jazz fans. Restlessly experimental to the end, Kondo recently released a series of electronic-centred online releases (many available here on Bandcamp) but much of his earlier work is not easy to get hold of. In 1978 he moved to New York, and began performing with Bill Laswell, John Zorn and others in the New York loft scene. Back in Japan in the 1980s he worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kazumi Watanabe and Herbie Hancock. Kondo’s expansive solo discography is more fusionesque – Nerve Tripper, from 2003, incorporates drum programming and strobing synthesizers. Here’s the track Open the Gate, which comes across like a fusion of Miles Davis and Jon Hassell – and that’s no bad thing. Kondo never stopped exploring and this continues in those new releases and on recent tours. His duet with turntablist DJ Krush is a likeable (if rather lightweight) release from 1996 and the golden age of trip hop. Kondo’s tone has always been Miles-like but much of this record could easily be outtakes from the posthumous Doo-Bop album of 1992 – the tone is very similar to Mystery right here.

10. Maria Joao/OGRE Electric – Respiros from Open Your Mouth 

By now in the show we had strayed from any straight and narrow jazz path, and so it made sense to continue forging ahead. Here we are talking about an artist who has worked with the likes of Joe Zawinul, Egberto Gismonti, Bobby McFerrin and Manu Katche among others but Portuguese vocalist Maria Joao appears to have gone more experimental as she has got older. Now 64, her latest release Open Your Mouth is an excursion into electronic music via her group OGRE Electric . As she says “to explore, never settle, and be on the lookout for new things will always be our motto, so sometimes it may not be so easy to label us. But who needs labels anyway?” Well, maybe they are helpful sometimes – but we’re no fan of carelessly generalised labels ourselves. On Cosmic Jazz, the music speaks for itself. 

11. Lettuce – House of Lett (jackLNDN remix) – Resonate from Resonate Remixed EP 

And so we end this show with the genre-breaking US band Lettuce. They’ve been busy over the last couple of years releasing two albums – Elevate (2019) and Resonate (2020) – but then following this up with an excellent EP of remixes from Resonate. This is typical of their experimental and unpredictable approach to music and so fits the feel of this programme perfectly. On this show we have now reached out beyond any arbitrary jazz boundaries and this tune is an excellent example. As aware as we are of those casually generated labels referred to above, the promotional material for Lettuce suggests that their music is (quote) “[a] Funk-jazz-soul-hiphop-psychedelic-jam”. Sounds reasonable to us. More soon.

20 October 2020: celebrating Pharaoh Sanders and re-visiting recent selections

This week Cosmic Jazz re-visited some of the best tunes we have played since we resumed our realtime shows a few weeks ago. In addition, there’s been the significant birthday of a very important jazz artist that we simply must acknowledge.

Emma-Jean Thackray – Um  from Um Yang 

More music from one of the many younger generation artists in the UK. This EP was recorded live and cut direct-to-disc – it sounds great. Emma-Jean Thackray is a multi-instrumentalist and composer and here she has assembled a group of musicians, including Soweto Kinch, in  a studio in Haarlem in the Netherlands to produce music that sounds, free, spontaneous and exciting.

I do, however, have some problems. This record is described as an album but it contains one track of 10.19mins on one side and one track of 8.30mins  on the other. The download price on Bandcamp is £5 but the vinyl is £15. It’s not good value for money, but perhaps worse is the nature of the packaging: two inner sleeves with one plastic and one card featuring photos of the musicians and then another insert with more photos of the artists. I found the same issue with British group Nerija who released a double vinyl album, with music on only three sides! What a waste of vinyl plastic, (itself not an eco-friendly commodity), never mind the short changing in terms of the music. In today’s more environmentally friendly environment, perhaps artists could reduce prices by looking at the level of packaging they support. Personally, I’d rather pay less, get more music for the money and save on those valuable finite resources! Your views?

Artemis – If It’s Magic from Artemis 

Artemis are a jazz supergroup of musicians that have worked solo and come together under the musical direction of pianist Renee Rosnes. They come from the US, Canada, France, Chile, Israel and Japan and include clarinetist Anat Cohen, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Allison Miller. Two of the tracks on their self titled Blue Note album – including our choice for this week – have vocals provided by Cecile McLorin Salvant.  If It’s Magic is, of course, a Stevie Wonder composition from Songs in the Key of Life, and features harp from Dorothy Ashby – here she is on her own Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby album with The Moving Finger.

Pharoah Sanders – You’ve Got to Have Freedom from Journey to the One

Pharoah Sanders celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month (13 October) and he’s still performing – check out his performance here in the UK at London’s Jazz Cafe in 2011. We’ve chosen two tracks to represent this iconic performer who has attracted the love and respect of jazz lovers across generations. Farrell Sanders was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1940 and first performed in New York, where he came to the attention of Sun Ra who encouraged him to use the name ‘Pharoah.’ Sanders first recorded with John Coltrane on the Ascension album in 1965 and then got his own Impulse! label contract and recorded a string of great releases, beginning with Tauhid (1967) and ending with Elevation in 1974. All of these records are recommended with the early Karma (1969) and the later Black Unity and Thembi (1971) perhaps the best places to start – but don’t forget the later albums too, many of them on the Theresa label. Throughout, Sanders’ tenor saxophone playing is unique with his overblowing, harmonics and ‘sheets of sound’ techniques well to the fore on most tracks but he’s also one of the foremost interpreters of Coltrane’s ballads – have a listen to After the Rain on the 1979 outing Journey to the One, Derek’s personal favourite Pharoah Sanders record. Here on the show we played the anthemic You’ve Got to Have Freedom from this superb album, recorded in San Francisco and released on the Theresa label in 1979.  Eddie Henderson is on flugelhorn with John Hicks and Joe Bonner on piano and keyboards and all tunes exude a warmth and wholeness which, rather ironically, Derek finds perfect for winter days in the UK. Our congratulations to jazz master Pharaoh Sanders – long may he continue to record and perform live.

Pharaoh Sanders – Thembi from Thembi 

Many of Sanders’ Impulse! albums experiment with a wide range of percussion and non-Western instruments and include the eastern modalities that were the basis for the spiritual sounds that have influenced many of the current crop of UK musicians, including Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall.  Thembi explored shorter tracks, introduced the violin of Michael White into the group and included Lonnie Liston Smith’s Fender Rhodes for the first time on the opening track Astral Traveling. Over the six tracks on the album, Sanders explores a huge variety of instruments, including tenor, soprano, alto flute, fifes, the African balafon, assorted small percussion, and even a cow horn. There’s much less of his trademark tenor screaming, limited mostly to the thunderous cacophony of Red, Black & Green and some parts of Morning Prayer. Astral Traveling is a shimmering, pastoral piece, Love is an intense, five-minute bass solo by Cecil McBee and Morning Prayer and Bailophone Dance (which are segued together) add an expanded percussion section devoted exclusively to African instruments. We chose the title track to represent this transitional record – and would recommend it if you’re new to Pharoah Sanders. You can still find a few vinyl copies of the original Impulse! record with its gatefold sleeve but at a high price – better to go for a Verve reissue from 2018 for around €30.

The music that follows are selections that we have played already on the show but are so good they deserve a second playing. The first five tunes are all selections chosen by Neil from his base in Singapore. Most are recent vinyl purchases from the excellent Bandcamp site – always worth exploring for music both old and new.

Buddy Terry – Kamili from Awareness 

This was recorded in 1971  on the Mainstream label. Sax and flute player Buddy Terry was joined by Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet, Stanley Cowell on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Mtume on congas. The tune blended perfectly with the Pharaoh Sanders tune that preceded it. You can hear Mtume’s own take on Kamili here from the superb album led by the late Jimmy Heath called Kawaida – highly recommended too. Mtume was a convert to the black consciousness Kawaida faith and the term umoja (unity) provided the name of his Umoja Ensemble who released the celebrated Alkebu-Lan – Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East) album on Strata East Records. This is the track Utama – track down the album if you can. The violinist is the great Leroy Jenkins and that surging piano is by Stanley Cowell.

Kahil El’Zabar feat. David Murray – Trane in Mind from Spirit Groove 

Up next was Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar on another new album that features El’Zabar’s contemporary, tenor saxophonist David Murray, ably supported by Justin Dillard with some brilliant piano that’s perhaps the standout feature of this tune. The new Spirit Groove band features El’Zabar with Murray, young bassist Emma Dayhuff and Dillard on synth, organ and piano. El’Zabar takes up kalimba, drum kit, congas, shakers, vibes and even has a go at singing on this predominantly spiritual jazz release. Spirit Groove is actually on a new UK label, Spiritmuse and on vinyl is beautifully produced. As always, your best source for this record is the Bandcamp website: you can find Spirit Groove here in all formats and download.

Resolution 88 – Runout Groove from Revolutions

The next three tracks all featured British artists.  Resolution 88 certainly owe a huge debt to Herbie Hancock circa 1974 (the Thrust album era) but their music really is something special. On Revolutions they even manage to work in an effective concept about vinyl records. Originally from Cambridge and led by keys player Tom O’Grady, the band can create tunes that have the staying power of Hancock’s Palm Grease and Actual ProofRunout Groove is one of these, with a wickedly infectious bassline worthy of anything by Hancock’s then electric bass player Paul Jackson. In addition to O’Grady the band includes Rick Elsworth on drums, Alex Hitchcock on sax, bass clarinet and flute, Tiago Coimbra on bass and Oli Blake on percussion, samples and all effects. If Herbie Hancock is your baseline (pun intended) for this kind of jazz funk then you owe Resolution 88 a visit – and to ensure that the musicians themselves get a decent return on your purchase, head to the band’s Bandcamp site here.

Jas Kayser – Fela’s Words from Unforced Rhythm of Grace EP 

Jas Kayser is a young British drummer. There is only music out on EP at the moment but the respect she is receiving is apparent in that she has played with the likes of Terri Lyne Carrington and Danilo Perez. The Unforced Rhythm of Grace EP was released in June 2020 and signals the arrival of a UK talent that we will undoubtedly hear more from. With reference to recent black activism and anti-racist demonstrations, Kayser acknowledges the power of using the “psychology of dancing and drums to shake the minds of people” – perhaps a reflection of Albert Ayler’s view that “music is the healing force of the universe”.

Nubya Garcia – Pace from Source 

This is a tough tune from the recently released album Source. There is sustained  quality sax playing from Nubya Garcia and a heavy and powerful drum sound. The production on this album is very much a step up from Garcia’s first EPs: recorded with producer Kwes, whose credits include Solange and Bobby Womack, Garcia is pushed into new territory that really demonstrates her diversity.  It all remains firmly rooted in jazz but there’s a range of other influences here too – from the afore-mentioned dub to cumbia and Ethio-jazz. It all works and this new album is highly recommended.

Dayme Arocena – African Sunshine from One Takes

Cuban vocalist, instrumentalist and composer Dayme Arocena has been one of the artists whose work I have been re-discovering in recent weeks. It took her appearance as a performer and guide to Havana on a BBC 4 TV programme to prompt this. The vocals are great, the instrumental playing is strong and whatever she performs is imbued with the feel and sounds of the roots and heritage of Cuba. The Eric Gale tune African Sunshine provides a fine testament to her vocal powers and to the skills of the musicians she works with as well as to the heritage. It’s an interesting choice – here’s Gale’s original for comparison.

The Hermes Experiment – The Linden Tree from Here We Are 

This is a group that might not expect to find their music played on a jazz related programme. In fact, they are a group of young classical musicians comprising, harp, clarinet, soprano vocals and double bass. The album features their interpretations of contemporary classical pieces but has one tune, composed by Misha Mullov-Abbado, son of the classical conductor, that is distinctly jazzy. The Linden Tree has a sad, anti-war message but is delivered superbly in sounds that cross the divides between jazz, folk and classical music. The improvisatory clarinet of Oliver Pashley contrasts with Heloise Werner’s classical soprano voice singing the words of the traditional English folk song to Mullov-Abbado new tune . The rest of the album is definitely ‘contemporary classical’ with selections from Anna Meredith, Errolyn Wallen and others. I love this record and we highly recommend what could be, for some jazz lovers, a venture into newish territory.

O.N.E. Quintet – As Close as Light from ONE

We like to provide a hearing for young musicians on Cosmic Jazz and another example has been the Polish group ONE. Thanks to the many treasures to be found at Steve’s Jazz Sounds we have been able to feature a selection of the excellent and continuous supply of jazz coming out of Poland. An example of this has been the band O.N.E. and their album ONE. The tunes are compositions by pianist Paulina Almanska and sax player Monica Muc. They have a collective sound but also provide space for all members of the quintet to feature as soloists. Their music grows on me more and more every time I hear it and like The Hermes Experiment tune has elements not only of jazz but also folk and classical.  As Close As Light was written by Almanska who features on the tune but – as with the best jazz – there’s plenty of space for the other musicians in the group.

New Bone – Longing from Longing

Another Polish quintet led by trumpeter/composer Tomasz Kudak and including pianist Dominik Wania who has had a solo album released recently on ECM Records. This is the sixth New Bone album and their music has tended to veer towards the traditional/mainstream but we think the quintet has moved twards a more adventurous approach with the arrival of Wania, who has taken the music into a rather different dimension. Able to add both imaginative accompaniments and dramatic solos, Wania has really changed the sound of this long running group. Kudak’s trumpet recalls another great Polish player, the late Tomasz Stanko. Listen to this live version of the wonderful Little Thing Jesus here.

Ambrose Akinmusire – Roy from on the tender spot of every calloused moment 

The programme ends with one trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire paying  tribute to another inspirational trumpeter, the late Roy Hargrove. It is a wonderful piece of moving, powerful and meaningful music – such a fitting tribute. Hargrove was a musician who influenced and played an important part in the lives of many of the prominent younger musicians playing today – and fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is one of them. He’s as eclectic as Hargrove was in the range of musical styles he explores – from M Base sounds with Steve Coleman to an appearance on Mortal Man, the final track of Kendrick Lamar’s influential rap album To Pimp a Butterfly. More CJ music soon.

Week ending 07 March 2020: the spiritual heritage

Cosmic Jazz this week kicks off with what many would call ‘spiritual jazz’. About as misleading a term as – for example – ‘yacht rock’, it’s now used to describe any lost or private press jazz recording from the 1970-80s influenced by a vague Afrocentrism that includes cover art featuring at least one dashiki and some ‘tribal’ art. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but here at CJ we might suggest that the ‘buyer beware’…

No worries though regarding our opening music choices this week, as we began the show with the genuine article – two tracks from the master Pharoah Sanders and one from current British favourites, Maisha. As always, the show is available via the Mixcloud/Listen Again tab – expect warm, spiritual, challenging and politically conscious music.

As Derek noted, in cold weather he often turns to warm-sounding music. Journey to the One was released on Californian label Theresa, Sanders’ home for most of the 1980s, and even the abstract cover art evokes a warm glow. Derek remembers getting it out to play on a cold UK winter’s day as a visitor from Los Angeles was about to arrive and it remains his favourite Pharaoh Sanders album. It’s easy to see why: some of the Impuse! label indulgences are held in check and there are memorable tunes. too. It’s not an album we have featured extensively on Cosmic Jazz although Greetings to Idris has made some previous appearances.  Of course, You’ve Got To Have Freedom is the totemic anthem that features in many a DJ’s jazz dance set, but there’s much more on this double album to enjoy. Sanders is on fine form throughout and there is excellent support from the great John Hicks on piano and – on Doktor Pitt – flugelhorn from Eddie Henderson. With no shortage of great melodies, there’s also there’s some reflective koto on Kazuko and a lovely version of Coltrane’s After the Rain.  Spiritually uplifting music indeed and warmly recommended.

Maisha are led by drummer Jake Long and are one of the finest of the current crop of British jazz artists. The band includes Amané Suganami, Twm Dylan, Tim Doyle, Yahael Camara-Onono, Shirley Tetteh and Nubya Garcia – the latter two with distinctive solos on our choice from the album, the opening tune OsirisRecorded across just three days in 2018, There Is a Place is a really fine album. There’s an organic element to the music that has emerged from the group’s two years of rehearsing and playing together. Short it may be, but this is a record to return to – as we often do both at home and here on the show. You’d be wise to buy (vinyl or CD) or download the whole album – best done here on Bandcamp. As Derek noted on the show, Maisha joined forces with saxophonist Gary Bartz at Gilles Peterson’s inaugural We Out Here Festival last year, and a studio album of that collaboration will be released in May. It’s one to look out for. To get a taste of the group live look out for the album tour – they’ll be in Norwich on 26 May – incidentally, just after the Norfolk & Norwich Festival for 2020 which features an excellent lineup this year including a number of artists we’ve featured on Cosmic Jazz. Look out for Kandace Springs, the Rob Luft Band, Oscar Jerome and Sarathy Korwar.

One record deservedly getting a lot of airplay on Cosmic Jazz is the excellent Polska from Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble. Damasiewicz has dedicated the album to four heroes of Polish Jazz – Krzysztof Komeda, Tomasz Stanko and Piotr Wojtasik are likely to be familar to regular CJ listeners – but perhaps saxophonist Tomasz Szukalski rather less so.  In a tragic life, Szukalski did not record as much as he could – but here he is in Stanko’s quartet with an inspired version of First Song, from Stanko’s ECM recording Balladyna.

The music on Polska is big, passionate and majestic and the ensemble is well named: there are five horns, a piano, two double basses and drums. Komeda’s presence resonates throughout the four original tunes, but so, too, do echoes from beyond Poland. The opening track Billy  – which we featured this week – is named for tenor saxophonist Billy Harper who played on a number of records by  contemporary Polish artists – including Piotr Wojtasik.

2019 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. Formed as an avant-garde jazz group out of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago, the AEoC have released dozens of excellent free jazz recordings over the years. We Are On the Edge is 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 the reflective Mama Koko) and elsewhere there are contributions from flautist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid and new bassist Jaribu Shahid. But the complete ensemble includes a small string section, four percussionists (including Moye), electronics, and several musicians who also contribute vocals. 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 is not an album that will appeal immediately to AEoC fans but it’s worth a listen.

There is much excitement at the moment concerning the young/youngish jazz musicians that have emerged out of the UK. It is important, however, not to forget some of the earlier pioneers of the British jazz scene – and one of the greatest was sax player Tubby Hayes. Sadly, a combination of ill health and drugs led to an early death, but Hayes had a prolific recording history and performed regularly. I was one of those lucky enough to see him in some of my earliest jazz experiences. In December 2019 a record was released of a lost Fontana session, originally  recorded at the Philips studios in London on 24 June 1969 with Spike Wells on drums, Mike Pyne on piano and Ron Matthewson on bass. Where Am I Going?, the third take of which is on this week’s show, features a long Tubby Hayes solo. A fitting testament and highly recommended. The recording comes in two versions – go for the 2CD set if you want all the takes of these tunes. If you’re not familiar with Tubby Hayes’ music, then try the fabulous Down In the Village recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s in London and, yes, that’s Hayes on vibes rather than sax!

  1. Pharoah Sanders – Greetings to Idris from Journey to the One
  2. Pharoah Sanders – Doktor Pitt from Journey to the One
  3. Maisha – Osiris from There is a Place
  4. Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble – Billy from Polksa
  5. Art Ensemble of Chicago – Mama Koko from We Are On the Edge
  6. Tubby Hayes – Where Am I Going? (Take 3) – from Grit, Beans and Greens (the Lost Fontana Sessions)

Derek is listening to… music inspired by his jukebox, the BBC4 documentary on Eric Burdon and a selection from Neil

Neil is listening to… music inspired by Somethin’ Else 30th Anniversary show on JazzFM

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…