Playlist – 07 October 2015: Brasilia!

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a typical Cosmic Jazz programme featuring a variety of jazz and jazz-related styles.

After spending an enjoyable and inspiring weekend at the Flipside Festival at Snape Maltings Suffolk listening to live Latin music and playing records in a marquee with Alex, Russell and Susan I was in the mood for more. As a result, the programme begins with three Brazilian tunes. Firstly, a tune I heard played live over the weekend, Upa Neguinho – but this time from from Luiz Arruida Paes, who was known as the Joe Loss of his generation. For those of you ed motta's record collection 02not old enough to understand this, this is someone making big band orchestrations of well-known hits. Ed Motta followed and as Alex played a tune of his on Sunday afternoon it received rapturous praise from one of the many people who commented positively on our selections. I know Neil is an Ed Motta admirer too.  I am told that Motta, as well as being a distinguished musician, has a huge record collection – good man! [Neil notes: it’s true! Check out the photo above…]. Thirdly came a 1965 classic from Silvio Cezar and Mereilles, featured as a track on one of the excellent Blue Brazil compilations.

I could not resist returning to Ahmad Jamal and the wonderful Live in Marciac. This week featured Dynamo, one of Jamal’s own compositions. It is a strong tune, with Jamal leading the way through bold, strong and loud playing of the piano. Veteran Jamal is now in his mid-eighties but is still showing the way forward. What an incredible atmosphere it must have been at the festival in South-West France on that August evening. Check for yourself in the YouTube clip below of the group playing Blue Moon which I featured on last week’s show.

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We followed this with another live track from a jazz veteran – this time, Azar Lawrence who has four decades of playing behind him including time with Miles Davis in the 1970s. You can hear him on  1970s Milestone albums from McCoy Tyner, Harry Whitaker’s classic Black Renaissance and his own releases.

The Cosmic Jazz Essential this week came from Carmen Lundy, an ever-present voold devil mooncalist on the show. You’re Not In Love from 1997 is simply a wonderful tune sung in a relaxed, calming and sensuous way by Carmen Lundy. The whole presentation is controlled – even, for instance, the flugelhorn solo from Randy Brecker – yet it still possesses depth and meaning. Harry Whitaker played synth and he’ll feature shortly on a CJ Essential tune.

Three contrasting pieces followed from groups led by jazz pianists . Firstly the Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila playing flowing piano runs with his trio from a 2011 recording. He was born in Finland, studied in Brussels and was signed to Warners as a bright prospect until they gave up on jazz. After some time in less prominence he signed to the British jazz record label Edition. Currently, he is the pianist in the group Drifter who have a 2015 release Flow, also released on Edition. Check him out – he’s definitely fast becoming a Cosmic Jazz favourite.

The other two pianists featured are from Poland. Kamil Pietrowicz  featured in a calm, spiritual piece (see YouTube video below) while Pavel Kaczmarczy played in a strong, forthright manner – shades of Ahmad Jamal perhaps?

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Finally, last year saw the release for the first time of the full Saxophonist John Coltranerecording of a concert John Coltrane gave on 11 November 1966 at Temple University Philadelphia in front of 700 people. Offering is the title track of the album. The CD notes record that “it was a ninety minute session of sustained intensity: experimental, frenzied at times, and deeply spiritual”. Coltrane was accompanied by Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Rashied Ali and Sonny Johnson.

  1. Luiz Arruda Paes – Upa Neguinho from Blue Brazil 1
  2. Ed Motta – Ondas Sonoras from AOR
  3. Sivio Cezar & Mereilles – Sambo Do Carioco from Blue Brazil 2
  4. Ahmad Jamal – Dynamo from Live in Marciac
  5. Azar Lawrence – Spirit Night from The Seeker
  6. Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Old Devil Moon
  7. Alexi Tuomarila Trio – Pearl from Seven Hills
  8. Kamil Pietrowicz – Hymn 1 from Birth
  9. Pavel Kaczmarczy – Something Personal from Something Personal
  10. John Coltrane – Offering from Offering Live at Temple University

Playlist – 30 September 2015: Jamal live!

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured new music from jazz artists old and young. Touch the Mixcloud tab and enjoy the music.

jamal marciacThe programme started with two tunes from Ahmad Jamal and the newly released CD and DVD Live in Marciac. This was recorded at the Marciac Jazz Festival on 5 August 2014 and is now available on Jazz Village records, distributed through Harmonia Mundi. The line-up is an expanded trio with Ahmad Jamal on piano, Reginald Veal on double bass, Herlin Riley on drums and percussionist Manolo Badrena, who appeared on Weather Report’s classic 1977 album Heavy WeatherThe first tune, Sunday Afternoon, begins with a fine double bass solo from Veal but also noticeable on the recording is the imaginative percussion of Badrena. Ahmad Jamal may be in his mid-eighties but his strident, upfront playing sounds as strong as ever. Apparently, he is one of the few musicians that received unqualified praise from Miles Davis. There has been some criticism of Jamal’s over-reliance on standards, but when you hear what he can do with Blue Moon, this seems mere carping.

Our CJ Essential this week was the title track from Wayne Shorter’s Blue Note classic album Speak No Evil. This should be anwayne shorter speak no evil essential part of anyone’s jazz collection – Richard Cook and Brian Morton in their Penguin Guide to Jazz call this “by far Shorter’s most satisfying record” and justly so. We followed this with a repeat play of the Jelle van Giel Group’s tune The Truth. Van Giel is a young Belgian drummer whose septet plays music with jazz, rock and African influences. Tenor sax player Krzysztof Urbanski hails from Poland (unsurprisingly) but is now resident in Yorkshire – hence the title of the tune we played from his excellent album History of Tomorrow, recorded here with some fine British musicians included Stuart McCallum on guitar. You can see him here with his group performing the track Life.

chick corea light as a featherIn a nod to Cosmic Jazz’s live appearances at Snape’s upcoming Flipside Festival was the Brazilian flavoured title track Light as Feather from Chick Corea’s Return to Forever group. This was the second outing for the first incarnation of a group that would gradually evolve into the jazzrock powerhouse you can experience here. On this album, however, they retain strong Brazilian influences through the presence of Airto Moreira on percussion and Flora Purim on vocals.

Finally CJ ended with an new(ish) release that we’ll return to in forthcoming shows – the track Seven Hills from Finnish pianist Alex Toumarila’s debut release on Edition Records.

  1. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac
  2. Ahmad Jamal – Blue Moon from Live in Marciac
  3. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil from Speak No Evil
  4. Jelle van Giel Group – The Truth – Song for Everyone
  5. Krzysztof Urbanski and Urban Jazz Society – Yorkshire Tales Chapter III from History of Tomorrow
  6. Chick Corea – Light as a Feather from Return to Forever
  7. Alexi Tuomarila Trio – Seven Hills from Seven Hills


New recommended site – UK vibe

nat-birchall_ukvibe_01Cosmic Jazz
has always had a sidebar list of recommended sites – and it’s time to add a new one to the list. UK Vibe has just uploaded an excellent review of the new Nat Birchall release Invocations but the site is home to some great in-depth features too.

Particularly recommended is the extended (and I really mean extended) piece on Keith Jarrett at 70. Read it and check out the videos too. If you’re not yet convinced by Jarrett, have a look and listen to his live reading of the classic God Bless the Child  performed here with his Standards Trio – Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums.

Playlist – 23 September 2015: Charles Lloyd and more

More new jazz from Scandinavia on tonight’s show along with a touch of afrobeat influenced jazz and another Cosmic Jazz essential track.

This week’s CJ essential is the most played Charles Lloyd track on the
imagesshow. We’ve featured it many times since its release in 2008 and we’ll continue to – it’s that good. For us, the standout track is Booker’s Garden, Lloyd’s tribute to his childhood friend and classmate, the trumpeter Booker Little who died tragically young at the age of 23. Little was a player who straddled the hard bop and free jazz worlds not unlike Lloyd – he appeared on Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now and Eric Dolphy’s Five Spot club albums, for example.

Rabo de Nube was recorded in Basel during the band’s European tour in 2007 and with the best incarnation of Lloyd’s groups on the ECM label. The first key element is pianist Jason Moran whose very physical, percussive style with style is all over this music. There’s the hard-blowing Prometheus, on which Lloyd and Moran are pushed towards free jazz by Eric Harland’s exceptional drumming. Sweet Georgia Bright has been recorded by Lloyd several times but never like this. Here it showcases Lloyd’s powerful tenor playing whereas our featured cut Booker’s Garden is a workout for some beautifully lyrical alto flute. But partway through, the groove deepens and in comes Moran with a breathtaking piano solo – you can actually feel him making decisions about where to go.  But this isn’t to forget the contribution from bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer Harland who hold the whole together with a pulsating backbeat. Listen to the track on Rabo de Nube if you can but if not, check out this different but similarly powerful version recorded in 2011. Here’s the groove cuts in at 8:00 and although the whole track is both more restrained and reflective (and incomplete) than the recorded version there’s still a tangible energy. The four remaining long tracks on the album are all equally good, with the title track a version of Cuban balladeer Silvio Rodriguez’s famous song . Fore more remarkable interplay between Lloyd and his quartet listen to Ramanujun – or, indeed any of the other cuts on this outstanding album.

It appears that – like many jazz artists who have earned their bus passes – Lloyd’s sense of adventure is greater than ever and, as he nears his eighth decade, he shows no signs of slowing down. He was a highlight at the 2014 London Jazz Festival and this year he played the WOMAD Festival here in the UK. Catch him if you can.

We have featured Kamasi Washington since the release of his first
the epic4album, the 3CD monster The Epic, and in May we provided a link to the launch concert in Los Angeles. Washington plays at this year’s London Jazz Festival in November but the gig is already sold out – so for a two hour taste of what you’ll be missing, here’s that Jazz Night in America show from earlier this year.

  1. Jachna and Buhl – Miles Space from Synthomatic
  2. John Lumpkin – The Conqueror from The Devotion
  3. Joanna Koncharczy – More from More
  4. Stockholm Jazz Orchestra – The Oracle  from Today
  5. Charles Lloyd – Booker’s Garden from Rabo de Nube
  6. Kamil Pitrowicz Quintet – Birth from Birth
  7. Jimi Tenor and Tony Allen – Three Continents from Inspiration Information

Playlist – 16 September 2015: extend the knowledge…

jarrett belongingThis week’s CJ is the last from Neil for a while. Check it out via the MixCloud tab.

We opened with Gaucho – Steely Dan’s cheeky reworking of Keith Jarrett’s ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours. Of course, the Dan had form on this kind of thing: they pinched the opening piano motif from Horace Silver’s Song for My Father to create Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – and got away with it. But you don’t mess with Keith Jarrett – he won the law suit that resulted.

Joe Henderson is, of course, a CJ hero. We’ve featured his albums brecker talessince Cosmic Jazz began in 2008 and he’s been an unexpected success when CJ goes live. This week’s tune came from his 1975 album Canyon Lady. Recorded a couple of years earlier, the music is a surprisingly adventurous mix with a strong Latin feel on most tracks. Las Palmas – yes, there’s no doubt it’s another CJ Essential. And – as we said on the show this week – it doesn’t matter where you start with Joe Henderson, whether it’s his first and appropriately titled Page One album on Blue Note (1963) or Lush Life, his tribute to the compositions of Billy Strayhorn (1992), you will strike gold. Did he record a bad album? There’s a simple answer – no. It seemed appropriate to follow with some Michael Brecker, an equally impassioned tenor player whose album Tales from the Hudson has a very strong line up including Pat Metheny on guitars and Jack de Johnette on drums. African Skies has the added bonus of McCoy Tyner on piano.

Shigeto is the stage name of Zachary Shigeto Saginaw, an American electronic musician originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. His music is clearly influenced by jazz as is much of the Heavenly Sweetness compilation from which this track comes. You can see him live in concert here. This year he collaborated with trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummer Mark Guiliana to create High Risk – a  jazz/electronica album that works.

don sebeskyDJ Patrick Forge introduced Don Sebesky’s Giant Box album to me through his excellent online radio show for MiSoul. You can subscribe on Podomatic. This typically expansive kitchen sink production for CTI throws in a mix of Stravinsky and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (Firebird/Birds of Fire) and covers of Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull) and Jimmy Webb/the Bible (Psalm 150).  You heard Paul Desmond on alto on our featured track, Song to a Seagull from Joni’s debut release – not Joe Farrell on tenor as I claimed in the programme!

Stevie Wonder is rightly popular with jazz artists. His credentials are stevie talking bookimpressive: he often works jazz classics into his live shows (All Blues, Giant Steps, Spain) and many of his own songs have become jazz standards. His debut album was called The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, and as a child star he released an instrumental album of harmonica solos. “His jazz chops have been pretty damn good ever since I first saw him play,” says the pianist Chick Corea, “and they seem to get better. He could comfortably sit in with any number of jazz outfits.” Herbie Hancock apparently agrees. “He’s one pop star that pretty much every jazz musician has to take seriously,” he has said. “Both as an intelligent songwriter, but also as a gifted soloist, on piano and harmonica. Having jammed with him many times, I knowBreak_Stuff he has the most incredible set of ears of any musician I’ve ever worked with. He listens to what you play and he responds with amazing agility.” We featured Vijay Iyer’s take on the prescient Big Brother from Talking Book. Listen to the original here (with some powerful images too) for a reminder that sometimes things don’t change…

We ended with a real contrast – some classic Ornette Coleman (with bassist Charlie Haden very much to the fore in this recording) and then Los Angeles DJ Rick Holmes’ litany of jazz artists (and more) set to music by Roy Ayers. As I played this, I hadn’t realised that Holmes died in August this year. Pass the information; extend the knowledge…

  1. Steely Dan – Gaucho from Gaucho
  2. Keith Jarrett – ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours from Belonging
  3. Joe Henderson – Las Palmas from Canyon Lady
  4. Michael Brecker – African Skies from Tales from the Hudson
  5. Shigeto – Self Compassion from Digging the Blogosphere
  6. Don Sebesky – Song to a Seagull from Giant Box
  7. Vijay Iyer – Big Brother from Historicity
  8. Ornette Coleman – Law Years from the Complete Science Fiction
  9. Rick Holmes – Remember to Remember from Life:Styles (4 Hero compilation)

Pianist Vijay Iyer continues to entend his range. I hear more emotion in his music than of late – and it sounds all the better for it. His latest release for ECM – Break Stuff – is  a trio recording without the immediate touchstones of awesome cover readings like Human Nature and The Star of a Story (on his ACT album Accelerando) but it certainly repays repeated listening. You can see Iyer’s full set with his innovative trio live at Jazz Baltica 2011 below:

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I’m back in Beijing as you read this but I’ll be contributing to the CJ blog as usual and listening each week to (probably) the widest range of improvised music you’ll find on any radio show. Join me.


Playlist – 09 September 2015: worldwide sounds

This week’s Cosmic Jazz features the usual eclectic range of improvised music from around the world – Mali, China, Jamaica, the USA and homegrown spiritual jazz from the UK.

in c maliNeil notes: This was the first of my final two shows for a while – but I’ll be back later in the year. This week began with a short edit from the new arrangement of Terry Riley’s classic work In C, a piece which has influenced a whole generation of contemporary composers. In C turned 50 years old in 2014 and this new interpretation reinvents this iconic composition with a host of Malian kora players and percussionists along with guests from Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project including producer Brian Eno and Andi Toma from the group Mouse on Mars.

Dou Wei is a Beijing multi-instrumentalist who has been involved in dou weia wide range of musical genres from heavy metal to ambient but on this 2CD live release he explores contemporary jazz. Sadly, you probably won’t be able to track this one down anywhere outside Beijing. It seemed appropriate to follow this with the very special 2015 album from drummer and producer Emanative (Nick Woodmansey) whose British jazz supergroup features a whole host of big names – Jessica Lauren, Four Tet, The Pyramids and Finn Peters – all previously played on CJ. The Light Years of the Darkness is a stunning work and well worth getting hold of. You can find it on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label.

The_Case_of_the_3_Sided_Dream_in_Audio_ColorTrombonist Rico Rodriguez died last week. He may have been most famous for his work with the Specials but he’d been a fixture on the Jamaican music scene since the late 1950s. We featured his take (pun intended) on a Dave Brubeck classic. Cory Henry is the keyboard player from another CJ favourite Snarky Puppy – but we featured a great track from his new album First Steps. We always enjoy the work of the late Yusef Lateef on the programme and this week it was the turn of a soul jazz classic from the really rather weird album The Case of the Three Sided Dream in Audio Color – Echoes of Primitive Ohio and Chili Dogs.

Up next was a track from the recent Miles Davis at Newport 4CDmiles davis at newport set. This was really Newport Jazz on tour in Europe (it was recorded live in Berlin) and it featured one of Miles’ most incendiary groups. The music is loud, raw and not for the faint hearted. However, it makes a lot more sense when you see it – check out this week’s video. Ronnie Scott was on hand to make the introduction (no jokes!) and then Miles launches the band into Turnaroundphrase.

dangeloWe ended with a track from the long awaited release from singer D’Angelo. Is it jazz? Well, there’s a jazz sensibility at work in both the structure and the instrumentation – and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sugah Daddy is covered by at least one bonafide jazzer before the end of the year.

There was no Cosmic Jazz Essential Tune this week, but this video is a teaser for an upcoming number (thanks Jacob!)… Both video tracks are fiery examples of jazz on the edge – enjoy them both.

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  1. Africa Express – Mali in C (edit) – from Mali in C
  2. Dou Wei and the Not Sure Yet – Republican Guard from Three States, Four Scores
  3. Emanative – Fire (feat. Collocutor and Finn Peters) from The Light Years of the Darkness
  4. Rico Rodriguez – Take Five from Roots to the Bone
  5. Cory Henry – Afro Brooklyn (feat. Phil Lassiter) from First Steps
  6. Yusef Lateef – Echoes of Primitive Ohio and Chili Dogs – from The Case of The Three Sided Dream in Audio Color
  7. Miles Davis – Introduction (by Ronnie Scott)/Turnaroundphrase from Miles Davis at Newport (1955-1975)
  8. D’Angelo – Sugah Daddy from Black Messiah

Playlist – 02 September 2015

This week Cosmic Jazz  on The MixCloud tab has its usual eclectic mix of jazz old and new from Poland, Belgium, Norway, the USA and Cuba.

  1. Marek Mahnowski – Alone from Alone
  2. Jelle Van Giel Group – The Truth from Song For Everyone
  3. Bugge Wesseltoft – Play It from Bugge and Friends
  4. Dayme Arocena – Don’t Unplug My Body from Nueva Era
  5. Janet Lawson Quintet – You Promised from Janet Lawson Quintet
  6. Kamasi Washington – The Next Step from The Epic
  7. Charles Lloyd – Bird Flight from Dream Weaver

Playlist – 26 August 2015: jazz in Europe

The show this week travelled to Brazil, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, the USA and probably other places as well. Check the wonderful range of sounds via the MixCloud tab.

MI0003828629I began in Brazil with a Cosmic Jazz favourite Joyce Moreno. This was to acknowledge the excellent Flipside Festival coming to the Snape Maltings in Suffolk over the weekend of 2-4 October 2015. It is described as a family festival with a Latin beat and has an impressive line-up across the arts including music, dance and literature. Cosmic Jazz will be there playing Latin and jazzy sounds. Check the Flipside website for details.

CJ has given regular playing time to jazz from across Europe. This has been inspired by the wide range of jazz available at . This week was no exception with two new bands featured – a Swedish saxophonist we have featured before and an American great playing in Europe with European musicians.

This week I came across the Jelle Van Giel Group. Jelle Van Giel is anjelle-van-giel-group-songs-for-everyone impressive drummer from Belgium. I simply love their album Songs For Everyone and this week I played A New Beginning, a tune that builds and builds almost to a big band sound with Jelle’s drumming providing a tough background that is strong but not overwhelming. Check the YouTube clip below of another tune from the band. I shall play more from this album.

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Pawel Kazmarczk is a Polish pianist from Krakow. Some publicity I found described him as known for virtuosity, creativity and extremely mature technology. Judge for yourself – I found him to be quirky and interesting. Judge for yourself from the clip below which features Kazmarczk’s trio playing their version of Massive Attack’s Teardrop:

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The Swedish saxophonist Jonas Kullhammer found his way onto my iPlayer this week and I enjoyed the music so much that I dug the tune out to play this week. There will be more from Kulhammer in future programmes.

Saxophonist Charles Gayle was the US musician playing in Europe in a trio with European musicians. The tune was Giant Steps with probably only a few recognisable notes from the John Coltrane original. It almost made JC’s original sound tame!

frank foster loud minorityThe Cosmic Jazz Essential Tune this week was The Loud Minority from Frank Foster. His band had a stellar line-up including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stanley Clarke, Elvin Jones and Airto Moreira. It is a forthright, proud and loud statement for the righteous. Dee Dee Bridgewater makes an impassioned plea on behalf of the loud minority and its sentiments remain as strong as ever today.

  1. Joyce Moreno – Cantyo De Yansan from Raiz
  2. Jelle Van Giel Group – A New Beginning from Songs For Everyone
  3. Pawel Kazmarczk – Something Personal from Something Personal
  4. Jonas Kullhammer –  Hommage to George Braith from Gentlemen
  5. Charles Gayle Trio – Giant Steps from Christ Everlasting
  6. Frank Foster – The Loud Minority from The Loud Minority


Playlist – 19 August 2015: searching for the perfect beat…

Neil was back for this week’s Cosmic Jazz (although he didn’t make the beginning of the programme!) and the music reflected some of his current listening. First up was Matthew Halsall’s cover of Bill Lee’s Strata East classic John Coltrane – a track we never tire of here marcelo d2 CJ. Another old favourite came from Marcos Valle – and then it was time for the less familiar. We started with Marcelo D2, Brazilian rapper and nu-samba artist who was (as we all are) searching for the perfect beat. It’s not strictly jazz but that improvisational sensibility is always there – just as it is with the under-rated saxophonist Joe Farrell who has just featured in his own CJ blog entry. Check it out below this playlist and then listen (again) to his brilliant take on Stevie Wonder’s Too High.

More Wonderful stuff from Marcus Miller’s Tales album and then a track from someone who – like Farrell – deserves to be better know. Maria Schneider leads her own jazz orchestra and crafts rich and rewarding albums that are released on her own ArtistShare label. The music is stunning and the CDs are works of art too.

Time to end the show, and Neil featured one of Yusef Lateef’s lastthe-detroit-experiment major recordings, this time with the French Belmondo brothers. Their expansive double album Influence is not perfect but the featured track Shafaaa is a delight. We played out with another release that doesn’t always succeed in its ambitions but the Carl Craig-penned Think Twice is a bit of a monster. If you like this, try the minimalism remix by Henrik Schwartz that strips this slice of housey jazz to its barest essentials. It’s our first video clip this week. Does it sit easily with this White Magic Fred Astaire clip? I think so! If this isn’t for you, then try Maria Schneider conducting the NDR Big Band live at the 2009 Jazz Baltica festival – our second video clip this week.

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  1. Matthew Halsall – John Coltrane from download
  2. Marcus Valle – Agua de Coco from Contrasts
  3. Marcelo D2 – A Procura du Batida Perfeita from A Procura du Batida Perfeita (Searching for the Perfect Beat)
  4. Joe Farrell – Too High from Penny Arcade
  5. Marcus Miller – Medley: Vision/Joy Inside My Tears from Tales
  6. Maria Schneider Orchestra – Walking by Flashlight from The Thompson Fields
  7. Belmondo/Yusef Lateef – Shafaa from Influence
  8. Carl Craig – Think Twice from The Detroit Experiment

Joe Farrell – unsung hero?

joe farrellJoe Farrell should be much better known, but his fate was to be best known for a short string of CTI records in the 1970s. Let me explain… The decade of jazz-rock has not been kind to some artists who grew their hair, dabbled with electronics or solo pyrotechnics and who adopted overindulgent production values. Of course, there are those whose musical language was enhanced by by the era – Joe Zawinul and Miles Davis for example. Their polar opposite approaches to the changing musical landscape proved of lasting value and influence to jazz – and beyond.

Joe Farrell came straight out of the jazz tradition: apprenticeships with Maynard Ferguson and Charlie Mingus led in 1968 to a place in Elvin Jones’ regular band, latterly as part of a three horn line up with Dave Liebman and Frank Foster. Farrell recorded several under-rated albums with Jones but greater recognition came with his tenure in a first incarnation of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever andjoe farrell quartet his CTI solo albums, beginning with Joe Farrell Quartet in 1970 which features a definitive version of John McLaughlin’s Follow Your Heart. To some extent these solo records were overshadowed by Farrell’s sidesman work with other CTI artists – Airto Moreira, Ray Barreto, Lalo Schifrin and George Benson but each of them features Farrell’s powerful and imaginative soloing on tenor and soprano saxes together with flute and even oboe too.

airto_free1Drug addiction and finally bone cancer led to his early death in 1986 at the age of 48 but not before he’d cemented his reputation with recordings for jazz supergroup Fuse One, more Chick Corea, Billy Cobham’s excellent first solo album Spectrum and session outings with Aretha Franklin, Patti Austin, Hall and Oates and many others. His final recording was back with Airto and his wife Flora Purim on the album Three Way Mirror.

I’ve not come across a Farrell solo that isn’t of interest – nothing was ever perfunctory or sounds phoned in. Even on his mainstream CTI albums there are tracks that feature harder edges, squeaks and squalls unexpected in this catalogue.

Selected discography:

  • 1966: Chick Corea – Tones for Joan’s Bones (Blue Note)
  • 1969: Elvin Jones – Poly-currents (Blue Note)
  • 1970: Joe Farrell Quartet (CTI)
  • 1971: Outback (CTI)
  • 1972: Chick Corea – Return to Forever (Verve)
  • 1972: Airto Moreira – Free (CTI)
  • 1972: Moon Germs (CTI)
  • 1973: Penny Arcade (CTI)
  • 1973: Don Sebesky – Giant Box (1973)
  • 1973: Billy Cobham – Spectrum (Atlantic)
  • 1974: Upon This Rock (CTI)
  • 1976: Maynard Ferguson – Primal Scream (CBS)
  • 1979: Ray Barretto – La Cuna (CTI)
  • 1980: Fuse One (CTI)

And here’s Joe Farrell in 1968 with Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass:

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