Week ending 07 December 2019: 50 years of ECM Records

Over this year, here on Cosmic Jazz we have been celebrating 80 years of Blue Note Records. Neil, however, has pointed out that there is another important celebration that we need to acknowledge – namely 50 years of ECM Records.  As a result, a significant proportion of this week’s programme consists selections from that rich catalogue.

To begin, though, I like to include references to places or music that I have seen and heard. Recently, I was in the beautiful city of Amersfoort in the Netherlands.  By accident we came across the amazing Awaze Ethiopisch Restaurant. Not only was the food excellent and different to what is available on most high streets and the service friendly and helpful, but there was Ethiopian music playing throughout. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to play an Anglo-Ethiopian collaboration with the father of Ethiopian jazz, Mulatu Astatke playing with British group the Heliocentrics. This intriguing project is a collaboration that really works as drummer Malcolm Catto ensures that Astatke’s compositions are not watered down or compromised with unnecessary dance grooves. Instead, the music frequently combine his own vibraphone and conga playing with the distinctive sound of the lyre-like Ethiopian krar.

ECM (or Editions of Contemporary Music) was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in 1969 and, as producer, Eicher has overseen  thousands of recording sessions – many with Norwegian recording engineer Jan Eric Kongshaug, who sadly died early in November this year. ECM albums have often been stereotyped: cool, minimalist covers often with a black or grey background, fine photography and a clean non-serifed typeface. This often appears to continue through to both the music itself and Kongshaug’s characteristic production values. But the variety of the music on the label belies this simplistic assessment with a truly eclectic range of artists whose cultural, geographical and ethnic diversity demonstrates a musical vision that knows few boundaries. Over the next few months we shall be featuring some of our favourite artists with tracks that will show the breadth of Eicher’s musical vision.

First up was someone from the label who needs no introduction to Cosmic Jazz followers, namely, Charles Lloyd. Why do we keep returning to his live album from 2008, Rabo de Nube? The answer is simple: it is so good and includes such fine musicians performing at the peak of their powers. There is the leader Charles Lloyd on tenor, flute and Hungarian tarogato,  now in his eighties and still going strong, on tenor and flute, the wonderful and original Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on double bass and Eric Harland on drums and percussion. Recorded live on 24 April 2007 at Theater Basel in Switzerland this is an essential album with one track in particular that we have featured many times on CJ – the stunning Booker’s Garden.  But it was time for a change and so we focused on the opening track Prometheus.

A cross-cultural exchange is provided by Tunisian-born oud player Anouar Brahem and his 2017 ECM record Blue Maqams. Brahem aimed to blend, as he had done previously, the sounds of the oud and the piano and to in his words attempt the impossible to associate this delicate instrumental combination with a real jazz rhythm section. For this section Brahem soon decided who he wanted – two jazz titans in UK-born Dave Holland on double bass and Jack DeJohnette from the US on drums. For the piano, it was Manfred Eicher who introduced him to the playing of British pianist Django Bates, with whom Eicher had recently made a record. Anouar Brahem had not come across Bates but on hearing his music  was soon to select him. The recorded outcome is an album that’s a perfect blend of Arabic and jazz sounds.

Next was a break from ECM with a tune from the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and an album he recorded for the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There are five superb tracks on this limited edition CD, featuring pianist David Virelles from was to become Stanko’s American quartet and guest Ravi Coltrane. But Stanko did, however, produce some of his finest work for ECM and we shall feature some of this output in upcoming shows. Stanko’s playing was always so clear and distinctive and I am pleased that I saw him once at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival playing as the sun set outside a medieval church in the centre of this ancient city.

At a subsequent Norfolk & Norwich Festival there was another memorable evening featuring an ECM artist.  The Norwegian drummer/percussionist Thomas Stronen has made over sixty albums but Time Is A Blind Guide must be up there as one of the very best. This is music of mesmerising delicacy, yet it has such strength and power. There’s an interesting range of instruments that includes UK musicians Kit Downes on piano and Lucy Railton on cello, as well as Haken Aase on violin, Ole Morton Vagan on double bass, Siv Oyunn Kjenstad and Steinar Mossige providing further percussion to support Stronen. This is one of our ECM favourites – highly recommended.

The show this week ended with Jan Garbarek, an ECM stalwart from the outset and one of the most prolific recording artists for the label. His 1987 album All Those Born With Wings is unusual in that it’s a completely solo performance with Garbarek playing all instruments. We shall be returning to Garbarek in future programmes as we explore Manfred Eicher’s musical vision, including releases on his New Music imprint that introduced listeners to many new contemporary composers including Steve Reich and Arvo Part.

One significant feature of the label is Eicher’s championing of vinyl and CD – until recently, the only way to hear an ECM recording was to acquire it in a hard copy format. But last year, pretty much the entire catalogue appeared on streaming services – a necessary counter to the unauthorised distribution of ECM titles on YouTube and file-sharing sites. Here on CJ, we’d suggest that the best way to listen to this most diverse of catalogues is still through either physical medium. Put on an ECM record or load the CD, wait for that characteristic five seconds before the music begins and revel in the crystalline sounds of an Erik Kongshaug production.

  1. Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics – Anglo-Ethiopian Suite from Inspiration, Information
  2. Charles Lloyd – Prometheus from Rabo de Nube
  3. Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams from Blue Maqams
  4. Tomasz Stanko – Yankiel’s Lid from Polin
  5. Thomas Stronen – The Stone Carriers from Time Is A Blind Guide
  6. Jan Garbarek – All Those Born With Wings (First Piece) from All Those Born With Wings

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 November 2019: jazz in the 1970s

Full service is resumed! Cosmic Jazz is back on the Mixcloud tab once more. Tonight’s show was a pre-record and – as is so often the case in these circumstances – we take a journey back to some great tunes from the past.

A good place to start is the 1970s – often seen as a decade of watered down jazz subject to the corrupting influences of soul, funk and disco. The reality is far from this. Whilst some artists clearly ‘sold out’ and sought to popularise their music through a tokenistic application of these outside influences, other musicians created new sounds whilst remaining in the tradition. From that decade much music has been re-released, often on independent British labels. It’s not always the well-known names that are featured either. A case in point is keyboard player Walter Bishop Jr. Raised in Harlem, Bishop played with the likes of Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others. From the early 60s he led his own band and recorded two albums for the Black Jazz label in the early 1970s. After a spell teaching in Los Angeles he returned to New York and signed with Muse records for whom he made five albums between 1975-79. The Soul Village album of 1977 was one of these. Re-released in 2014 by the superb Soul Brother Records in the UK, Soul Turnaround was one of four tunes on the album that he had previously recorded on Black Jazz.

Saxophone elder Gary Bartz has raised his profile in recent years, thanks to some excellent recordings and an appearance at this year’s inaugural We Out Here festival where he shared the stage with British newcomers and CJ favourites Maisha. Back again in the UK this month, he headlined at the London Jazz Festival and is apparently currently in the studio with Maisha. We await the results with interest! In the 1970s Bartz was recording with Miles Davis – most notably on the Live Evil album. The full 6CD Cellar Door set has Bartz throughout and, whilst it’s not the most indispensable of the Davis box sets, it’s worth a listen. Separately at this time, Bartz was recording with his Ntu Troop band on Milestone Records – including two excellent Harlem Bush Music albums, now available on one BGP label compilation. Celebrated vocalist Andy Bey is featured on Celestial Blues, a tune he recorded again on his Experience and Judgment album. You can compare it here.

The Black Jazz label has its own story to tell. For a label that lasted only a little over five years, it has a sizeable footprint in the world of jazz. Founded by Oakland based pianist and producer Gene Russell, the Black Jazz imprint stood apart from bland middle of the road jazz styles and aligned firmly to the rise of black consciousness and the electric experimentations of Miles Davis and others.

More than that, Black Jazz records of the 1970s were all issued in a surround-sound Quadraphonic version and so the recording quality was often much higher than for other independent labels. Gene Russell died young in 1981 and left the catalogue in limbo but tracks were already being adopted by UK acid jazzers and hip-hop musicians in the early ’90s before the whole catalogue was reissued by Japanese speciality label Snow Dog Records between 2012-13. Label compilations from Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish (which we have sourced for this week’s CJ selection) have spread the word and you’ll find a great selection of ten excellent Black Jazz albums in this Vinyl Factory feature.

From the Peterson record Black Jazz Radio, we have chosen a Henry Franklin track and from Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature there is a tune from Rudolph Johnson. Both compilations are essential listening.

It is easy in jazz to leave out the greatest and try to spread the word of those that have been forgotten or overlooked, but here on Cosmic Jazz  we try to do both. There is always time for John Coltrane and we try to represent the many phases of his work. The album Stellar Regions was recorded in February 1967 and so is among Coltrane’s last recordings. Not released until 1995, it showcases some of the more lyrical music Coltrane was making in his later years. We chose the fire and fury of the alternate take of Sun Star with Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Our illustration is a take on the album cover by Danish artist K Pakula.

The show ended with more from a DJ compilation and music released originally on the Muse label. Colin Curtis has been based in the North-West of England but has travelled far beyond and has been playing what the title of his 2CD compilation calls Jazz Dance Fusion for many years. The final two tunes came from Disc One of this release and featured firstly guitarist Ron Eschete , with Carol Eschete on vocals and then percussionist Emmanuel K. Rahim and his band The Kahliqs.

  1. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Turnaround from Soul Turnaround
  2. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Celestial Blues from Harlem Bush Music
  3. Henry Franklin – Beauty & the Electric Tub from Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio
  4. Rudolph Johnson – Time & Space from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
  5. John Coltrane – Sun Star (Alternate Take) from Stellar Regions
  6. Ron Eschete – To Let You Know from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Emmanuel Rahim & the Kahliqs – Spirit of Truth from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Derek is listening to… 

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 23 November 2019: in the tradition?

All is back to normal and this week’s Cosmic Jazz is available via the Mixcloud tab on this site. It is a good one too. It starts with one of our favourites, and a tune that unashamedly I have played before. Piotr Wojtasik is an experienced trumpeter from Poland who has released several albums and if you follow CJ you know where to get them – Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Please do check out this great site for jazz sounds from continental Europe and beyond that often even we here at CJ haven’t heard of. The Wojtasik track Stay in Time of Freedom provided a joyous and uplifting opening to our show this week with its use of two strong vocalists whose delivery matches the power of the lyrics.

To keep the uptempo mood going I veered from my planned selection to slip in another Cosmic Jazz favourite from the Japanese band Sleep Walker. Led by Masato Nakamura on saxophones and Hajime Yoshizawa on keyboards, Sleep Walker were a quartet with a high profile in the 2000s. Their music still sounds fresh and vital today.

From a little further back in our jazz history comes the music of The Tribe,  a legendary collective of jazz musicians based in Detroit and co-founded in 1971 by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin. They released their music independently and, like many of the African-American artists of the time, were ignored by major labels. The good news is that British label Strut has just released on all formats an excellent new compilation called Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014. Also appearing on these recordings are CJ favourites Harold McKinney (piano) and Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) whose own excellent albums have been re-released on UK label SoulJazz. If you have not encountered their music so far then this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with some excellent and accessible tunes. Further reading on The Tribe comes via this excellent New York Times article from 26 November.

Jamie Saft  is a wonderful pianist, keyboardist, composer and producer. Previous credits have included work with the Beastie Boys, the B-52s, John Zorn, John Anderson, Laurie Anderson, Donovan, Antony & the Johnsons and more. He has also scored award-winning films. In addition to edgy new sounds he has also produced some more straight ahead jazz with his quartet. These are exquisite, superbly recorded jazz albums, almost traditional in sound, but with a contemporary feel. Hidden Corners has a spiritual jazz vibe and is highly recommended.

We continued with more new music from Neil’s recent purchases, firstly from British solo multi-instrumentalist Emma Jean Thackeray who is definitely one to watch. Recording with Makaya McCraven has given her music that edgy contemporary sound and the track you heard has recently been issued as a 12in single. Trumpeter Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah has been around rather longer but his new and ninth album Ancestral Recall include more tracks that epitomise his concept of ‘stretch music’ – an attempt not to replace the jazz tradition but acknowledge the contemporary movements in the music that include hip hop beats but also hark back to the great traditions of jazz. This may not be surprising as aTunde Adjuah’s grandfather was the legendary New Orleans big chief Donald Harrison Snr and his uncle the saxophonist Donald Harrison Jnr.  The beautiful melody Songs She Never Heard uses the enhanced tonal range of Tunde Adjuah’s customised trumpet and the album as a whole may be the best realisation so far of his ‘stretch music’ concept.

Excellent jazz music is emerging from all parts of the UK. One of the leaders from the north west of England is saxophonist Nat Birchall and, what’s more, like the presenters of this programme, he shares a passion for both jazz and reggae. His latest offering is a tribute to one of his jazz heroes, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef – who is something of an insider hero to many, including us here at CJ. Birchall’s version of Love Theme from Spartacus is an excellent example of how to bring something new to a tune recorded by many jazz artists. Compare it with this beautiful solo version from pianist Bill Evans. Moreover, Nat Birchall can also be found on the tune from UK drummer Andy Hay on his tribute album to Lonnie Liston Smith. Hay has featured as the drummer in Birchall’s previous quintet, best heard on the albums Creation and Live at Larissa. The latter has just been reissued and you can order it from Birchall’s Bandcamp site.

The show ends with more great music from Sarathy Korwar. We heavily featured Korwar’s live UK recording My East is Your West and he takes his eclecticism a step further with his new recording More Arriving. Recorded over two and a half years in India and the UK, More Arriving draws on the nascent rap scenes of Mumbai and New Delhi, incorporating spoken word and Korwar’s own Indian classical and jazz instrumentation. With this album, Korwar expands his politicised narrative to cover the wider diaspora. “This is a modern brown record. The kind of record that a contemporary Indian living in the UK for the past 10 years would make,” he notes. “This is what Indian music sounds like to me right now.” Check out the complete album on Korwar’s Bandcamp site.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in Time of Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  2. Sleep Walker – Nomadic Tribe from Sleep Walker
  3. Tribe – Hometown from Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990 – 2014
  4. Jamie Saft – Positive Way from Hidden Corners
  5. Emma-Jean Thackeray – Too Shy (12″ version) from Too Shy/Run ‘Dem
  6. Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah feat. Logan Richardson – Songs She Never Heard from Ancestral Recall
  7. The Nat Birchall Quartet – Love Theme from Spartacus from The Storyteller – a Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef
  8. Andy Hay – Lost Lonnie from Many Rivers
  9. Sarathy Korwar – City of Words from More Arriving

Neil is listening to…

 

 

 

Week ending 16 November 2019: classic Latin + more!

This week was a pre-recorded show which usually means some classic tunes from the past – and this week was no exception. We are still having some technical problems, so to access the show you should head to IO Radio Mixcloud and scroll down to the show dated 13 November 2019.

The show began in riotous and joyous style courtesy of Eddie Palmieri – pianist, New York born but of Puerto Rican heritage and part of the roster of great Latin artists who featured on the Fania Records label. Palmieri was a key figure in the music of East Harlem’s El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) district. He formed his own bands – La Perfecta and and La Perfecta II – and often played with others in the vibrant Latin scene in New York at the time. Now aged 85 he continues to record, releasing the Full Circle album in 2018. Check out the complete album here on Bandcamp.

Reeds player Carlos Garnett in 1974 was on a Journey to Enlightenment. I guess many people were at that time. It would seem that Caribbean Sun was one of the places for him to seek out for this enlightenment as he sings on the tune. Actually, it has to be said that whilst his reed playing is good, his vocals leave much to be desired. Forget that and listen to the music and long-time collaborator Hubert Eaves’ contribution on piano.

Argentinian sax player Gato Barbieri was someone else who’s unmistakable tone on tenor sax could be found both in some blistering jazz and some very soupy, saccharine middle of the road moments. It’s best to start with his music on the great Impulse! label and enjoy that fiery, explosive sound that’s balanced with a warm embrace – much like a good South American coffee! Our tune this week comes from the brilliant Chapter One: Latin America album and – like all four of the Chapter albums – is highly recommended. For earlier Barbieri really on form with a top notch band (Lonnie Liston Smith, John Abercrombie, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, Roy Haynes) try this cut from the excellent Under Fire album. For a taste of Barbieri in later A&M mode (with records produced by Herb Alpert) try this discofied over the top take on Ravel’s Bolero… You’ll either love or hate it! Fun fact: Barbieri was the inspiration for the Muppets character Zoot in the house band Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem! Check out the characteristic fedora that features on many Barbieri album covers and is worn by the Muppet sax player Zoot.

Here on Cosmic Jazz, we continue to celebrate eighty years of wonderful music from the Blue Note Record label. In doing this we are trying to represent the variety of music that has been released on the label – and beside the US, Blue Note also made many visits to Brazil, releasing released three compilations of what they called Blue Brazil, with the sub-title of Blue Note in a Latin Groove, the third of which was released in 1980. Os Borges were a group from Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais Brazil.

A compilation series we have featured widely on the programme has been the Jazzman series Spiritual Jazz. Volume 8 went to Japan, from which you can hear Sadao Watanabe plying with Charlie Mariano, whose Ragam Sinthubairavi sounds as if they had been on a trip to India. Look out for Volume 10 which features artists from the Prestige label and includes the superb Dorian from the aforementioned Roy Haynes.

Another essential compilation for Cosmic Jazz lovers is Black Fire! New Spirits! with the sub – title Radical & Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82. It includes a wonderful piece from 1974 by saxophonist and composer Tyrone Washington. Once again, we find Hubert Eaves on piano. He recorded a solo album for Blue Note in 1967 and worked as a sideman with Horace Silver, Larry Young and Stanley Cowell, In 1973 and 1974 he released two more solo albums for small independent labels but soon after these he stopped playing music and turned to religion.

Finally we go In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark from the album Back to You from tenor player Harold Land who features on another excellent Japanese Jazz compilation, J Jazz Volume 2: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-82. Harold Land is something of an enigma in jazz, staring with a hard bop tone but evolving into a much darker sound that (unlike some of his contemporaries) never went into fusion. Search out his Timeless label albums recorded with a stellar group including Cedar Walton on piano, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Buster Williams on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. To hear much of this band in an earlier incarnation, listen to the  beautiful title track from the Peace-Maker album on Cadet (1967).

  1. Eddie Palmieri – Palo Pa Rumba from Palo Pa Rumba
  2. Carlos Garnett – Caribbean Sun from Journey to Enlightenment
  3. Gato Barbieri – Encontros from Chapter One: Latin America
  4. Os Borges – Em Familia from Blue Brazil 3
  5. Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano – Ragam Sinthubairavi from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  6. Tyrone Washington – Universal Spiritual Revolt from Black Fire! New Sprits!
  7. Harold Land – In the Back, In the Corner, In The Dark from Back to You

Week ending 09 November 2019: great sax players and more

This week’s show is available on Mixcloud but not in the usual place. A technical problem means that instead you’ll find it on the IO Radio Mixcloud stream. Just scroll down to the day it was recorded – 06/11/2019 – and click the tab.

The show begins with our Blue Note celebration of the week – this time from one of our very favourite tenor saxophonists, the magnificent Joe Henderson. The album Our Thing dates from 1963 and we played the title track. As the Reid Miles designed cover indicates, the band include Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Andrew Hill on piano, Eddie Khan on bass and Pete LaRoca on drums. Add in Alfred Lion on production, Rudy Van Gelder on recording duties at his famed Englewood Cliffs studio and a great Francis Wolff photo on the cover and you have all the ingredients for an epic Blue Note record. Label aficionados should note that the first ever UK pop up Blue Note store has opened in London’s Coal Drops Yard – celebrating the jazz resurgence and timed to coincide with the EFG London Jazz Festival. The full programme is as excellent and innovative as usual – and those wishing to get a flavour of Joe Henderson’s music could check out the UK’s Denys Baptiste as he celebrates the tenor saxophonist on 23 November at the 606 Club in the capital.

Last week there was a tune from the new Binker Golding album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible FeathersIt is an album we admire, so two further tunes appeared this week will help you judge for yourself. Exquisite She-Green is, if you have seen some of Goldings work with Moses Boyd, a remarkably restrained and calm piece. Fluorescent Black is, however, more up-tempo. The double bass of Daniel Casimir comes through impressively and Binker Golding provides a strong lead on tenor.

Also on the Binker Golding album playing piano is Joe Armon-Jones, another seemingly ever-present on the burgeoning jazz scene coming out of London. His second album has been released entitled Turn To Clear View, his playing and the musical styles are very different here. From the Golding acoustic piano to electric, from pure jazz to a fusion of genres. Interesting, challenging and at times uncomfortable music for today.

Fat-Suit from Scotland cross musical genres too with a wide variety of instruments and musicians. The tune The Crane and the Crow opens by demonstrating some of their rock influences. If that’s not your thing, however, stay with it because there follows some lovely, sensitive trumpet playing. The album Waifs and Strays was recorded live in Drygate Brewery Glasgow over four days and the expansive ambition of the project comes across in each tune.

Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate from Poland have featured regularly on the show over the last month or two with tunes from their album Don’t Hesitate.  This is another ambitious project. The tune Heart of Darkness – as the whole album –  is full of experimental, haunting sounds. It is music that is unpredictable and makes clever use of electronics, a sonic syndicate as their title suggests – thoroughly contemporary. If you like this music go to Steve’s Jazz Sounds where you can buy this, more Polish music and much else besides.

Coming in at the end of this week’s show is UK trumpeter Laura Jurd with a radical new album that’s miles away from what she has delivered previously.  Jumping In may not even be jazz – it comes across as closer to something that American composer Aaron Copland might have created.

  1. Joe Henderson – Our Thing from Our Thing
  2. Binker Golding – Exquisite She-Green from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  3. Binker Golding – Fluorescent Black from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Gnawa Sweet from Turn to Clear View
  5. Fat-Suit – The Crane & The Cow from Waifs and Strays
  6. Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate – Heart of Darkness from Don’t Hesitate
  7. Laura Jurd – Jumping In from Stepping Back, Jumping In

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

 

Week ending 02 November 2019: with Binker Golding and Joe Armon-Jones

Another Cosmic Jazz show is right here on the MixCloud tab with more new music, another incredible Blue Note celebration and trips to Poland and Brazil.

I first came across tenor sax player Binker Golding through his work with drummer Moses Boyd. Indeed, I saw them deliver a blistering set in a vintage Spiegeltent at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in 2018. The show this week opens with a great tune from their second ambitious double album collaboration, but Golding now has a solo album released – Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers. The title is a mouthful (and, like – Sarah Tandy’s recent release – in part inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson) but the album is a tight, straightahead jazz release – and very good it is too. Released on the London-based Gearbox label, it’s less like other albums from the many of the younger artists on the London scene, in that it’s a relatively restrained jazz quartet album – Golding on tenor sax, Joe Armon-Jones on piano, Daniel Casimir on bass and Sam Jones on drums. The production is typical superb – Gearbox have developed a reputation for clean, weighty pressings mastered on analogue equipment with a correspondingly natural sound. I love the album and shall play more in future shows.

On the new album, Armon-Jones plays some beautiful acoustic piano, including on the track for this week’s show. Often, though, he can be found playing electric piano as on his new album Turn To Clear View where his playing is more rooted in  a classic Fender Rhodes style and further breaks the conventions of jazz with rappers and dub stylings. Armon-Jones recently appeared on the BBC Radio 3 jazz  programme J to Z and identified some of the artists and tunes that he admires and have influenced him. If you know anything of her work beyond the hit single Forget Me Nots, it is no surprise he selected Patrice Rushen and the tune Haw-Right Now. Kevin le Gendre sums it up perfectly in the current edition of Echoes the Black Music Monthly Magazine in a review of a recently issued Patrice Rushen compilation Remind Me. He says how Forget Me Nots  was “an irresistible piece of youth club  romance” that focused on her vocals but that later her audience “would discover she was also a pianist. More to the point she could really play”. You can hear all her keyboard skills and recognise how Armon-Jones could be impressed on that classic tune Haw-Right Now. And – as an added bonus – it features jazz legend Joe Henderson on tenor sax. We recommend the whole album from which it comes (Prelusion) and that later Elektra Records compilation Remind Me, on the ever-reliable Strut Records.

The show continued with another Blue Note superlative, as we celebrate 80 years of this iconic label. In 1990, the vocalist/pianist/composer Rachelle Ferrell delivered an album of mainly standards, though with two self-penned compositions. Sadly, nothing I have heard from her since has reached the same heights, but this album has to be celebrated. She displays an incredible vocal range – as illustrated on this week’s tune Autumn Leaves – and is accompanied by an outstanding and  impressive group of musicians: Wayne Shorter on tenor, Michel Petrucciani on piano, Stanley Clarke on bass, Lenny White on drums, and Pete Levin and Gil Goldstein on synthesiser. We say from time to time (although sparingly) that some records are simply must-have albums. This one is right up there with some of our other recommendations.

It was now time to feature musicians from beyond the UK and USA with, firstly, a return to Poland and the Pawel Palchowski Quintet. Palchowski is a trumpeter leading a band that includes young musicians and the outstanding drummer Arek Skolik. They have an album of original compositions that captures the mood of the 1950s and 1960s while still sounding fresh and contemporary.

Our final tune came from Brazil and was a remix of a stand-out tune from the album by vocalist Ive Mendes. Her first self titled album from 2002 is a chilled classic and worth investigating if you can find it. With production by Robin Millar, it’s not surprising that the music has more than a touch of Sade’s classic songs – and that’s not a bad thing! This time, however, we played the Sao Benitez remix from the excellent Mr. Bongo Records series Brazilian Beats. All these albums are now available in a budget priced box set – find it here on Discogs.

  1. Binker & Moses – At the Feet of the Mountain Forever from Journey to the Mountain Forever
  2. Binker Golding – Strange – Beautiful – Remembered from Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – The Leo & Aquarius feat. Jehst from Turn to Clear View
  4. Patrice Rushen – Haw-Right Now from Prelusion
  5. Rachelle Ferrell – Autumn Leaves from First Instrument
  6. Pawel Palchowski Quintet – Speed Limit from Old-Fashioned Mood
  7. Ive Mendes – A Beira Mar (Sao Benitez Lush mix) from Brazilian Beats 3

Neil is listening to..

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 26 October 2019: an improvised show…

The show this week was a varied and interesting one – but not quite as planned. Sometimes things don’t always go to plan at Cosmic Jazz and the carefully uploaded music – well, just isn’t there.  This was one of those weeks. Luckily, there is always great music still to play – and putting it together for the show just becomes an interesting and improvisatory challenge. And – maybe – that’s exactly what jazz is.

Erik Truffaz, born in Belgium but resident in Paris, is a trumpeter who has always moved on and tried to do things differently. He has included rap artists and other guests on his records, he has varied the size of his band but he always plays with a clear tone, that is  at times almost minimalist and with a sense of cool space. I have seen him live and he plays with the minimum of fuss. Check him out.

Build An Ark is a Los Angeles based creative music ensemble formed as an immediate peace action following the events of 9/11. The band is lead by producer Carlos Niño and vocalist Dwight Trible and includes members such as Tribe Records founder Phil Ranelin, Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra elder Nate Morgan and Adam Rudolph, co-founder of the Pharoahs. The music is cosmic in feel and sound that’s just right for this programme, and the tune selected for our show this week has an appropriate message for this times – How Do We End All This Madness?

I’m currently sorting and re-visiting compilations in my collection and there are a few I have ignored for some time. One was compiled by DJ/producer Mr. Scruff. His Big Chill Classics is a diverse collection and – unexpectedly – includes the Mike Westbrook tune which was on last week’s show. For this week’s show, I chose one of the jazzier pieces from Japan’s Nubukazu Takemura with vocals in French from Nadja.

New artist Mariama was born in Sierra Leone, brought up in Germany and is now resident in Paris, France. Her version of the 1948 Nat King Cole hit Nature Boy from her album Love, Sweat & Tears appeared on the show last week, but as a current favourite it received another airing. This is certainly a version that adds something to the original, not least through the inclusion of kora among the musical backing.

A co-director of the Mariama album was Manuel Schlindwein. As it happens, he has worked with Akua Naru, a hip hop artist with jazz credentials we love here on the show. The tune Nag Champa (referring to an Indian incense mix) makes reference to  Nina Simone, but Akua Naru has also played with trumpeter Christian Scott and I first came across her when I heard the excellent British jazz pianist Sarah Tandy mention that she had worked with her.

We then featured two Japanese jazz favourites from Sleep Walker and Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. The latter was one of our favourite groups back in the day and, whilst they are still recording, their glory days were undoubtedly in the noughties with albums including their first in 2005, Pimp Sessions. This featured the singles Waltz for Goddess and their cover of Bobby Watson’s A Wheel Within a Wheel and the band were extensively promoted by Gilles Peterson in the UK. The now dormant band Sleep Walker featured Masato Nakamura (sax), Hajime Yoshizawa (piano), Kiyoshi Ikeda (bass) and Tomokazu Sugimoto (drums) and they released a first self-titled album in 2003. Their 2004 album The Voyage even included a guest slot from Pharoah Sanders.

We ended with a full airing this week of the Roy Ayers tune A Rose for Cindy from his Stoned Soul Picnic album. This was the second of three albums recorded for Atlantic in the late 1960s with all featuring some outstanding playing from Ayers and his top notch band including Charles Tolliver, Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Huberts Laws, Ron Carter and Grady Tate – whew! Check out this record and the other two releases in this series, Virgo Vibes (1967) and Daddy Bug (1969).

We ended with part of Azanyah’s The One. We’ll do it justice in coming weeks.

  1. Erik Truffaz Quartet – Doni, Doni Pt 2 from Doni, Doni
  2. Build An Ark – How Do We End All This Madness from Love Pt.1
  3. Nobukazu Takemura – Serene from Mr. Scruff’s Big Chill
  4. Mariama – Nature Boy from Love, Sweat & Tears
  5. Akua Naru – Nag Champa from Live & Aflame
  6. Soil & Pimp Sessions – Avalanche from Pimp Master
  7. Sleep Walker – Brotherhood from Into the Sun
  8. Roy Ayers – A Rose for Cindy from Stoned Soul Picnic
  9. Azanyah – The One from The One

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 19 October 2019: beauty is a rare thing

Sometimes Cosmic Jazz is full of music that’s rousing, awakening and even loud. By contrast this week there was much that was more gentle, more acoustic, but certainly not easy listening. Ornette Coleman recorded a haunting tune called Beauty is a Rare Thing on his 1961 album This is Our Music – but we could say that beauty is certainly not a rare thing in jazz.

Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate from Poland have provided previous shows with some rousing moments, including one show opener that was free, loud and very complex. Although this week’s tune was certainly from their quieter side, it was definitely not a ballad. It freed up towards the end too – and the title Hate No More is an important title for our times.

The loudest (and heaviest) the show got was courtesy of Fat-Suit from Scotland. On their own they are a large band with horns, fiddles, guitars, keyboards, drums and percussion but on their fourth album Waifs & Strays they are further augmented by a 10-piece string section, extra brass and guest soloists. This 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 are proud that Cosmic Jazz acts as a showcase for British jazz. This has included some of the newly-emerged bands of younger musicians(including Fat-Suit) and many of the musicians from the current scenes in London, Manchester, Bristol and beyond. We have not forgotten, however some of the older pioneers of the British jazz scene and there are few musicians 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 top UK jazz musicians of the time, including Kenny Wheeler, Henry Lowther, Norma Winstone, Alan Skidmore and John Marshall. It was written with the assistance of an Arts Council bursary and in nine parts traces the sounds of London – the metropolis in question. It ends in Part Nine with the calm of the night and a solo from Barbadian-born 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. The tune has the same elegant spareness of other favourites in the Cosmic Jazz canon – Bill Evans’ Peace Piece, Miles Davis’s Blue in Green and Stan Tracy’s essential Starless and Bible Black. 

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 tribute we think.

There was another contribution to our ongoing 80 years of Blue Note this week –  and it was a unique contribution to the catalogue. Vocalist Cassandra Wilson came up in 1993 with an acoustic pared-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 guitar and Charlie Burnham on violin. This may be an acoustic minimum but it’s still strong and soulful in impact.

A vocalist currently making waves is  the improbably fortunately named 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 backed by some fine musicians.

Mariama is another artist we have recently 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 Eden Ahbez standard Nature Boy. This perennial favourite was a big hit for Nat King Cole in 1948 and jazz artists have interpreted it ever since. Mariama’s fresh take 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, but was only in 2018 that he released his first solo album. Blue Dream is on his own Rare Noise Records but 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 Saft on piano and the sound is definitely contemporary. Saft’s new album Hidden Corners goes for a more obviously spiritual jazz vibe, but is also recommended here at CJ.

This week’s show ended with an excerpt from the Sun Ra Arkestra now led by the ever-youthful 95 year old Marshall Allen. The band continue to have a hectic touring schedule and the reissuing of archive Sun Ra recordings continues apace. Song for the Sun may not be a classic Arkestra album (it’s too ‘straight’ for that) but the title tune is well worth a listen.

  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 and the Clear Air from Contemplation
  8. Jamie Saft – Blue Dream from Blue Dream
  9. Sun Ra Arkestra – Song for the Sun from Song for the 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…

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio