Week ending 19 January 2019: jazz vocalists old and new

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured tracks from some of the Jazzwise best of 2018 releases along with a focus on female vocalists, including the recently departed Nancy Wilson. We began with a little cracker of a track though – Harold Land’s In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark originally from his 1972 album Damisi, but now available on of one of two recent Mainstream Records compilations. This gem has Land on tenor sax, Oscar Brashear on trumpet, Buster Williams on bass and Ngudu on drums. Then we travelled in a more mellow direction – but rather controversially in that neither Derek nor I are convinced by the current approach being taken by one of our jazz heroes, Charles Lloyd. His Vanished Gardens may have secured the overall top spot in Jazzwise this year but we’re not so sure. It’s certainly a bold move: Lloyd is accompanied by vocalist Lucinda Williams on several of the tracks and Greg Liesz on pedal steel joins with guitarist Bill Frisell. The group have certainly integrated their sound since a first collaboration in 2016 but this melange of Lloyd’s post-Coltrane accents and Frisell’s Americana tendencies is still something of a curiosity. We shall keep listening…

Next up were vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant and Nancy Wilson. The former has a new album in which she is accompanied only by pianist Sullivan Fortner. Like Lloyd’s new direction, this is a bold move, but the quality of McLorin Salvant’s arrangements and the vocal risks she takes make her new album Windows an unalloyed success. Elsewhere on the record is a stunningly original take on West Side Story’s Somewhere and an equally adventurous reading of Dori Caymmi’s Obsession. We ended our show this week with a second track, Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks – made famous in this version by Stan Getz. McLorin Salvant presents it in the version with lyrics by Norma Winstone and there’s additional tenor sax from Melissa Aldana. For another interesting twist on this almost-standard, try this take on John McLaughlin’s underrated album The Promise. But perhaps the best interpretation (not unexpectedly) is that of pianist Bill Evans on the posthumous album You Must Believe in Spring.

Singer Nancy Wilson sadly died in December 2018. She recorded over 70 albums and won three Grammy awards, but she is still less well known than she should be. We presented two cuts from her celebrated 1962 collaboration with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet which featured a great take on the standard A Sleeping Bee.  Heretical it might be, but I love this more Broadway version from Barbra Streisand too!

Benin singer Angelique Kidjo performed her exciting new project in in London and elsewhere  in 2017 before releasing it on record last year. It’s her take on Remain in Light, Talking Heads’ seminal album from 1980, which showed the NY artpunk band stretching out with the help of producer Brian Eno and a bunch of additional musicians. We played the opening cut on both versions of the album – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On). If you don’t know the Talking Heads original, here it is… It’s a bonafide classic and a worthy listen for anyone who likes great music in any genre. What Kidjo has done is – to some extent –  reclaimed the African influences of the original, enhancing them with New York afrobeat band Antibalas and, on a couple of tracks, recruiting Tony Allen himself, the magisterial creator of afrobeat rhythms. It seemed appropriate then to follow this with a track from the septuagenarian drummer’s latest collaboration – this time with Detroit techno master Jeff Mills. Most of their new EP works really well and our featured track Seed is a good example.

We’ve enjoyed a lot of Indian-inflected music over the last year, and none more so that the superb live recording created by Sarathy Korwar that we’ve featured over the last few weeks. But back in the day, many jazz artists were exploring similar territory. A relatively rare 1974 release on ECM Records, Dave Liebman’s Drum Ode featured tabla from Badal Roy and Collin Walcott. We played Satya Dhwani (True Sound).

Another well received new release from 2018 was pianist Brad Mehldau’s new album Seymour Reads the Constitution!, the title apparently a reference to a Mehldau dream. The quality of performance is typically universally high with Mehldau’s usual trio collaborators Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard in fine form.

We ended the show with more from our featured vocalists Nancy Wilson and Cecile McLorin Salvant along with a new original composition from that Charles Lloyd and the Vanished Gardens album.

  1. Harold Land – In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark from Damisi/Innerpeace: Rare Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems
  2. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Monk’s Mood from Vanished Gardens
  3. Cecile McLorin Salvant – Visions from Windows
  4. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley – A Sleeping Bee from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
  5. Angelique Kidjo – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) from Remain in Light
  6. Tony Allen/ Jeff Mills – The Seed from Tomorrow Comes the Harvest
  7. Dave Liebman – Satya Dhwani (True Sound) from Drum Ode
  8. Brad Mehldau – Almost Like Being In Love from Seymour Reads the Constitution
  9. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley – The Masquerade is Over from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
  10. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Blues for Langston and La Rue from Vanished Gardens
  11. Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Peacocks from Windows

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 12 January 2019: Ali to Akinmusire

Neil returned to Singapore this week and so the show featured his music choices, including some brand new releases. First up was the duo of drummer Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe with their free jazz album from 1973, recently re-released and sampled on a new Soul Jazz compilation (see below). Ali was the drummer in John Coltrane’s last recordings and this rare release was clearly a re-examination of the landmark 1967 Coltrane album Interstellar Space in which Coltrane and Ali recorded extended duo tracks. Frank Lowe was an up and coming tenor saxophonist who had already recorded with Alice Coltrane on her World Galaxy album in 1972.  Whilst Lowe and Ali don’t rise to the free improvisational heights of the Coltrane recording, it’s an interesting experiment.

We then glided into a track from one of 2018’s best albums, Arve Henriksen’s The Height of the Reeds, which started as a commissioned work for the city of Hull, designated as Britain´s cultural capital 2017. Norwegian Henriksen, working with longtime fellow sound architects Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang, explored the longstanding seafaring relationship between Hull and Scandinavia using his muted trumpet to great atmospheric effect. The music was originally the companion to a sound walk that over 15,000 listeners accessed via headphones while walking across the Humber Bridge.

This year, Blue Note Records is 80 years old and one of its pioneer artists, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, is celebrating with a 3CD release on the label. But the package is even more ambitious in that it  includes a space-themed graphic novel written by Shorter and the screenwriter Monica Sly and with a powerful graphic treatment from Randy DuBurke.

In the 1960s, Shorter recorded seven albums in three years with the Miles Davis Quintet, several featuring his own enigmatic compositions. But Shorter’s current ensemble, with Brian Blade on drums, Danilo Pérez on piano, and John Patitucci on bass often focuses on deconstructing older compositions, including tunes that are now part of the jazz standard repertoire. The new release is called Emanon (or ‘Nowhere’ backwards) and includes two discs of live material from Shorter’s Barbican Hall concert in November 2016. I saw the band a year earlier and would judge that concert as one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. Emanon combines a four-part suite recorded with the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with the other two discs of the quartet playing those pieces and others live in London. The best of the music is undoubtedly these two live discs in which Shorter revisits The Three Marias from his Atlantis album and Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean from the quartet’s 2005 album, Beyond the Sound Barrier. Drummer Brian Blade’s role is reminiscent of the great Tony Williams from some of those Blue Note albums – first he flickers the sticks all over his kit and then injects more explosive cymbal work. Shorter slithers around on both tenor and soprano saxophones, combining that distinctive gruff tenor tones with the clear piping sound he introduced on the soprano in his years with Weather Report.

Shorter turned 85 in November but he has unfortunately recently had to cancel his appearance at a four night SFJazz Center event. We wish this most gifted of jazz artists well and hope that his proposed opera with Esperanza Spalding sees the light soon.

The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band was one of the most noteworthy European bands of its day. Between 1961 and 1972 they recorded fifteen albums, with the first being Jazz is Universal which featured the track Charon’s Ferry. A new release from keyboard player, DJ and producer Mark de Clive-Lowe is always welcome, even if it’s a compilation of some of his most recent projects. Leaving This Planet (2.0) was originally released in as a 5 track EP early 2011, but it’s now reissued via Bandcamp as a full length compilation of MdCL productions, collaborations, one-offs, B-sides and remixes. The new album Heritage will be released in early 2019.

One of our favourite new Polish bands (and there are many – see last week’s show for more) is EABS, or Electro-Acoustic Beats Sessions. Originating from Wroclaw in south west Poland, their musical influences come from far and wide. The band deconstructs hiphop and funk rhythms to create authentically new music, and the Puzzle Mixtape from 2014 fuses these varied influences into a sound that’s most like the recent work of self-proclaimed beat scientist Makaya McCraven, whose work is often featured on this show. Burgundy Whip features MED, a Californian rapper more at home with Madlib and Quasimoto. The Puzzle Mixtape is full of more exciting collaborations – check it out here on Bandcamp.

There’s always space for some great reggae on Cosmic Jazz and Protoje is a good example of where reggae is right now. With a high profile (including memorable collaborations with Chronixx) his two most recent releases are well worth exploring.

New York loft scene guitarist Marc Ribot is a veteran collaborator too. In the past, he’s worked with artists as varied as John Zorn, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello and his 2018 project is called Songs of Resistance 1942-2018. It’s a clear response to the election of Donald Trump and How to Walk in Freedom – one of the more jazz-influenced cuts on this most varied album – has some beautiful flute from Roy Nathanson. For something very different try Ribot’s work with his band The Young Philadelphians as they recast classic funk tracks into something very different – here’s their ragged live take on Van McCoy’s classic The Hustle.

Kitty Bey has recently been covered on Toshio Matsuura’s recent album but this week we went back to the original version from Byron Morris and his group Unity which features on a new Soul Jazz Records compilation along with the Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe piece that kicked off the show this week. This second Soul of A Nation album complements the first one, released to coincide with the London Tate Modern exhibition Soul of a Nation – Art in the Age of Black Power. This international exhibition is now at the Brooklyn Museum, New York and then travels to Los Angeles in 2019.

The new album features a number of important and ground-breaking African-American artists – The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry, Funkadelic, Gil Scott-Heron and more – alongside a host of lesser-known artists all of whom in the early 1970s were exploring new Afrocentric poly-rhythmical styles of music – radical jazz, street funk and proto-rap – while at the same time exploring the Black Power and civil-rights inspired notions of self-definition, self-respect and self-empowerment in their own lives. It’s a worthy successor to the first album and – as often with Soul Jazz Records – includes an excellent illustrated booklet.

Butcher Brown may be a young band from Richmond, Virginia but their roots go deep into a wide range of jazz styles. For their Afrokuti release from August last year, they bridged jazz and afrobeat to good effect, especially on the track we chose – Tales From the Shrine.

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has just released what is probably his most ambitious album yet. Working in the Mivos String Quartet with a rapper has to be a challenge but, on the opening track of Origami Harvest, Musire makes it work perfectly. By the end of this long track, Akinmusire, drummer Marcus Gilmore, and pianist Sam Harris, come together with rapper Kool A.D.’s sound.

  1. Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe – Exchange (Part II) from Duo Exchange/Soul of a Nation compilation
  2. Arve Henriksen – Pink Cherry Trees from The Height of the Reeds
  3. Wayne Shorter Quartet – Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean from Emanon
  4. Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band – Charon’s Ferry from
  5. Mark de Clive-Lowe – Eight from Leaving This Planet (2.0)
  6. EABS (feat. MED) – Burgundy Whip from The Puzzle Mixtape
  7. Protoje – A Matter of Time from A Matter of Time
  8. Marc Ribot – How To Walk in Freedom from Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
  9. Byron Morris and Unity – Kitty Bey from Blow Thru Your Mind/Soul of a Nation compilation
  10. Butcher Brown – Tales From the Shrine from Afrokuti: a Tribute to Fela
  11. Ambrose Akinmusire – a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie from Origami Harvest

Neil is listening to…

Christmas and New Year: new Polish jazz feature

We have always played a lot of Polish jazz on Cosmic Jazz. There is a seemingly never ending supply of new jazz coming out of the country, much of it on debut albums by young and emerging artists. In Steve’s Jazz Sounds we have an unique source in the UK where this exciting music can be obtained. Click our MixCloud tab on this page, listen to the music and you will want to hear more.

The show began with another tune from a long-established artist and one who is up there among our favourites. Trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has played with many leading artists from Poland and other European countries but also with US jazz musicians like Kenny Garrett, Dave Liebman and Billy Hart. His new album for 2018 is To Whom it May Concern – and it’s as good as ever. The track we chose to feature this week has the modal, spiritual qualities that we admire so much.

Sobiechowski is a composer and pianist who leads a quintet and is described as an experienced member of the young Polish jazz scene. In 2014 he received a six-month scholarship to study at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. The album Vital Music draws upon influences from both classical music and European jazz. The title of our choice this week – Global Warming – seemed to be particularly appropriate as the show was recorded while the international conference on climate change was taking place in Poland.

Dominik Kisiel is another young pianist and composer. The music on his album Exploration is all original and explores a soundscape which projects energy and cosmic energy”.

Lucasz Borowicki and his sextet believe in “improvised playfulness” and the music certainly has plenty of free improvisation and unexpected twists and turns. Our tune (An Indiscreet Case of Squareness) and the title of the album (Morbidezza of Decadence) certainly suggest something playful, different and unexpected. You will not be disappointed – it is! The leader is a Polish guitarist now based in Odense, Denmark.

Jacek Kochan is a drummer/composer whom we have played on the show before. He has also played with Dave Liebman as well as US artists Greg Osby, Eddie Henderson and Joey Calderoso. Tomasz Chyla leads a quintet and he is a violin player, the likes of which are still not easy to find in jazz.

There was some more exciting, improvised music from saxophone player/composer/arranger Irek Wojtczak whose album Play it Again is highly recommended. As well as being a working jazz musician he is also a tutor at the Gdansk Academy of Music and is yet another of these Polish musicians who have played with distinguished US musicians. In his case, trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist David Murray.

The show ends with a tune from the P.E. Quartet, another group of young, but experienced musicians who have been long-time friends. The band comprises tenor sax, guitar, double bass and drums.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Only Very Few People from To Whom it May Concern
  2. Mateusz Sobiechowski Quintet – Global Warming from Vital Music
  3. Dominik Kisiel Exploration Quartet – Exploration from Exploration
  4. Lucasz Borowicki Sextet – An Indiscreet Case of Squareness from Morbidezza of Decadence
  5. Jacek Kochan – Central Station from Ajee
  6. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Full Circle from Circles
  7. Irek Wojtczak – Weselny from Play it Again
  8. P.E. Quartet – Niewazne from Cokolwick

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 15 December 2018: from Poland to the UK

This week’s Cosmic Jazz starts in Poland with one of the long-established masters and then we test drive one of the many groups to make their debut in 2018. From that point on, it’s a UK-based show featuring some of the the many young British artists who have made such names for themselves in 2018.

As the programme went out live while the UN Climate Change Conference took place in Poland, it was fitting to start the show there. Polish Trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has been on the music scene for thirty years and we love his music here on Cosmic Jazz. His latest record To Whom It May Concern (as with many Polish records the album and song titles are in English) sees him collaborate with musicians that he has played with over the years. It’s an international gathering – there is the Hungarian sax player Victor Toth, veteran pianist Bobby Few  from the US and Dutch bassist Joris Teepe. The album was recorded in France and is Wojtasik’s twelfth so far. We look forward to more.

Steve of Steve’s Jazz Sounds – the place you need to go to find all this excellent music – recommends the debut album from Follow Dices. Called Eternal Colors, Steve has made it one of his albums of the year and so naturally we had to play a track. The band are another of the many musicians emerging onto record from Poland with an unusual violin, double bass, drums and piano quartet. It’s jazz but with clear influences from Polish folklore. The result is an effect not dissimilar to the Nordic feeling that many ECM records have and a a translation from the Follow Dices’ site describe the music as sharing an intimate story in the mountain landscape, away from everyday life and the hustle and bustle. It may sound pretentious, but is actually an apt description. Check it out for yourself.

It was then over to Neil and some of the music that has been on his radar in 2018. We featured two tunes from US-born Sarathy Korwar, a percussionist making waves in the London jazz scene. His 2018 album Your East is My West is a live recording that is undoubtedly one of our top 20 records from this annus mirabilis for jazz . Korwar’s first album Day To Day was released on Ninja Tune and featured field recordings of Sidi musicians – descendants of African migrants in India. We loved it – but this new 2CD recording from the Church of Sound in London features a double quintet (much like the great Joe Harriott’s IndoJazz Fusion classic album) and includes covers of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, John McLaughlin and Abdullah Ibrahim. We featured two tracks – an excellent take on McLaughlin’s Mind Ecology and a very different twist on the classic Pharoah Sanders tune The Creator Has a Master Plan. You can check out the original version of Mind Ecology from McLaughlin’s Shakti group here.

Korwar is currently mixing his sophomore album – an exploration of deep jazz, hip hop, electronics and his South Asian roots. It’s been recorded in London and Mumbai and features Mumbai rap artists – we can’t wait!

Our remaining choices come from that gene pool of great UK jazz artists who appear on each other’s albums. For example, bassist Daniel Casimir who was first up first with a track from his own solo release appears on the new album from Camilla George. His band includes guitarist Shirley Tetteh, who is also on the Camilla George album. We ended this sequence with a new 12inch from Joe Armon-Jones who has taken two tracks from his Starting Today album from this year and dubbed them out. It’s certainly a fluid and exciting scene in jazz right now.

  1. Piotr Wopjtasik – Backatcha from To Whom It May Concern
  2. Follow Dices – Eternal Colors from Eternal Colors
  3. Sarathy Korwar – Mind Ecology from Your East is My West
  4. Sarathy Korwar – The Creator has a Master Plan from Your East is My West
  5. Daniel Casimir – Escapee from Escapee
  6. Camilla George – Tappin’ the Turtle from The People Could Fly
  7. Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today in Dub from 12inch single

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 08 December 2018: chilled new beatz!

This week marks the return of Neil back from Singapore and live on the show with more of his carefully considered and impressive selections. Hit that MixCloud tab to hear some exciting new jazz and jazz-related music. Expect to be surprised!

The first tune this week though was Derek’s choice – more from Polish drummer/composer Jacek Kochan and his new release Ajee. He has resided in Poland, the US, Canada before returning to Poland. While in North America he played with an impressive range of musicians, including Greg Osby, Dave Liebman, Joey Calderazzo and Eddie Henderson. His new album has that unpredictable, even wild edge at times. It’s an album that demands to be noticed. As always with much of the excellent new music from Poland, we are indebted to Steve’s Jazz Sounds as our source.

From that point it was all Neil with some of the music he has been listening to in the last few weeks. Overall a chilled, forward looking vibe with Matthew Halsall up first. If there is a current jazz musician that you can instantly associate with the word cosmic, it’s Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall.  He’s had a long association with our Cosmic Jazz show and we’ve promoted his music for many years now. The reissue of his 12in single Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile is a homage to cosmic icon Alice Coltrane and very good it is too.

British keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones released his first album Starting Today earlier this year. We have played the tune Mollison Dub from it and there is now an extended 12in further dubbed out vocal version with Asheber. Armon-Jones records for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, an important source for the new British jazz. Also on the label are Glasgow’s Auntie Flo whose Cape Town Jam appears on this week’s show. Brian d’Souza is a central figure in the new strand of club music fusing electronic and world influences alongside the likes of Daphni, Four Tet, Romare, Sinkane and more. The new album Radio Highlife was released earlier this year. This may not be jazz but this club-based music is undoubtedly informed by jazz and other music from around the world.

EABS are in some ways a Polish equivalent of the new British wave. They are a septet of young musicians whose reach goes beyond that of traditional jazz audiences. They experiment, they cross musical genres and their sounds come not only from traditional instruments but also turntables. They are innovative, contemporary and interesting. The music this week comes from their excellent cassette tape/download release Puzzle Mixtape which features the widest range of collaborators EABS have yet deployed including a whole bunch of US artists – Jesse Boykins II, MED, Jeru The Damaja and Ben LaMar Gay. We selected Paulina and Natalia Przybysz (former Sistars).

Makaya McCraven is definitely still one of the musicians of the moment. He produces tunes that by jazz standards are short but have no need to be longer. He collaborates with musicians both in the US and the UK and this week’s choice comes from his excellent 2018 release Universal Beings.  Like all of his music, the basis is live recordings that are then remixed via Ableton, with McCraven doing what he calls fixing the music – editing, looping, pitching, layering, and ultimately producing the tracks. Universal Beings is an album recorded at four separate sessions in New York, Chicago, London and Los Angeles, and featuring an A-list of new jazz players from those hotbed cities – Brandee Younger, Tomeka Reid, Dezron Douglas, Joel Ross, Shabaka Hutchings, Junius Paul, Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry, Josh Johnson, Jeff Parker, Anna Butters, Carlos Niño and Miguel-Atwood Ferguson. It’s an impressive line up and the music is equally rewarding. We highly recommend this and McCraven’s other releases. For more information and a chance to listen to the music, checkout McCraven’s Bandcamp pages here.

The show this week featured several singles and EPs, as opposed to album tracks. The last three tunes were more examples of this. We began with Chip Wickham, a UK flautist and saxophonist who has toured with Matthew Halsall and others, and then Miles Davis from the lost Rubberband sessions EP released for this year’s Record Store Day in April. Finally, from East London, self-taught pianist and some time grime and hip-hop artist Alfa Mist working with Yussef Dayes and featuring some superb guitar work from Mansur Brown. There will be more from Brown’s own first solo album in upcoming shows.

  1. Jacek Kochan – Chinese Boomerang from Ajee
  2. Matthew Halsall – Blue Nile from Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile 12in single
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub vocal version (feat. Asheber) from 12in single
  4. Auntie Flo – Cape Town Jam from Radio Highlife
  5. EABS – Kawalek O Zyciu from EABS Puzzle Mixtape
  6. Makaya McCraven – Wise Man, Wiser Woman from Universal Beings
  7. Chip Wickham – Snake Eyes (Ishmael Ensemble remix) from Shamal Wind Remixed EP
  8. Miles Davis – Rubberband of Life from the Rubberband EP
  9. Yussef Dayes and Alfa Mist feat. Mansur Brown – Love Is the Message from single

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 01 December 2018: including UK artists Evelyn Laurie, Me & My Friends, Camilla George, Nat Birchall and Maisha

This week sees an emphasis on contemporary UK based artists with additional contributions from the US and Poland.  All exciting stuff available at the touch of the MixCloud tab (left).

Me and My Friends are a group who cross many boundaries – and that’s clearly evident on their new album High as the Sun to be released on 06 December via Split Shift Records. Their tune You Read My Mind provided a jaunty, lively opening to the show with its catchy riff on jazzy Ghanaian highlife. On this new album, the band reference other styles as well – Jamaican roots, soul, Afro-beat and the Ethiopique jazz of Mulatu Astatke. It was an uplifting and joyous way to start the show.

The sense of uplift continued with another tune from an artist based in Scotland. Evelyn Laurie has paid her dues over many years as an artist performing professionally around Scotland. Now she has put together her own self-produced album. She too has a love of many genres of music as seen in the interesting collection of songs from other artists to whom she’s given her own unique interpretations on the album  A Little Bit Of Me. The tune selected this week, though – I Love Your Smile – ione of her own compositions.

As usual, there were some music selections from Neil in Singapore, including this week the new release from UK alto sax player Camilla George titled The People Could Fly.  It’s a project based thematically around the Nigerian folk tales that George’s mother would read to her as a child. Of these, her favourite was one called The People Could Fly. In a recent interview, Camilla George commented: The cover illustration showed men and women flying over the cotton fields. The idea behind it was that some Africans were magical and had the ability to fly, but through long enslavement lost that ability to fly away. This image is bitter-sweet for me as it is a fantasy tale of suffering and is a powerful testament to the millions of slaves who never had the opportunity to fly away.” The new album is certainly a development from her first release Isang and extends her former quartet to include additional players. Many in the band are making quite a name for themselves in their own right,  Drummer Winston Clifford is pretty much a veteran of the scene but names such as Daniel Casimir on bass, Femi Koleoso on drums, Shirley Tetteh on guitar, Cherise Adams-Burnett on vocals and Sarah Tandy on piano/Rhodes should be familiar to regular listeners of Cosmic Jazz.

Up next on the show was a spiritual interlude featuring Nat Birchall’s Eastern (or perhaps Western depending on where you live) influenced A Prayer from the  excellent Cosmic Language album and Sarathy Korwar’s take on Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic Hajj from his superb new release Your East is My West. If you don’t known Ibrahim’s iconic original, check it out here. The late Hamiet Bluiett is on oboe and baritone saxophone, with the under-rated Carlos Ward on alto and the distinctive sounds of Don Cherry on his pocket trumpet.

We followed this with some interesting music from Poland.  Drummer Jacek Kochan is a veteran of the scene. Born in Poland, in the early 1980s he went to the US and then Canada before returning to Poland in 1995. There is an impressive list of US musicians with whom he has played and the tune Drop from the album Ajee is a free, unpredictable, exciting piece. Lukask Kokoszko leads a quartet of musicians from Krakow and Katowice in Poland that won the Grand Prix in an International Jazz Improvisation Competition.

Finally, another tune from current Cosmic Jazz favourites Maisha and their first full album There is a Place. Maisha are led by drummer Jake Long and on this recording the band also features – yes – Shirley Tetteh on guitar and Nubya Garcia on sax. This UK Jazz scene is certainly bringing out some versatile, world class jazz musicians.

  1. Me & My Friends – You Read My Mind from High as the Sun
  2. Evelyn Laurie – I Love Your Smile from A Little Bit Of Me
  3. Camilla George – The People Could Fly from The People Could Fly
  4. Camilla George – Carrying on the Runnings from The People Could Fly
  5. Nat Birchall – The Prayer For from Cosmic Language
  6. Sarathy Korwar – Hajj from Your East is my West
  7. Jacek Kochan – Drop from Ajee
  8. Lukask Kokoszko Quartet – Soulmate from New Challenge
  9. Maisha – Kaa from There is a Place

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to: 

  1. Gnonnas Pedro – Kandevie
  2. Africando feat Gnonnas Pedro – Azo N’Kplon
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Boogie Wonderland
  4. Yasmine Kyd – Mandalay
  5. James Francies – Sway

Week ending 24 November 2018: Coltrane’s heritage

Available to you this week at the touch of the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab – music from Poland, Cuba, the US and UK.

Poland is the first stop. We have said it before, but it is worth repeating that there is a wealth of new music coming out of Poland and much of it getting recognised beyond the borders of the country. Stockists such as Steve’s Jazz Sounds have done much to make easy access to the music possible. Many of the bands are young too and their influences are many and diverse – like many of the current jazz musicians we feature here on CJ. There are two examples this week. The Tubis Trio are led by pianist Maciej Tubis and Flashback (great album cover!) is their second release. The title tune comes complete with its own flashback moments... Monosies are a quintet led by guitarist/composer Lukasz Komala and Stories of the Gray City is their debut album. Do these tunes present further examples of what is often referred to as Polish melancholy? I am not sure – we leave that judgement to you.

From Cuba came more music this week from pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his new trio album Un Dia Cualquiera – which translates as Just another day. In some ways the music is firmly in the tradition of the piano/bass/drums trio tradition, but with this record the Cuban flourishes are integral to Lopez-Nussa’s sound. The music references back to a number of Cuban styles, including Yoruba chants, rumba, descarga and – on our choice this week – an old bolero-style classic from 1946. But don’t think that all this roots referencing has created a traditional album – far from it. It’s a joyous contemporary celebration of a deep musical heritage that is an ongoing musical exploration

Ok, so we all know John Coltrane was a genius – it’s a naive truism in jazz – and, of course, his influence is still with us through many of the younger generation of jazz soloists. But, listening again to the 2018 Impulse! release Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album, made me stop and simply say, yes – this music really does take us to another place. But what is it about Coltrane’s music that’s so influential?  Well, a good place to start might be with this Earworm analysis of Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps, surely an influence on pretty much every contemporary jazz musician. Why? Well, you don’t need to be a musician to understand the significance of the circle of fifths – a musical principle that guided ‘trane’s musical explorations – but the video will give you renewed sense of John Coltrane’s musical mastery. The image here is Coltrane’s own hand-drawn annotated circle of fifths – and check out Derek’s Coltrane listening choice below which features a graphic based on this musical principle.

All of this suggested it was a good time to play Coltrane again and follow this with a contemporary musician who has clearly been influenced by him. Coltrane’s classic quartet released the tune Tunji in 1962 as part of the album just called Coltrane. McCoy Tyner is on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It’s simply a masterpiece and you owe it to yourself to check out the complete version of this Impulse! album as it contains five alternate versions of the tune.

One of our CJ favourites, Manchester-based saxophonist Nat Birchall has just released his version of Tunji as a single. You don’t get the piano and bass features of the Coltrane version – rather Nat Birchall blows his sax all the way through on what is a much shorter version. But it stands up well – a praiseworthy achievement. Respect is due, as they say. You can still get the 7inch single or download Tunji along with Mode for Miles (also from the Coltrane album) from the ever-reliable Bandcamp site here. It’s also well worth seeking out all of Birchall’s work from his earliest albums like Akhenaten through to his most recent release Cosmic Language on the Jazzman label.

While in the groove of playing those influenced by Coltrane it seemed appropriate to feature something more from Kamasi Washington and his most recent release Heaven and Earth album. Washington has been championed in Cosmic Jazz for a good few years now, and his 2018 3CD release doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of lengthy, sometimes overblown tracks but the spiritual jazz legacy of Coltrane and others is undoubtedly there and Washington is a powerful force in the jazz new wave. Heaven and Earth is highly recommended as is The Epic from 2016 and – a really good place to start for Washington novices – the Harmony of Difference EP.

We ended the show with a tune by UK DJ/producer/musician Kaidi Tatham, formerly of the influential Bugz in the Attic collective. As producers and remixers to many in the London broken beat scene, the Bugz released a couple of excellent compilations of their work – both worth looking out for. Tatham is now a prolific artist and producer in his own right having worked with Amy Winehouse, Slum Village, Mulatu Astatke, Soul II Soul, Amp Fiddler, Macy Gray, King Britt and DJ Spinna, Like the two Tunji selections, I See What You See was one of Neil’s selections and – at last – it got an airing. It’s an example of one of those many tunes we play on the show, without apology, which stretch beyond the boundaries of what some might call jazz. We love it. Tatham’s newest EP (released in October 2018) can be found here – again on Bandcamp.

  1. Tubis Trio – Flashback from Flashback
  2. Monosies – Passages from Stories of the Gray City
  3. Harold Lopez-Nusa – Contigo en la Distancia from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane
  5. Nat Birchall – Tunji from single release
  6. Kamasi Washington – Vi Lua Vi Sol from Heaven and Earth
  7. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 November 2018: sounds unexpected

We like to think that by clicking the MixCloud tab and listening to Cosmic Jazz you will find something unexpected – including a few surprises for jazz lovers.

Something unexpected prompted an opener to the show from Sounds of the Unexpected. They are a Norwegian band led by a British sax player, Tim Lowerson. The sounds are exactly as they promise and you would find them difficult to categorise. Something unexpected for Cosmic Jazz, thoughhas occurred as a result of our contacts with Tim, namely a mention for the programme/site in a Norwegian magazine containing an article on Polish jazz. We are there and recommended as somewhere to find and listen to Polish jazz. We feel honoured and thanks to all concerned.

Similarly, we must acknowledge Steve’s Jazz Sounds as a source for music from Poland (and beyond) and we recommend a visit. Following this we had to play some Polish jazz: a new release from a trumpeter who has produced and directed at least nine albums. Piotr Schmidt has a PhD in music from Katowice and also received a scholarship to Kentucky. The album has a clever title Saxesful, amazing no-one has thought of that before and he is a trumpeter!

Harold Lopez-Nussa is a Havana-based pianist leading a trio which includes his younger brother. There will be more tracks from his album on the show, but there was a repeat from last week, as that show did not do justice to the tune.

We do like to promote small, independent labels and artists who may not get wide exposure. Birnam is a company based in Scotland that supports and provides access to recording for Scots and other artists. We received from them recently an album that vocalist Evelyn Laurie made and released herself. This is her first album and has been the culmination of many years of hard work. Her first singing appearance was at the age of four in Arbroath. She’s sung in many styles from folk, to choral to opera, but around twelve years ago began her training in vocal jazz and has since  performed around Scotland. The album A Little Bit Of Me has several delights and her version of the tune Close Your Eyes is a highlight. The vocals are warm and the backing instrumentation is pared down but still clear and definite with lovely percussion from Tom Gordon.

We have said so much on this site about the British group Maisha whose spiritual jazz with global influences is highly recommended to hear live. Their long-awaited first album There is a Place has now been released and is highly recommended to all our CJ listeners. The band is led by drummer Jake Long and includes percussion, sax, bass, guitar and keyboards – superb musicianship all round, but let’s single out Nubya Garcia on sax and Shirley Tetteh on guitar.

Neil has been persuading me for some time to play new music by Sarathy Korwar which he sent me. I love the title of the album My East is your West – and I love the music. This is music that honours a relatively long tradition of fusing of Indian classical music with the jazz tradition – and it really works. Recorded live at London’s Church Of Sound, the album is a homage to the great musicians of the 60s and 70s spiritual jazz movement, covering the likes of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Joe Henderson. Korwar plays alongside the UPAJ Collective, a group of highly versatile musicians who share Sarathy’s passion for jazz and Indian music and include CJ favourite Tamar Osborn on baritone sax. The featured tune this week is their version of Joe Henderson’s composition Earth, which originally featured on his excellent duo album with Alice Coltrane, The Elements. There will be more.

In a show of longish tunes there was still space for another tune from Anthony Joseph from his new album A Place in the Sun. Recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, and released on the excellent French label Heavenly Sweetness, there are really strong tunes and the opening cut Milligan (The Ocean) is one of them. UK jazzer Jason Yarde is on sax and labelmate Florian Pellissier is on keyboards.

  1. Sounds of the Unexpected – Sounds of the Unexpected from Sounds of the Unexpected
  2. Piotr Schmidt Quintet – Stella by Starlight from Saxesful
  3. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Une Tarde Cualquiera en Paris (to Bebo Valdes) from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. Evelyn Laurie – Close Your Eyes from A Little Bit of Me
  5. Maisha – Eaglehurst/The Palace from There is a Place
  6. Sorathy Korwar – Earth from Your East is My West
  7. Anthony Joseph – Milligan (The Ocean) from People of the Sun

Derek is listening to…..

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 10 November 2018: Caribbean links and Roy Hargrove

Music from the Caribbean features regularly in my listening choices selected each week for Cosmic Jazz – I love so much music from the many different styles on offer. Neil has also been a recent visitor to the Caribbean and has had his interest in the music refreshed and expanded. A click on the MixCloud tab this week will give you a few samples.

The new release People of the Sun by British/Trinidadian poet/musician/academic and novelist Anthony Joseph has attracted a lot of attention. He has a PhD in creative and life writing, lectures in creative writing at Birkbeck College, London and is also a performer and recording artist. This is his seventh album. It was recorded in Trinidad and Tobago for the French label Heavenly Sweetness, with French pianist, band leader and Cosmic Jazz favourite from the same label Florian Pelissier. UK sax player and Jazz Warriors alumnus, Jason Yarde (with St Lucian roots) features . He will be well known to many of our UK listeners and played on the Hexagonal McCoy Tyner/Bheki Mseleku project we  featured recently on the show. People of the Sun has some outstanding tunes, including He Was Trying, selected this week. Although some tunes disappoint, it’s an interesting and welcome fusion of words and music.

Saxophonist David Murray was on the show this week with his Cuban Ensemble playing Nat King Cole “En Espanol”. Murray handpicked his Cuban musicians, which he recorded with in Argentina, and then moved to Portugal to record string arrangement with the Sinfonieta of Sines. These give the album a surprisingly lush feel that clear seeks to emulate those Latin big bands of the 1940-50s . It’s an unusual combination, but – for the most part – it really works. Also from Cuba is pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa with his trio which includes  younger brother Ruy Adrain Lopez-Nussa. The album Un Dia Cualquiera is recorded on the excellent US label Motema (see more below) but Lopez-Nussa prefers to remain in Havana. “I need the kind of relaxed life that Havana gives me,” he states on his online biography. Cuban music is an essential part of the US jazz scene and jazz is infused through much of Cuban music. Lopez-Nussa did not get involved with jazz until he was 18 years old – “Jazz was scary” – but listening to Herbie Hancock changed that and then he found Cuba’s own jazz pianists Chucho Valdes and his father Bebo Valdes. The tune selected this week is dedicated to Bebo Valdes, another familiar name to Cosmic Jazz followers.

The Motema label appeared again because the November edition of the excellent UK magazine Jazzwise included a CD to celebrate 15 years of the Motema label. Very good it is too. We have featured many artists from this innovative  label over the years on Cosmic Jazz. Motema introduced Gregory Porter to the world with his first album, Water – and we all know what happened to him. Porter is on the compilation and so is David Murray with Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington, and the excellent Jameo Brown. Our choice came from vibes player Stefon Harris, whose new album Sonic Creed is his first since 2009. It’s one of those records which combines contemporary sounds with an acknowledgement of the history of jazz.

The Stefon Harris tune was co-written by Bobby Timmons who is actually mentioned in another tune on the show. This had to be played for a very sad reason. Poetry from the RH Factor was played in tribute to trumpeter Roy Hargrove who died recently at the age of just 49. Hargrove has left a substantial legacy and Neil’s listening choices this week all pay tribute to this most open mind. Poetry come from the first of Hargrove’s excellent three RH Factor EPs and features both Erykah Badu and Q Tip – a sign of Hargrove’s eclectic approach to music. Whether he was performing with one of the many neo-soul artists he recorded with or blowing a tender flugelhorn jazz ballad, Roy Hargrove was always a lyrical player. But despite his presence on neo-soul, hip hop and R&B projects, Hargrove remained in the mainstream jazz tradition: Sonny Rollins, who featured him on a tune called Young Roy in 1991 was a great admirer and many of Hargrove’s straight jazz releases are really excellent albums. A particular favourite here at CJ is his superb Earfood release from 2008 which features the lovely Strasbourg/St Denis (see below) – surely destined to become a jazz standard at some point. Hargrove was also generous as a mentor himself: among the younger musicians who responded to his death on social media was one of our current favourites, fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who wrote on Twitter “I don’t think I would be alive if I hadn’t met him when I did. I am extremely grateful I got to tell him as a grown man to his face.”

Also on CJ this week was drummer of the moment Makaya McCraven (who will be performing at the end of this month at the London Jazz Festival) and an important re-release from free jazz specialists The Lightmen. The title Free As You Wanna Be says it all and we shall hear more of this record in coming weeks. To wind things down there was the excellent Jamie Saft Quartet and a track from his recent Blue Dream album. Enjoy!

  1. Anthony Joseph – He Was Trying from People of the Sun
  2. The RH Factor – Poetry from Hard Groove
  3. Stefon Harris – Dat Dare from Blackout
  4. David Murray Cuban Ensemble – Black Nat from Plays Nat King Cole En Espanol
  5. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Una Tarde Cualqiera En Paris (to Bebo Valdes) from Un Dia Cualquiera
  6. Makaya McCraven feat. Dezron Douglas – Black Lion from Universal Beings
  7. The Lightmen – Free As You Wanna Be from Free As You Wanna Be
  8. The Jamie Saft Quartet – There’s A Lull In My life from Blue Dream

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 03 November 2018: the Black Renaissance annual appearance

Cosmic Jazz regulars who click the Mix-Cloud tab will know there are a few records that we love to play again and again. But there is only one that I vow to play at least once every calendar year and that is Black Renaissance, the band that was led by keyboard player Harry Whitaker – probably best known for his work with Roy Ayers. I have described before how amazing this tune is and so there’s no need to repeat myself. Just click the tab and listen for yourself to enjoy 23 minutes + of pure rapture and delight.

There were more selections from my colleague Neil this week, including an interesting tune from a new group – Spiral Deluxe. Assembled by Detroit techno guru and drummer Jeff Mills, Spiral Deluxe contains one standout track that alone is worth the price of entry. E=MC2 is a live-in-the-studio improvisation that pulses with life. Much of this is due to the bass playing of Kenji Hino – son of trumpeter Terumasa Hino. The EP Voodoo Magic was recorded in Paris in a two-day session. Recommended.

Soul in the Hole is a great album title and another of those excellent compilations from a British label (in this case BBE) and compiled by Sadar Bahar, self-professedly one of the World’s Deepest DJs, includes the excellent Tornado from sax player Sonny Stitt, featuring Eddie Russ on Rhodes piano. Excellent.

Neil has been championing the music of another drummer, Makaya McCraven, for a while now. He’s also been called a cutting-edge beat scientist and this certainly reflects the way his music is composed. Following on from the ‘cut and paste’ techniques of jazz pioneer producers like the great Teo Macero, McCraven assembles on his new 2CD Universal Beings album what he calls organic beat music using live recordings from four different venues, including one at the Total Refreshment Centre in London. McCraven was born in Paris, the son of a US jazz drummer and a Hungarian folk singer, but raised in Massachusetts and is now working out of Chicago. He is playing in the UK this month at the London Jazz Festival (LJF). The UK contributors include Nubya Garcia (who is on the bill with him at the LJF), Daniel Casimir and Ashley Henry. Very highly recommended. Tenor player and Sons of Kemet leader, Ashley Hutchings appears on the Chicago side.

Poland is never far away from the programme. This week the selection came from the Patrycjusz Gruszecki Trio and a debut album Something About. The leader is a trumpet/flugelhorn player supported here by drums and Hammond organ which definitely provides a swing/groove feel. The title tune on the show this week moves along very nicely – it’s the Hammond effect indeed.

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind & Spirit
  2. Spiral Deluxe – E=Mc2 from Voodoo Magic
  3. Sonny Stitt (feat. Eddie Russ) – Tornado from Sadar Bahar presents Soul in the Hole (A Journey into Funk/Soul/Boogie & Disco)
  4. Patrycjusz Druszecki Trio – Something About from Something About
  5. Makaya McCraven (feat. Joel Ross) – Young Genius from Universal Beings

Neil is listening to:

 

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