Playlist – 22 April 2015: Jazz/not jazz?

What is jazz? As with so many kinds of music, definitions are often fruitless. We prefer to think of a jazz sensibility – the way that jazz has always taken inspiration from the music around it. Tonight’s show features some of those influences and our video this week takes this to the next stage…

brasil bam bam bassWe began with the invocation that opens rapper Guru’s Jazzamataz recording and whilst we heard no further direct links between rap and jazz on the show, the influence of remix culture, Brian Eno and David Bowie’s Berlin phase, hip hop drumming, Brazilian rhythms, oriental modes, orchestral sounds, Greek folk music and West coast rock. It’s all here in this week’s Cosmic Jazz.

  1. Guru – Introduction from Jazzamataz Vol 1
  2. David Bowie – Subterraneans from Low
  3. Dylan Howe – Subterraneans from Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin
  4. Melanie De Biasio – The Flow (Hex remix) from No Deal Remixed
  5. Yusef Lateef – Plum Blossom (rework) from Brasil Bam Bam Bass
  6. Sonzeira – The Mystery of Man (4Hero remix) from Brasil Bam Bam Bass
  7. Charles Lloyd – Flying Over the Odra Valley from Wild Man Dance
  8. The New Jazz Orchestra – Dusk Fire from Le Dejouner Sur L’herbe
  9. Ed Motta – 1978 from AOR
  10. Quincy Jones – The Twitch from Quintessence
  11. Hadley Caliman – Cigar Eddie from Hadley Caliman

Video this week comes from Australian trio The Necks. Their recentthe-necks-open-cover_1 London appearance at the Village Underground in Shoreditch was one of the most exciting concerts I’ve ever attended. That may sound like a contradiction in terms when I add that their trademark sound is a long form minimalist melting pot of shimmering percussion, dark bass drones and endless ostinato piano figures.
About 20 minutes in (and still on the first piece) the music was literally breathtaking: from my edge of the stage vantage point I found myself having to consciously breathe, such was the hypnotic force generated by the extraordinary sounds from this piano, bass and drums trio. The music is simultaneously loud and quiet, soft and
hard, intense and tranquil. The only way is to understand these apparent contradictions is to listen for yourself – preferably live and from the front row!

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Playlist – 15 April 2015: Neil’s Back!

Neil returned this week with a selection of music that was, as always, eclectic and exciting. The show began with two new releases – the first from drummer Antonio Sanchez’s percussion soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film Birdman and the second from the acclaimed 2014 release by Alice Coltrane’s nephew Flying Lotus which features Herbie Hancock on keyboards. We continued with a pair of complementary releases which link two American artists – Flying Lotus You're DeadWarn Defever from the band His Name is Alive and Eliot Bergman from the band Nomo, both of whom tend to overlap on each other’s releases. Both tracks are on the outer edges of jazz, but Clark Terry is very much at its heart. The late trumpeter and flugelhorn player who died in February this year at the age of 94, was here heard on an African-influenced piece appropriately called Swahili from 1955. With a recording career in jazz of almost 70 years, Terry appeared on over 900 recordings. Both Miles Davis and Quincy Jones acknowledged steve turreTerry’s influence on their early careers and he later became involved in introducing thousands of young people to jazz through his own music camps. Trombonist Steve Turre was heard with CJ favourite Kenny Garrett on alto sax in the title cut from his excellent release Rainbow People and this was followed by the lead track from guitarist Pat Metheny’s 2014 album Kin.

The next artist came to my attention as the saxophonist on Santana’s album Caravanserai where he can be heard on the atmospheric opening track Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation and the closing Every Step of the Way. Here we caught him with a new re-release on the Boplicity label which showcases the powerful playing from his first self-titled album released in 1971.

corea trilogyWe ended the show this week with two great releases – the first from piano legend Chick Corea playing here with his trio and the second from Belgian vocalist Melanie Biasio whose closely miked vocals create a stunning audio recording – a recommended release.

  1. Antonio Sanchez – Internal War from Birdman OST
  2. Flying Lotus – Tesla from You’re Dead
  3. His Name is Alive – Capricorn Moon from Sweet Earth Flower
  4. Nomo – All the Stars from Ghost Rock
  5. Clark TerrySwahili from Jazz Meets Africa
  6. Steve Turre – Rainbow People from Rainbow People
  7. Pat Metheny – On Day One from Kin
  8. Hadley Caliman – Blues for L.L. from Hadley Caliman
  9. Chick Corea Trio – Recorda Me from Trilogy
  10. Melanie de Biasio – Sweet Darling Pain from No Deal

Video this week comes from Melanie de Biasio and another track from her extraordinary 2013 album No Deal.

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Playlist – 08 April 2015 featuring Olivia Castle

It is always good to support local artists and possibly even more so if it is a young artist trying to make her/his way in jazz. This is the case with the 22 year old Olivia Castle who was the guest on Cosmic Jazz this week. As she said to me herself, perhaps it is unusual for someone of her age to love the American Songbook jazz standards, but love them she does – and then she places her own interpretation on the tunes when she sings.

Listen to the show and find out what Olivia says about how to sing standards and put your own mark on them. She was very eloquent, also, in her assertion that the voice is an instrument – something we touched on a week or two back when we played the Janet Lawson Quintet. Olivia has an album available called Siren Song and she played five tracks from that album, accompanied by the evergreen Laurie Holloway on piano.  Laurie’s experience is well known – as musical director for Michael Parkinson’s chat shows, touring with Frank Sinatra and writing some of the most popular UK TV theme tunes. Check out Olivia’s website at have a look at her YouTube video below. Olivia is determined to go far and seems to be making all the right moves – watch out for her.

Olivia also played three of her favourite jazz vocal tunes. These included Nat King Cole (no surprise in that choice),  but maybe more so with trumpeter Chet Baker using that fragile, delicate voice to draw the listener in to his version of the jazz standard Time after Time (that’s the Cahn/Styne 1947 song, rather than Cindi Lauper’s tune which was so eloquently turned into a contemporary jazz standard by Miles Davis). Her final choice was American producer and vocalist Steve Tyrell, whose version of The Way You Look Tonight featured in Steve Martin’s film Father of the Bride.

The show was recorded on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billie Holiday, so it was appropriate to begin the show with her singing Strange Fruit, that haunting tune that held audiences in sustained and tearful attention when she sang it. There were also Cosmic Jazz favourites N’Dambi and Rachelle Ferrell, who incidentally has a version of My Funny Valentine, on her album First Instrument as does Olivia on Siren Song and that was one of her selections on the show . There was also Ursula Rucker rapping with Elements of Life. Is that jazz; who knows? Olivia and I agreed that jazz is open to many interpretations and that will always remain the philosophy of Cosmic Jazz.

  1. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit from Jazz Greats: Billie Holiday
  2. N’Dambi – Call Me from Tunin’ Up & Consignin’
  3. Rachelle Ferrell – Inchworm from First Instrument
  4. Olivia Castle – Cheek to Cheek from Siren Song
  5. Olivia Castle – Makin’ Whoopee from Siren Song
  6. Nat King Cole – Walking My Baby Back Home from Walking My Baby Back Home
  7. Chet Baker – Time After Time from The Complete Original Chet Baker Sings Sessions
  8. Olivia Castle – Over The Rainbow from Siren Song
  9. Olivia Castle – My Funny Valentine from Siren Song
  10. Elements Of Life – This Is Us (Roots Mix) from Eclipse
  11. Steve Tyrell – The Way You Look Tonight from I’ll Take Romance
  12. Olivia Castle – That Old Devil Called Love from Siren Song
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Playlist – 01 April 2015

Hit the MixCloud tab on this page to hear a varied show of mainly contemporary jazz, with a  few essential selections from the past.

The show began with a tune from bass player Richard Davis that can be found on the Soul Jazz Records compilation Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz In black fire new spirt USA 1957-82. Not only is this tune interesting, but so are the range of musicians that Richard Davis has played with. From jazz this includes Eric Dolphy, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin and Andrew Hill, but he was also much in demand in rock circles playing with Van Morrison (on the celebrated Astral Weeks album) and Laura Nyro among others. He has performed classical music too, in orchestras conducted by Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Gunther Schuller and Leonard Bernstein.  This is the sort of varied CV that must be hard to equal.

There was more music courtesy of Steve’s Jazz Sounds with Cosmic Jazz favourite the Swedish sax player Fredrik Kronkvist as well as more Polish jazz from the highly recommended Polin album by trumpeter Tomasz Stanko which features Ravi Coltrane as guest sax player and music from pianist Leszek Kulakowski and his Ensemble (nice to see that term used for a jazz group!).

FL_KE$HAAt last, there was space for one of the two tunes featuring vocalist Bilal on drummer Otis Brown III’s album The Thought Of You – although for me it was the powerful bass playing of Ben Williams and his interplay with trumpeter Kevon Harrold that caught my attention on this track.

Another jazz trio that we have featured is Mammal Hands, young musicians from Norwich with an unusual  format of drums, sax and piano. They are playing at the Norwich Arts Centre on Sunday 17 May as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and at the Fludyers Hotel, Felixstowe on Sunday 26 April. I love their album Animalia and it looks as if they have some new tunes which they are playing live. I cannot wait to see them in Felixstowe.

phronesis life to everythingIt seemed a good time to play again a tune from the latest Phronesis album Life to Everything. Even at a time when there are so many exciting jazz trios from the UK to the US and from Poland to Scandinavia, Phronesis are up there with the best.

Also at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival on Wednesday 20 May at the Theatre Royal Norwich is veteran South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim – a jazz great and now 80 year of age. So in preparation for seeing him in Norwich I played a tune from one of his soulful, spiritual albums African Marketplace which mixes jazz with the sounds of the South African townships.

To end this week’s CJ there was a glimpse of Chico Freeman from the second volume of Kev Beadle’s Private Collection, an excellent compilation that came out last year. Next week a young local jazz singer, Olivia Castle, will be on the show playing both her own music and some of her favourite jazz tracks.

  1. Richard Davis – Dealin’ from Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz In The USA 1957 – 82
  2. Fredrik Kronkvist – Cannonballism from Reflecting Time
  3. Tomasz Stanko – Margolit L from Polin
  4. Leszek Lulakowski Ensemble – Regi from Looking Ahead
  5. Otis Brown III feat. Bilal – The Thought Of You Pt 1 Truth from The Thought Of You
  6. Phronesis – Wings 2 The Mind from Life To Everything
  7. Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand when record produced) – Whoza Mtwana from African Marketplace
  8. Mammal Hands – Mansions Of Millions Of Years from Animalia
  9. Chico Freeman – Wilpan’s Walk from Kev Beadle presents Private Collection 2


Maiden Voyage is 50!

maiden voyageOn April 12 of this year, Herbie Hancock will turn 75. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Hancock is easily one of the most recognisable and accomplished musicians of his generation. In the course of his career, he has performed and recorded with many of the greatest jazz artists of the era, and created music that has become timeless. In early 1965, Herbie Hancock occupied an enviable position in the jazz world. He was the featured pianist in the Miles Davis Quintet, one of the most popular groups at the time, and he had his own recording contract with Blue Note records, the most famous jazz label of the era.

In his memoir, Possibilities, Hancock remembers that during this busy period he was in Los Angeles recording an album with Davis (later released as E.S.P), and making preparations for his next solo project for Blue Note. He received a call from an advertising agency looking for something jazzy and sophisticated to be used in an ad for men’s cologne, and despite his busy schedule, Hancock readily accepted the assignment. He already had music in mind for the spot – a basic melody and rhythmic pattern that first came to him during a plane ride to the West Coast. This melody turned out to be perfect for the ad.

A few months later, Hancock was back in New York working on his next solo recording. The opening tune of the record would be fashioned from the same basic melody and rhythms he had used for the commercial. Once the session was completed, he knew he had something special, but still didn’t have names for any of the songs that had been recorded. According to the pianist, as he was playing tapes from the session for his sister and some friends, one of them said It reminds me of water. The first song sounds like a maiden voyage. Hancock loved the suggestion, and with its soft rolling chords and mesmerising rhythmic pattern, the description seemed perfect for the opening tune. It would eventually become one of his most popular compositions, as well as the title for one of the iconic albums of the decade: Maiden Voyage.

Eventually, all five original tunes on the album were given names connected to the theme of a sea voyage or journey. In order, they are Maiden Voyage, The Eye of the Hurricane, Little One, Survival Of The Fittest and Dolphin Dance. Recorded on March 17, 1965 for Blue Note records, Maiden Voyage features saxophonist George Coleman, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. In the 50 years since the release of this legendary album, it has lost none of its ability to captivate listeners. In fact, new generations of fans continue to be drawn to Hancock’s music, and to this day it remains one of the best-selling titles in the Blue Note catalogue.

If you don’t know the album then now is the time to check it out. You won’t regret a moment spent listening to this classic jazz release – as timeless now as on its first release.

[with thanks to]

Playlist – 25 March 2015: some tough tunes

The theme of this week’s show, available on the MixCloud tab is Tough Tunes. This was inspired by the deep and demanding tunes that have started the show off for the last two weeks.

message from the tribeThe context I chose for the selection was either tough in the sense of being musically challenging or tough in terms of music with a powerful message, or in some cases, a combination of both these criteria. Such choices will always evoke a response as to what has been left out or, indeed, whether or not this collection of tunes can truly be described as ‘tough’. Posts in response on this blog will be welcome.

  1. Kenny Garrett – Welcome Earth Song from Seeds from the Underground
  2. Otis Brown III – Stages Of Thought from The Thought Of You
  3. Max Roach – Freedom Day from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
  4. John Coltrane – Africa (first version) from the Complete Africa Brass Sessions
  5. Tribe – What We Need from Message From The Tribe
  6. Michael Brecker – Two Blocks From The Edge from Two Blocks From The Edge
  7. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Live from Bitches Brew Live

coltrane africa brass

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Playlist – 18 March 2015: featuring Otis Brown III

I thought last week’s programme had a strong beginning, but the show this week may well match it in strength and intensity. The music is jazz you cannot afford to miss, so click that Mix Cloud tab and enjoy.

The show began with one of those heavy, tough tunes that representFL_KE$HA the best in contemporary jazz. Drummer Otis Brown’s record The Thought of You released on Blue Note was one of the best of 2014. The core band on the record includes pianist Robert Glasper and there are guest vocals from Bilal, Gretchen Parlato and Nikki Ross. The other tunes from the record that I played on the show included two of these vocalists: firstly, Parlato and then Ross, both of whom provided sensitive and moving vocal accompaniment. Otis Brown III has played with Cosmic Jazz favourites Esperanza Spalding, Joe Lovano, Terence Blanchard, Oliver Lake and Somi. Previously, Brown had been supported and encouraged by Donald Byrd, which helped to get him noticed. All of this looks like time well spent because this is one of those records that – unreservedly – CJ would say you must hear. You can also see Otis Brown III in this week’s YouTube video below.

black fire new spirtThe opening tune was followed by a blistering, fiery, righteous piece from Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee. This track was from a 2014 double CD release from Soul Jazz Records Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82. This is a compilation full of powerful messages from black jazz musicians in the USA during the Civil Rights struggles and beyond. It’s another essential record from CL label favourites Soul Jazz.

There was more Polish jazz with further tunes from veteran Ptaszyn Wroblewski and from Tomasz Stanko’s new album Polin. I noticed last week when I was looking up YouTube videos of Stanko that the person who posted wrote that initially they didn’t rate the trumpeter, but now they see what an excellent and important jazz musician he is. I think this represents my approach to him as well. The inclusion of Ravi Coltrane on the album is an important addition and, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to say this is another recommended and important record.janet lawson 5 The programme ended with a cheery invocation from Janet Lawson to Sunday Afternoon. It’s another example of a British record label – BBE this time – re-releasing wonderful, and sometimes forgotten, music from the USA.

  1. Otis Brown III – The Way (Truth and Life) from The Thought of You
  2. Archie Shepp & Jeanne Lee – Blase from Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82
  3. Plaszyn Wroblewski – Ten Plus Eight from Pierwsi Mistrowie
  4. Otis Brown III feat Gretchen Parlato – You’re Still The One from The Thought of You
  5. Otis Brown III feat Nikki Ross – I Am Your Song from The Thought of You
  6. Tomasz Stanko – Yankiel’s Lid from Polin
  7. The Janet Lawson Quintet – Sunday Afternoon from Janet Lawson Quintet
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Playlist – 11 March 2015: a Polish trio

Better late than never, this show is now available on the MixCloud tab. I think it was worth the wait.

The three tunes that started the show provided one of the very best openings to any Cosmic Jazz show ever! Once again they were from music available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds

A few years back at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival I went to the medieval church of St. Peter Mancroft in the heart of Norwich to listen to jazz, uncertain of how it would sound and feel in this beautiful church. The concert started as the evening sun set and its rays streamed through the church windows. The musician was the Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko with his quartet and his soaring, entrancing, clear trumpet sounds fitted perfectly both with the time of day and the spirituality of the building. How great, therefore, to start this show with the title tune Polin from his excellent new album, which has Ravi Coltrane playing as a guest musician.  This week’s YouTube video below is also from Stanko.

This was followed by another Polish musician, Ptaszyn Wroblews, who was born in 1936 and who played at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1958 that became immortalized through the film Jazz On A Summer’s Day. I played a long track Vision that was simply so good you need to hear it. Leszek Kulakowski made it a third piece of Polish jazz.

Janet Lawson is a singer who uses  her voice as an instrument and So High is a tune full of surprises up until the last beats. It’s from an album released last year on BBE records. There are Brazilian flavours in her music and so that became the inspiration to play Marcos Valle and Airto Moreira.

Abdullah Ibrahim was included as I had just learnt that he is playing up the road from me at this year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival on Wednesday 20 May at the Theatre Royal in Norwich. I shall be there.

I have been listening lately to a lot of music from the Black Jazz Record label and Kellee Patterson’s version of Maiden Voyage is one of the many tunes I have enjoyed.

Finally, having heard Ravi Coltrane playing with Tomasz Stanko it gave me the perfect opportunity to play a track each from his mother and father Alice and John.

  1. Tomasz Stanko – Polin from Polin
  2. Ptaszym Wroblewski – Vision from Moi Pierwsi Mistrzowie
  3. Leszek Kulakowski – Pure Joy from looking Ahead
  4. Janet Lawson Quintet – So High from The Janet Lawson Quintet
  5. Marcos Valle – Os Grilos from Blue Brazil 3
  6. Airto Moreira – Xibaba from Bossa Jazz Vol 1
  7. Abdullah Ibrahim – Anthem For The New Nation from African Marketplace
  8. Kellee Patterson – Maiden Voyage from Gilles Peterson’s Black Jazz Radio
  9. Alice Coltrane – Transcendence from Transcendence
  10. John Coltrane – Song Of The Underground Railroad from The Complete Africa Brass Sessions
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Playlist – 04 March 2015: European Jazz Special

We have mentioned and played on several occasions some of the excellent European jazz available from steve’ and the programme this week played a small selection of that jazz featuring musicians from Poland, Belgium, Sweden, France and Finland. The music was exciting and varied; find out for yourself via a click of the MixCloud tab on this page; you may discover music from outstanding musicians you have never heard of before.

Dariusz Herbasz set the tone on the opening tune Tenor’s Dance starting quietly and building up into increasingly tough sounds. Polish pianist Dominik Wania followed that pattern. He was trained at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston USA and has played with among others Tomasz Stanko, Lee Konitz, George Garzone, Nguyen Le, Don Byron and Eddie Henderson; quite a varied and  impressive list.

Igor Gehenot, a pianist from Belgium was next with his trio followed by Jerzy Malek a trumpeter from Poland with hard bop influences who is featured in this week’s YouTube clip below. We have played the Michal Wroblewski Trio before on Cosmic Jazz  and this current album I Remember is as good as the last one, City Album.

The Swedish saxophone player Jonas Kulhammer has also featured on the programme before and he too has an impressive and varied list of musicians he has played with – for example, Carlos Garnett, Mulatu Astatke and Chick Corea. The French pianist Florian Pellissier and his quintet have tunes and an album with quirky, tongue-in-cheek titles. The album was Biches Bleues and the track selected was J’ai du reve. The tune was quite quirky too – fun but serious at the same time.

Finally, there was a glimpse of music from the Finnish keyboard player Aapo Heininen who also has some interesting titles. The tune was Delusional Escape from the album A Daydream Between NightmaresDon’t let these titles put you off – Cosmic Jazz gives all this music a strong recommendation.

  1. Dariusz Herbasz – Tenor’s Dance from Joy of Friendship
  2. Dominik Wania – La Vallee des Cloches from Ravel
  3. Igor Gehenot Trio – Crush from Motion
  4. Jerzy Malek – Stalgia from Stalgia
  5. Michal Wroblewski Trio – Jarretiude from I Remember
  6. Jonas Kulhammer – Danish Blow from Gentlemen
  7. Florian Pellisier Quintet J’ai d’un Reve from Biches Bleues
  8. Aapo Heinonen – Delusional Escape from A Daydream Between Nightmares
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Playlist -18 February 2015: Blue Note records special

On the theory that it is better late than never I decided it was time to have a programme that featured Blue Note records. Click the Mixcloud tab to hear a range of Blue Note sounds.

Cassandra wilson2014 saw the 75th anniversary of the iconic jazz label founded in the USA by two German immigrants, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff. Between them they became involved in the making of records, many with that distinctive Blue Note hard bop sound. Alfred Lion was a record producer, Francis Wolff a wonderful jazz photographer and together with the recording techniques of Rudy van Gelder and the cool album designs of Reid Miles, they issued hundreds of outstanding records that are still at the heart of many jazz record collections.

The label continues today with the charismatic Don Was as blue note 7 - mosaicpresident. He’s been responsible for the personal selection of an ongoing reissue of classic Blue Note albums on vinyl – and very good they sound too, especially as many of the original pressings are now beyond the reach of most buyers. Of course, much of the Blue Note catalogue is available on CD too.

I tried in my record selection to reflect a range of Blue Note music from the early 1960s – including Joe Henderson, Lou Donaldson, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. These are all timeless Blue Note tunes. The Donald Byrd selection involved production input from the Mizell Brothers, who brought for some too much of a disco/funk influence. Personally, I love it.

maiden voyageJose James was chosen to reflect a contemporary sound. I could have chosen Gregory Porter or Robert Glasper. The Blue Note 7 were a group of distinguished musicians (including Ravi Coltrane and Nicholas Payton) assembled for the 70th anniversary of Blue Note to play tunes from the back catalogue. Female vocals were represented by a choice from the blues-influenced, pared down Blue Light ’til Dawn album from Cassandra Wilson and a track from the highly recommended Rachelle Ferrell album First Instrument on which her voice soars into the stratosphere. Rachelle Ferrell is also my video selection for the week (see below). She’s performing live with George Duke and special guest Patti Austin at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997.

  1. Cassandra Wilson – You Don’t Know What Love Is from Blue Light ’til Dawn
  2.  Joe Henderson – Escapade from Our Thing
  3. Jose James – Vanguard from No Beginning No End
  4. Lou Donaldson – Gravy Train from Gravy Train
  5. Rachelle Ferrell – With Every Breath I Take from First Instrument
  6. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage from Maiden Voyage
  7. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil from Speak No Evil
  8. The Blue Note 7 – The Outlaw from Mosaic
  9. Donald Byrd – Flight Time from Black Byrd
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