Week ending 19 October 2019 – including timeless music of great beauty and subtlety

Sometimes  the show is full of music  music that is rousing, awakening and even loud. By contrast this week there is much that is more gentle, more acoustic, but certainly not easy listening.

Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate from Poland Have provided the show  with some rousing moments, including one show opener that was free, loud and very complex. This week it was a tune from their quieter side, but it was definitely not a ballad and certainly hotted up towards the end and the tune has an important title for our times – Hate No More.

The loudest the show got and it was in this case pretty heavy, came courtesy of Fat-Suit from Scotland. On their own they are a large band with horns, fiddles, guitars, keyboards, drums & percussion but on their fourth album Waifs & Strays they are augmented by a 10-piece string section, extra brass and guest soloists. The huge ensemble has what they call a “signature blend of modern jazz, folk, electronica, pop/rock and everything in between”. It is powerful stuff, a collective of multi-disciplined musicians.

We have tried on Cosmic Jazz to act as a showcase for British jazz. This has included some of the newly-emerged bands of younger musicians such as Fat-Suit above and many of the musicians that have appeared in the last few years from the London scene. We have not forgotten, however some of the older pioneers of the British jazz scene and there are few musicians that have been more important than pianist/composer Mike Westbrook, now in his eighties and still performing. His band was one of the very first live jazz acts that I saw and contributed to my love of jazz ever since. Metropolis was released in 1971 with a host of the top UK jazz musicians of the time such as Kenny Wheeler, Henry Lowther, Norma Winstone, Alan Skidmore, John Marshall. It was written with the assistance of an Arts Council bursary and in nine parts traces the sounds of the Metropolis (London). It ends in part nine with the calm of the night and a solo from Barbadian-born trumpeter Harry Beckett, whose trumpet provides what is the most beautiful, delicate, moving piece of music with Mike Westbrook’s piano adding subtle touches in the background. The album as a whole is essential listening but the ending provides beauty beyond words.

Another pianist capable of the most delicate touches and one that we have just come across is Richard Michael. He has been a jazz performer and educator in Scotland  for many years. His name, though, has reached beyond Scotland and he has garnered praise from fellow jazz pianists. Jason Rebello described him as “A wonderful pianist, brimming with vitality. His playing encompasses the roots of jazz, also bringing a unique Scottish Flavour”. Julian Joseph commented that “When Richard and I duetted together his authority and openness allowed us to get straight to the music”. Richard Michael’s  solo piano album Contemplation was recorded as a 70th birthday present to himself,  a fitting birthday tribute.

There was another contribution to the Blue Note celebrations and definitely quite a unique contribution to the catalogue. Vocalist Cassandra Wilson came up in 1993 with an acoustic paired-down bluesy-influenced album called Blue Light Till Dawn. The instruments used on the album include clarinet, classical guitar, pedal steel guitar, percussion and bass but on the tune You Don’t Know What Love Is the vocals of Cassandra Wilson  are accompanied only by Brandon Ross on steel string guitar and Charlie Burnham on violin. It is down to an acoustic minimum but still strong and soulful in impact.

A vocalist currently making an impact is Jazzmeia Horn. Having heard her talk about her influences recently on the BBC’s J to Z radio show, you can tell she is someone who knows what she likes and how to convey what the music means to her. On her new album Love & Liberation you can hear her expressive range and she is backed by some fine musicians.

Mariama is another artist we have just come across. She was born in Sierra Leone, raised in Germany and is now based in Paris. Her album Love, Sweat & Tears includes her version of the jazz standard Nature Boy that was a big it for Nat King Cole in 1948. It is a version that brings a very fresh take and includes kora among the instruments backing her vocals. It is interesting to note that a co-director of the album is Michael Schlindwein who has worked with the jazz-influenced hip-hop artist Akua Naru, who is much admired at Cosmic Jazz. 

Jamie Saft is a keyboard player/producer/engineer in the downtown New York scene whose impact has reached beyond jazz. The likes of   John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Iggy Pop, Marc Ribot, Bill Laswell, Wadada Leo Smith and the b52s are among those with whom he has been associated. It was only in 2018 that e released his first solo album. His recent album Blue Dream  on Rare Noise Records uses a traditional jazz quartet and includes three jazz standards. Do not be put off by this, The group includes exciting and innovative musicians: Bill McHenry on sax, Bradley Jones on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums and Jamie Saft on piano. The sound is definitely contemporary.

The show ends with an excerpt from the Sun Ra Arkestra led by Marshall Allen

  1. Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate – Hate No More from Don’t Hesitate
  2. Fat-Suit – Keo from Waifs & Strays
  3. Mike Westbrook – Metropolis IX from Metropolis
  4. Cassandra Wilson – You Don’t Know What Love Is from Blue Light Till Dawn
  5. Jazzmeia Horn – Free Your Mind from Love & Liberation
  6. Mariama – Nature Boy from Love, Sweat & Tears
  7. Richard Michael – The Lark & the Clear Air from Contemplation
  8. Jamie Saft – Blue Dream from Blue Dream
  9. The Sun Ra Arkestra – Song for the Sun from Song for t he Sun

Week ending 12 October 2019: that ‘Latin Thing’ and music from Scotland

Every week I enjoy playing and listening to the music on the show, but some weeks I reflect on what comes across as an exceptional selection and I leave the studio overjoyed. This week, despite the odd technical problem, was one of those occasions and I cycled home with renewed vigour. See if you can see why by listening via the MixCloud tab.

One area we like to support on Cosmic Jazz is the small independents, whether they  be labels, distributors or record suppliers. We regularly champion the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds  – purveyors of the very best in Polish and other continental jazz. We continue to be surprised at the music emerging from these European countries – but not because of the consistently high quality of what we hear. It’s more that much of this excellent music is so rarely reviewed in the pages of jazz magazines or websites. The  music of the Pawel Palcowski Quintet is one such example. Palcowski is one of the many musicians we  come across who graduated from the Academy of Music in Katowice where he is now a lecturer. He is a trumpeter whose music evokes the jazz of the 1950s and 1960s but through original compositions.  Our choice provided a different opening compared to many recent shows, but the music sounded great.

We continue to celebrate eighty years of Blue Note Records 1939-2019. The different choices each week should have given even regular listeners an experience of the huge range of music released on the label but this week’s choice was firmly in the classic Blue Note mould. Jackie McLean may not have received the plaudits of other great saxophonists on Blue Note, but anyone who knows his music will rate him highly. With his distinctly piercing tone, this alto sax player moved from a classic hard bop style into more modal tones, but he also played an important role in bringing younger musicians to the label, including Bobby Hutcherson, Andrew Hill and Tony Williams – quite a list! The 1960 tune Appointment in Ghana paid tribute to the newly emerging independent African states and, indeed, African and Black consciousness was to become an essential aspect of the music for many Blue Note artists through the 1960s and 70s.

Another independent we like to support is Birnam CD based in Dunkeld, Scotland. Their role includes CD duplication, vinyl pressing, design, distribution and promotion. Through them we have come across a number of fine Scots musicians – and there were two more this week. The two tunes provided great contrasts –  but that’s just what CJ is all about. Richard Michael’s  album Contemplation and we featured his take on Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps. Apparently Michael sees the album as a 70th birthday to himself – “here’s the music I love, played with respect to the great jazz musicians who have inspired me over the years”. Richard himself as a performing pianist with a lovely, flowing piano style and a long-established teacher has, in turn, inspired many people himself.  Among those who have offered tributes to him are the pianists Jason Rebello and Julian Joseph and guitarist Martin Taylor.

The second Birnam promotion is at a different point of the jazz spectrum. Fat Suit see themselves as taking influence from the Brownswood recordings, the UK underground jazz scene and the broad soundscapes of Scottish folk. Waifs & Strays is the band’s fourth album. It is a big band in itself plus special guests, including guests who have played with in one case Alfa Mist and in the other Billy Cobham. On this week’s tune Caretaker check the pounding bass and the rousing trumpet. Fine contemporary sounds to awaken body and soul.

As Fat Suit see Brownswood Recordings as an influence it seemed fitting to play something next from  Brownswood. Havana Cultura, a collective of young Cuban musicians produced by Gilles Peterson and including Roberto Fonseca and Harold Lopez-Nussa who we have featured on the show and are  now with their own groups, may not have been what Fat Suit most had in mind in terms of Brownswood recordings. Nevertheless, I am sure they would enjoy, or probably have enjoyed, Havana Cultura  to soak up these sounds of young Cuba.

By now and for the rest of the show we were into a Latin thing. The title of the Havana Cultura tune was Pa’ Gozar (to be enjoyed). It was followed by another contrasting version certainly to be enjoyed and moved to from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. This is the sound of Spanish Harlem, a wonderful big band sound with Latin rhythms and jazzy solos, led and arranged by pianist and arranger Oscar Hernandez. It is New York Latinos playing their interpretation of music of the barrio – salsa with a bold, jazzy, brassy sound to be danced to and most certainly “enjoyed”.

There is a New York connection to the next tune as the bandleader lives there now, although sax player Fredrik Kronkvist was born in Sweden. Here he is playing from an album of Afro-Cuban music, the tune written and made famous by another Latin ‘convert’, the great jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. It’s a fantastic interpretation too, giving respect to the original while adding something different and contemporary. That is no surprise if you look up the calibre of musicians with whom Kronkvist has collaborated.

There were two old programme favourites to end the show – firstly  sax player Roy Nathanson, with son Gabriel on trumpet and vocals , playing a Latin-tinged version of a Johnny Nash tune, and then British-based band Da Lata bringing a Brazilian touch to end the show with  the simply brilliant tune Pra Manha.

  1. Pawel Palcowski Quintet – Announcement from Old Fashioned Mood
  2. Jackie McLean – Appointment in Ghana from Jackie’s Bag
  3. Richard Michael – Giant Steps from Contemplation
  4. Fat Suit – Caretaker from Waifs & Strays
  5. Havana Cultura – Pa’ Gozar from Havana Cultura New Havana Sound
  6. Spanish Harlem Orchestra – Pa’ Gozar from Un Gran en el Barrio
  7. Fredrik Kronkvist – Manteca from Afro-Cuban Supreme
  8. Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce – I Can See Clearly Now from Complicated Day
  9. Da Lata – Pra Manha from Songs from the Tin

Derek is listening to……

Week ending 05 October 2019: more sounds from around the world

This week was a pre-recorded show. Often this is a chance to delve into the past but this week it was an opportunity to travel around the world . Enjoy a global feast of jazz music via the MixCloud tab with not a single tune from a US band.

The African Jazz Pioneers owe their roots to the South African jazz bands of the 1950s. Under apartheid, many of the musicians of that era left the country but, in June 1981, some of the original musicians together some new younger ones got together and started to perform. Mbombela is a tune from the album that emerged. The song was composed in the 1950s and was about the train that took migrant workers from their home to work in the city of Johannesburg. It is about the excitement of a first trip on the train and their return six months later. No doubt, with the arduous work and long absences from home, the excitement soon wore off…

Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin is probably associated in the minds of many people with reggae. Yet jazz was an essential element in his work. When Ranglin started playing regularly, big band music was hugely popular in Jamaica and he followed the likes of Duke Ellington, Woody Herman & Count Basie. Ranglin counted Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell among his heroes. In 1964 he played a nine-month residency at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London and that year won the Melody Maker jazz poll for new stars. On the tune Black Disciples from the excellent album Below The Bassline, Distinguished Jamaican jazz player Monty Alexander is on piano.

Brazilian percussionist and drummer Airto Moreira should need no introduction to followers of Cosmic Jazz. Tombo in 7/4 originally appeared on the superb CTI Fingers album in 1973 and it’s remained something of a club favourite. Moreira continues to record and play live – at the age of 78, he featured at the aforementioned Ronnie Scott’s in June this year. You can watch the whole show here.

Trumpeter Edmorny Krater is surely less well known. He can be found on the Heavenly Sweetness album Koute Jazz  which is a collection of rare jazz from the French-speaking Caribbean islands. The tune Gwadloup indicates which island he was from, although it was recorded with a group he established after arriving in Paris in 1983. The band were always looking to draw upon the sounds from back home which had spiritual and political values and strengthened their identity – though sadly Krater said This song demonstrates how we don’t manage to value our history, our specificity.

We followed this with a trip to Norway. We have played the beautiful tune Magnus Broo from the Hanna Paulsberg Concept before but did not need much excuse to play it again. Hanna is a sax player and for the album Scent of Soil Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo joins a band that has been together for eight years. Lucky Novak have also appeared on the show before. They were a unique, risk-taking and unpredictable band from Norway that included Tim Lowerson, a British sax player.

Cuba was the next stop. Pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa now records his trio (which includes brother Ruy Adrian in Boston USA on the American Mack Avenue label) but he remains based in Cuba. Lopez-Nussa was part of the Havana Cultura project (see below) from which the tune on this week’s show is taken. There is a Cuban feel to the music but essentially his music is that of a jazz trio.

Also from Cuba but now recorded on a label from outside the island is Dayme Arocena.  She is on Gilles Peterson’s UK based Brownswood label. Nueva Era was her first release. Peterson first encountered her as a teenager singing at a house party on his first trip to the island. It was on his fifth trip that he recorded her as part of the Havana Cultura Project, exploring contemporary Cuban culture. This led to further recording and a new album, Sonocardiogram, just released. You can hear Arocena talking to Gilles Peterson this week on his excellent Worldwide radio show. Stream right here.

Fredrik Kronkvist is a Swedish sax player now based in the US. His 15th album was released last year with a an American group including Jeff “Tain’ Watts on drums. Krnokvist does not stand still and his music is always exciting and contemporary. We played a track from an earlier album Ignition which featured Cuban-influenced music.

The show this week ended in France with pianist Francois Pellisier. His music is modal, spiritual and warm – perfect for Cosmic Jazz.

  1. African Jazz Pioneers – Mbombela from African Jazz Pioneers
  2. Ernest Ranglin – Black Disciples from Below the Bassline
  3. Airto Moreira – Tombo in 7/4 from Fingers
  4. Edmony Krater – Gwadloup from Koute Jazz
  5. Hanna Paulsberg Concept – Scent of Soil from Daughter of the Sun
  6. Lucky Novak – Spartakus  from Up. Go
  7. Harold Lopez-Nussa – La Jungla from Havana Cultura New Cuban Sound
  8. Dayme Arocena – El Ruso from Nueva Era
  9. Fredrik Kronkvist Quartet – Straight to the Point from Ignition
  10. Florian Pellissier Quintet – J’ai du Reve from Biches Bleu

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 September 2019: more Cosmic Jazz eclecticism

There is more of our Cosmic Jazz mix this week. As usual the musicians come from different countries – perhaps not as many as some weeks – but from the US, UK and Poland. All available on this page via the MixCloud tab.

There was a fiery start to the show last week and there was a pretty intense one to the show this week. If you have not discovered music from Black Jazz Records you need to. It was a unique and significant label and has been championed by in compilations by Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish. It was the Theo Parrish compilation Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature from which the tune by pianist Doug Carn was selected. Carn made albums for Black Jazz in the early 70s but his career has included work with Nat Adderley, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Horn.

It was to the UK next and two albums from the last year that we are still enjoying. Firstly, Ruby Rushton, the band led by Edward Cawthorne aka Tenderlonius, who on this occasion was playing flute. The trumpeter Nick Walters and his band The Paradox Ensemble, which includes Cawthorne and Aidan Shepherd from Ruby Rushton, also has a recommended album available called Awakening.

I make no apologies for returning once again to pianist/keyboard player Sarah Tandy and her album Infection in the Sentence. The album was such an impressive debut, There have been many interesting releases of late from the London scene, but in my opinion this is up there as among the very best. Tandy can be found on records from other groups that we have featured on the show – for example, Camilla George and Maisha. Catch her if you can. The cool way in which her fingers fly across the keys makes it look so simple but the sounds produced are complex and range from the sensitive (as in the tune on the show this week) to the downright funky.

We are celebrating 80 years of Blue Note Records. The tune selected this week came from an album that was produced to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the label. A group was put together to produce a tribute. The Blue Note 7 was a collection of musicians brought together who could form a compatible and cohesive whole and reinterpret tunes by Blue Note artists wit new arrangements and individual solos. It comprised Nicholas Payton trumpet, Steve Wilson alto/flute, Ravi Coltrane tenor, Peter Bernstein guitar, Bill Charlap piano, Peter Washington bass, Lewis Nash drums. The tune Mosaic, an apt description of the Blue Note 7, was a favourite of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and was composed by then band member Cedar Walton.

There was more fire from Poland in the shape of the excellent Emil Miszk and the Soul Syndicate. Miszk is a trumpeter and leads an eight-piece band, their album Don’t Hesitate is highly recommended. There was a sample of more Polish music at the end of the show from  the Jan Plaszyn Wroblewski Sextet. Wroblewski is a veteran sax player who played with the seminal Polish jazz musician Krzysztof Komeda.

Snarky Puppy are a large group of fine musicians who are amazing live. I have seen them and if you get the chance you need to be there. There is a feature on the band in the September 2019 edition of Jazzwise magazine to coincide with a fresh tour and album release. I have not been so sure about their recorded output but have recently re-visited the album Family Dinner Volume One and have been enjoying it. Each track includes a distinguished guest artist and the guest on the tune Something is the very special Lalah Hathaway. Another guest on the album is vocalist Shayna Steele, so it was a neat link to play her version of Secret Love from her 2019 album Watch Me Fly.

  1. Doug Carn – Trance Dance from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
  2. Ruby Rushton – Return of the Hero from Ironside
  3. Sarah Tandy – Nursery Rhyme from Infection in the Sentence
  4. The Blue Note 7 – Mosaic from Mosaic
  5. Emil Miszk & the Soul Syndicate – For S from Don’t Hesitate
  6. Snarky Puppy with Lalah Hathaway – Something from Family Dinner Vol 1
  7. Shayna Steele – Secret Love from Watch Me Fly
  8. Jan Plaszyn Wroblewski Sextet – Don Kichot (live) from Komeda Moja Slodka Europejska Ojczyzna

Derek is listening to …..

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 21 September 2019: the Cosmic Jazz philosophy

We’ve been playing our Cosmic Jazz shows for more than a decade now and some key principles remain. Of course, we really enjoy hearing the music as it is played but the key is our freedom in terms of music selection that makes the show pretty unique. We have never been tied to playing the latest sounds, or old classic jazz or things in between. We try to play a mix of all these elements. What is more, we play tunes that stretch the outer boundaries of what could be termed jazz and we play music from across the globe. It all depends on how the mood takes us and what music is available. This week’s show is a good example of how many of the above can be combined into one hour-long show. Click the MixCloud tab and discover for yourself.

There was a fiery start to the show. Something came up recently on my mix of tunes from Poland’s Emil Miszk & the Soul Syndicate. It was Chorale (Ballad No. 31) from the album Don’t Hesitate. Emil is a trumpeter leading a band of eight musicians  whose music screamed into my headphones, There is drama, fine improvisation and screeching trumpet sounds. Magnificent and just the way to start a show. As we always say, to get this and other Polish music check Steve’s Jazz Sounds

The celebration of eighty years of Blue Note Records continues. This week it was trumpeter Donald Byrd, an artist who crossed a few boundaries himself. The album Black Byrd recorded in 1972 provides evidence of this. It is music intended to be “a sheer delight for dancers & choreographers”. It was intended to revitalise jazz beats and traditional sounds with the new “magnetic” sounds of the time. Artists on the album such as the Mizell Brothers, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder all strayed in their time beyond the jazz confines.

There was another track from the new Jazzmeia Horn album Love and Liberation. Most of the tunes on the album are self-penned but the selection this week was written by George Duke and involved a duet with drummer/vocalist Jamison Ross. It was good to see a positive review of the album in the October edition of Jazzwise Magazine.

The Ronnie Scott Club in Soho, London is a legend in terms of jazz in the UK. The club is celebrating sixty years of presenting the very top jazz artists and the above-mentioned Jazzwise Magazine includes a free CD on which many of the artists, including the man Ronnie Scott himself, talk about and joke about the club and the music. There is also some music on the CD recorded live at the club, including a 1966 piece from Cosmic Jazz favourite  Yusef Lateef, that amply illustrated his skills with percussion instruments from around the world.

The global images continued with Children of the World from Elements of Life from their album EclipseThis was a release on the classic Latin label Fania. All the songs were produced and arranged by Louie Vega and a long list of vocalists and musicians includes the outstanding percussionist Luisito Quintero who has appeared on the show playing with other musicians and in his own right as a band leader. A fitting sequel came from Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and multi -genre musician Ed Motta.

It was back to Poland for the final track. Przemyslaw Florczak is a sax player, one of what would appear to be an endless stream of fine jazz musicians trained at the Academy of Music in Katowice. The quartet has the usual sax/drums/double bass format but instead of piano includes organ.

  1. Emil Miszk & the Soul Syndicate – Chorale (Ballad No. 31) from Don’t Hesitate
  2. Donald Byrd – Flight Time from Black Byrd
  3. Jazzmeia Horn feat. Jamison Ross – Reflections of my Heart from Love & Liberation
  4. Yusef Lateef – Song of Delilah from Jazzwise Ronnie Scott Anniversary CD
  5. Elements of Life – Children of the World from Eclipse
  6. Ed Motta – Flores da Vida Real from AOR
  7. Przemyslaw Florczak Quartet – Straight Story from Image Of My Personality

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 14 September 2019: it’s about that time…

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was a pre-record. I often take this opportunity to play jazz from the past – including taking up the chance to play some Cosmic Jazz favourites once again.

At least once a year here on CJ we find the time to play the full 23 minutes and 40 seconds of Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance group and their 1976  eponymous recording. It is quite simply right up there among our favourite tunes and when it finally got a release in the USA in 2002 via Luv N’ Haight/Ubiquity records, Gilles Peterson wrote in the sleeve notes “Black Renaissance is undoubtedly one of my all time favourite tunes, up there with Sun Ra’s Sleeping Beauty and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme”. The story of how the record was released in Japan without Whitaker receiving royalties and the loss of the master tapes when the house of a friend of his burned down is a sad one, but its eventual US release was a cause for celebration. It was recorded spontaneously on Martin Luther King Day 15 January 1976 in one take with an impressive line-up that included Harry Whitaker on piano, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Mtume on percussion, Billy Hart on drums and Azar Lawrence on sax. This record should be in everyone’s jazz collection.

Horace Parlan’s Home Is Africa was the Blue Note contribution for the week. The album Happy Frame of Mind was recorded for the label in 1963 but didn’t see the light of day until 1976 when it was released as a double record Booker Ervin set. Parlan was breaking away from the soul-inflected hard bop that had become his trademark and moving his music into more adventurous, post-bop territory. Aided by a first-rate quintet – trumpeter Johnny Coles, Booker Ervin on tenor sax, Grant Green on guitar and Billy Higgins on drums – this is a set on which the ensemble stretches out, notably on our choice of track this week. Home is Africa is actually a composition by the Sun Ra bass player Ronnie Boykins, and was re-released on the excellent 2008 2CD Blue Note compilation African Rhythms which features tracks from Donald Byrd, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean.

Mario Bauza was a bandleader born in Cuba but like many of his contemporaries ended up in New York. His music had an exciting big band sound that combined the very best of jazz and Cuban music. His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra may reflect an era but the music still sounds fresh and uplifting today.

The ongoing Spiritual Jazz releases from Jazzman Records continues to be one that we enjoy and feature on Cosmic Jazz. Volume 8 was a compilation of music from Japan – all excellent tracks – and included the 1977 tune Spanish Flower from Tee & Company. This band featured Japanese luminaries Hiroshi Murakami on drums and Masayuki Takayanagi on guitar. It was another long and deep track for a week that required only four tunes to complete the show.

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body Mind & Spirit
  2. Horace Parlan – Home is Africa from Happy Frame of Mind
  3. Mario Bauza & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra – Carnegie Hall 100 from The Tanga Suite
  4. Tee & Company – Spanish Flower from Spiritual Jazz 8

Week ending 07 September 2019: featuring Jazzmeia Horn

The notes this  week may be a little shorter than usual but the music is still great – check it out on the Mixcloud tab as usual. There is our now regular celebratory Blue Note feature – this time from Wayne Shorter – more from the excellent Polish drummer Eryk Kuhm and his Quintessence band which includes US trumpeter Rasul Siddik, another new Polish group led by guitarist Andrzej Kowalski, jazz with some rock touches and classic jazz from Booker Ervin.

Wayne Shorter recently celebrated his 86th birthday. He is not only one of the foremost saxophonists in jazz but also one of the greatest (and most idiosyncratic) composers in the genre too. Maybe indebted to the more muscular side to Coltrane’s sound, Shorter quickly went his own way. His tone on tenor sax is pretty much unmistakeable but it is his piercing, lyrical spare sound on soprano saxophone that is really unique. In the 1970s, and playing with Joe Zawinul in Weather Report, this is what drew me to his music. You can hear it most clearly in the lovely album he recorded in partnership with Brazilian Milton Nascimento. The fragile beauty of Nascimento’s voice on Ponta de Areia is complemented by Shorter’s singular sound – a piping clarity of tone that is nonetheless warm rather than cold.  Check it out here.

As a composer, Shorter is best known for carefully conceived, complex, long-limbed, endlessly winding tunes, many of which have become jazz standards. These include this week’s tune – the title track from Speak No Evil – and many more including Footprints and Adam’s Apple.

Our featured artist this week is the wonderful US vocalist Jazzmeia Horn who, in my opinion, passes that difficult second album test. Her wide-ranging voice and the excellent instrumentalists are all there, this time performing a mix of original and other compositions. The new album Love & Liberation does not disappoint and, to make the case as to why this is another excellent record, there are three tunes from it on this week’s show.

Derek and I have both enjoyed the recent work of keyboard player and prolific producer Jamie Saft and the title track of his recent album Blue Dream is a good example. Saft is nothing if not eclectic – he’s played with everyone from Iggy Pop to Donovan, Bill Laswell to the Beastie Boys but he’s recently focused on his current jazz quartet. Their spiritual jazz outing from earlier this year, Hidden Corners, is a good place to start.

Finally, and after a couple of months training in South Korea, China and Oman, Neil is back tweaking the Cosmic Jazz website. Expect to see more extended blog notes, some featured tracks on the show and a wide range of listening choices, starting with this week’s bumper crop of ten!

  1. Eryk Kuhm Quintessence – Flip-Flop from Private Things
  2. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil from Speak No Evil
  3. Jazzmeia Horn – Free Your Mind from Love & Liberation
  4. Jazzmeia Horn – I Thought About You from Love & Liberation
  5. Jazzmeia Horn – No More from Love & Liberation
  6. Jamie Saft – Blue Dream from Blue Dream
  7. Andrzej Kowalski Quartet – Ogrod from Abstrakt
  8. Henry Threadgill – Black Blues from Just the Facts & Pass the Bucket
  9. Booker Ervin – A Lunar Tune from The Freedom Book

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 31 August 2019: including Maisha and more Blue Note

Quite a mixture of tunes available this week via the Cosmic Jazz show on the Mixcloud tab. There is no master plan but a few links across the tracks – and, as always, a selection of great music.

We began the show with a British jazz album that bears repeated listening – the first full length release from London collective Maisha – and we followed it with a track from vocalist Zara McFarlane.

Last week Gary Bartz was on the show after reports of his headline session at Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here Festival. At this event he was backed by Maisha (after just one rehearsal) with Zara McFarlane a backing vocalist. It seemed appropriate to play more music on the show this week. Incidentally, Gary Bartz, Dwight Trible and Maisha will appear at the London Jazz Festival on 16 November 2019 at the Royal Festival Hall, London.

From Poland, the Eryk Kulm Quintessence appeared on Cosmic Jazz for the first time. Kulm is a drummer and veteran of the Polish jazz scene. Also on the album is US trumpeter Rasul Siddik, a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) – a US group founded by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams that has featured a slew of great US jazz artists including Philip Cohran, Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman, Amina Claudine Myers and Wadada Leo Smith – all artists we have featured over the years here on CJ. Joining Kulm and Siddik are three young Polish players who play interesting, wild and free music, with a strong voice-over at the beginning and end of the track.

The Marcin Gawdzis Quartet have appeared before. Neil commented on how much he liked the music. Marcin Gawdzis is another veteran Polish musician, a  trumpeter, composer and jazz lecturer.

The Blue Note selection this week came from pianist Andrew Hill and the title tune of his Passing Ships album recorded in 1969. Andrew Hill was not in the classic hard bop Blue Note tradition being much more unpredictable and free in his sound. His composed melodies were labyrinthine, and usually both rhythmically and harmonically complex. The result is music that is both melodic and spontaneous and rewards extended listening. Hill’s music is certainly never clichéd. On this title tune Passing Ships there is a beautiful melody from Joe Farrell on English horn, accompanied by an all star front line of Julian Priester on trombone and Woody Shaw on trumpet. Also on the album are Dizzy Reece on trumpet, Howard Johnson on tuba and bass clarinet, Ron Carter on bass and Lenny White on drums. Can it get much better than this?

Jazzmeia Horn is a vocalist whose first album A Social Call was often featured here on Cosmic Jazz. The good news is that she has a new album released called Love & Liberation with all but four of the tracks her original compositions. Horn has a bunch of A-list musicians on this new release: pianists Victor Gould (her regular accompanist) and special guest Sullivan Fortner, tenor saxophonist Stacey Dillard and trumpeter Josh Evans, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer/singer Jamison Ross. We played one tune this week, but the album will feature in greater detail on next week’s show. To end was an excerpt from the new album Blume by British collective Nerija.

  1. Maisha – Kaa from There is a Place
  2. Zara McFarlane – Freedom Chain from Arise
  3. Eryk Kulm Quintessence – The Morning After from Private Things
  4. Marcin Gawdzis Quartet – Ballad for G from Mind Recovery
  5. Andrew Hill – Passing Ships from Passing Ships
  6. Jazzmeia Horn – Legs and Arms from Love & Liberation
  7. Nerija – Nascence from Blume

Derek is listening to….

Week ending 24 August 2019: Gary Bartz and the Komeda Quintet

There were only five tunes played on the show this week – but all were exceptional. Here on Cosmic Jazz we can play tracks of any length – and so we did on this occasion.  Click the Mixcloud tab for an hour of delight.

The first track was a comparatively short one. I have been wanting to play The Elder Statesman again – twin brothers and Wellington, NZ fixtures Christopher (piano) and Daniel (double bass) Yeabsley with producer Lord Echo on percussion and drums. One side of the 7″ single was on the show a few weeks back and the other one – Trans-Alpine Express – featured this week. We love this record. Check out Lord Echo’s own releases including the excellent Harmonies album from 2017 which features vocalist Mara TK on a number of tracks.

Saxophonist Gary Bartz had to feature after receiving a most enthusiastic report from one of my sons regarding his performance at Gilles Peterson’s inaugural We Out Here festival, held near Cambridge, UK. Bartz was backed apparently by Cosmic Jazz favourites Maisha – and apparently playing after just one rehearsal. Sounds amazing. The record chosen this week has a much younger-looking Gary Bartz as leader of his Ntu Troop at the Montreux Jazz festival in July 1973. The stories tell that it was a blistering uninterrupted 80-minute set  of conscious, Afrocentric and spiritual music with Hubert Eaves on piano, Stafford James on bass and Howard King on drums. Forty-six years later it sounds as if he can still deliver to similar effect.

Last week the show included music that paid tribute to the legendary Polish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda. This week it was a long 23.08 minutes of music directly from the Komeda Quintet and their 1965 album Astigmatic. This has been described as one of the very best jazz albums made in Europe. It also marked a move away from an American sound to a distinctly European one and thus became an inspiration for future European musicians.  The Quintet included Tomasz Stanko on trumpet who went on to gain international fame in his own right. The music is complex and deep and it is easy to see why it has inspired particularly so many Polish jazz musicians, but also musicians from other countries, to this day.

One of the musicians from outside Poland who pays respect to Komeda is Edward Cawthorne (aka Tenderlonious) whose band Ruby Rushton include a Komeda tune on their latest album Ironside. It’s dedicated as a requiem to Komeda and is indeed a worthy tribute. We really like this new record here on Cosmic Jazz and will continue to play more music from it in coming weeks – hence the inclusion of Lara’s Theme (alternate take) on this week’s show.

We are currently celebrating 80 years of Blue Note Records here on Cosmic Jazz. We may think of Blue Note as something of a heritage label, but in the hands of new boss Don Was it’s a thriving and ever more contemporary concern. There’s an ambitious re-release programme (including the excellent audiophile vinyl reissues through the Tone Poet series) but Blue Note continues to sign new artists making waves in contemporary jazz. One such is trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire – an artist who favours long album and song titles. Confessions to my Unborn Daughter is from his 2011 album When the Heart Emerges Glistening – see what we mean! – and this was the final track in this week’s show.

  1. The Elder Statesman – Trans-Alpine Express from 7″ single/download
  2. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Jujuman from I’ve Known Rivers and Other Bodies
  3. Ruby Rushton – Lara’s Theme (Alternate Take) from Ironside
  4. Komeda Quintet – Astigmatic from Astigmatic
  5. Ambrose Akinmusire – Confessions to my Unborn Daughter from Where the Heart Emerges Glistening

Week ending 17 August 2019: Komeda connections

The programme this week links the interests of Polish and British musicians as well as going back to some classic Blue Note tracks in a significant anniversary year. All these wonderful jazz sounds are available via the MixCloud tab (left).

As promised the previous week, there was another play for the joyous, uplifting tune from one of my favourite musicians –  trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik. The vocalists create a soulful and gospel feel and their pleas to Stay in the Time Freedom  provide a message that is as inspiring as the music. If you have not discovered the music of Piotr Wojtasik, you need to check him out.

One of the greats of Polish jazz was Krzysztof Komeda, a pianist and composer who became well known outside Poland for his compositions for films. He has inspired many Polish musicians who followed him but also, it would appear, British musicians as well. The show has two examples of Komeda connections. First came veteran Polish sax player Jan Plaszyn Wroblewski. He played with Komeda’s band and has a recent album with Komeda in the long title (in Polish understandably) and from that CJ included a title with Komeda in it. Probably more surprising is that my current favourite British release from Ruby Rushton. in an album of otherwise original compositions. includes a tune composed by Komeda. They have dedicated it as a Requiem for Komeda. It is an outstanding interpretation, intense, soulful and spiritual. I love this new Ruby Rushton album, and so included one more track on this week’s show.

There was another play for the Petera Sextet – this time for the title tune from their album Flashover. Dariusz Petera is a pianist and composer with a sextet that includes a cellist. He aims to give space and time for all the musicians to express themselves and that was apparent in the title tune.

2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the iconic jazz label Blue Note. It is time to celebrate this and there will be more in future shows. This week had two examples. Firstly, came a 1960 recording from alto player Jackie McClean Appointment in Ghana recorded in 1960. The sound is celebratory and that reflects the purpose, namely to pay tribute to Ghana, the first of the newly independent African states. The tune was first released on Jackie’s album Jackie’s Bag but also featured on an excellent 2008 Blue Note compilation African Rhythms.

The second Blue Note tune was an original McCoy Tyner compostion, found on the superb 1967 album The Real McCoy. It has quite a line-up: Tyner on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Joe Henderson on tenor and Elvin Jones on drums. We love the much less well known version of this tune by Mal Waldron and Marion Brown and so we ended the show with a repeat play of this rarity.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in the Time Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  2. Jan Plaszyn Wroblewski Sextet – Komeda in Wazyk Circus from Komeda Moja Slodka Europejska Ojezyzna
  3. Ruby Rushton – Pingwin (Requiem for Komeda) from Ironside
  4. Ruby Rushton – Eleven Grapes from Ironside
  5. Perera Sextet – Flashover from Flashover
  6. Jackie McClean – Appointment in Ghana from Jackie’s Bag
  7. McCoy Tyner – Contemplation from The Real McCoy
  8. Mal Waldron and Marion Brown – Contemplation from Songs of Love & Regret

 

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