22 June 2016: jazz with a message

Jazz and protest go hand in hand, and this week’s theme of jazz with a message seems particularly timely. As always, click the MixCloud button (left) to hear this week’s CJ and check out the embedded links below. 19th century writer and social john_coltrane_order_is_everythingreformer Harriet Martineau said, If a test of civilization be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power. Well, after a decision that has literally split the UK, we too will soon find out how one half treats the other. Of course, we are not comparing the post-Brexit environment with the social circumstances that generated the radical, fierce equal rights messages so powerfully conveyed in our music this week. But we can always reflect on the power of music to help define where we are and what we feel.

Radical music will not – by definition – be easy listening. Good. Stay with it and appreciate the part that great black music played in achieving social change in the USA. To begin with there were marion brown vistaVisions: Have I lived to see the milk and honey land,
Where hate’s a dream and love forever stands?
This is Stevie Wonder filtered through alto player Marion Brown from his album Vista, released on the Impulse! label in 1975. The track features two ‘engine room’ greats – Reggie Workman on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums in addition to Allen Murphy on vocals. The vocals on this track might give you a misleading impression of Marion Brown’s music: here he is a very different context – music from Brown’s album Sweet Earth Flying.

We followed this with two well known and haunting tunes. Firstly, John Coltrane’s Alabama: his response to the 1963 Baptist church john coltrane live at birdlandbombings in Birmingham, Alabama in which four girls (the oldest only 14 years old) were mercilessly murdered at the hands of white supremacists. Then the chilling, explicit Strange Fruit written in 1939 by schoolteacher Abel Meeropol and delivered with unrivalled intensity and emotion by Billie Holiday. Meeropol was apparently haunted by a photograph of the lynching of two black men and wrote a poem about it, which was then printed in a teachers union publication. An amateur composer, Meeropol also set his words to music. He played it for a New York club owner — who ultimately gave it to Billie Holiday.

frank foster loud minorityUp next was a Cosmic Jazz favourite – this time in its original form – from Frank Foster. The Loud Minority (1974) is a long and, at times, free piece with impassioned vocals from Dee Dee Bridgewater supported by an approving crowd. The message is clear: We are the loud minority and, as such, we are a part of those concerned with change. On this track, Foster’s big band is a powerhouse with terrific performances from Marvin Peterson on trumpet, Jan Hammer on piano, Earl Dunbar on guitar and Elvin Jones on drums.

gil scott heron and brian jackson bridgesMore mellow in delivery, but still delivering a powerful message were Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson. From their 1977 album Bridges came the almost inevitable choices for such a theme. Scott-Heron reminds us that We say that since change is inevitable, we should direct the change/Rather than simply continue to go through the change. Seems appropriate. Bt the way, Bridges also contains the anthemic We Almost Lost Detroit, a track sampled by Common on his The People track from Finding Forever.

Wild, free and unpredictable could describe another musical appeal to the rights of minorities. This was Triumph of the Outcasts, R-2377721-1280502406.jpegComing from pianist Adegoke Steve Colson, whose music carries social, political and spiritual messages. Again, it is a tune with a distinctive, unique vocal that accentuates and drives home the message, coming from his wife Iqua. Colson was a member of the influential Black Artists Group (BAG) in Chicago but following his move to New Jersey, the Newark City Council named 13 November as Steve Colson Day! The proclamation honoured the premiere of his multimedia work, Greens, Rice, And A Rope and Colson has gone on to work with many avant garde jazz artists, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Hamiet Bluiett, Oliver Lake and Henry Threadgill. The penultimate track on this week’s show was from another revolutionary jazz figure, Philip Cohran. Along with his Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Cohran has ploughed a singular furrow meshing elements of John philip cohran on the beachColtrane, James Brown and Fela Kuti into what Thom Jurek in his Allmusic review of the album On the Beach calls a seamless solidarity of black consciousness. The track Unity tells us how things should be and complemented the name chosen for Steve Colson’s band (The Unity Troupe). To end this week’s we dived back into the spiritual realm with the Charles Gayle Trio, recorded live in Poland, and invoking the way to Eternal Life. 

  1. Marion Brown – Visions from Vista
  2. John Coltrane – Alabama from Live at Birdland
  3. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit from Jazz Greats Bille Holiday
  4. Frank Foster – The Loud Minority from The Loud Minority
  5. Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson – Delta Man (Where I’m Coming From) from Bridges
  6. Steve Colson and the Unity Troupe – Triumph of the Outcasts, Coming from Triumph!
  7. Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble – Unity from On the Beach
  8. Charles Gayle Trio – Eternal Life from Christ Everlasting

……………………………………………………………………………

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

15 June 2016: crossing genres

fania all starsAvailable on the MixCloud tab from CJ this week are some favourite records from the last year or so, plus a couple of older tunes. Make sure you check out all the links embedded below for max effect!

First up was a track from an old recording released in 2011 by the always-reliable Strut Records as a 40th anniversary CD and DVD of The Fania All Stars playing live at The Cheetah, New York. I played this in memory of a friend who back in the 1970s lent me two remarkable download (2)vinyl records – now rare collectors items – of the All Stars, live on Virgin Records. This was my introduction  to Latin music, and it’s been a passion that has remained strong ever since. Of course, the link between Latin music and jazz has always been there – and they come together in the umbrella term Latin jazz. Coined during the 1950s by the American media, it’s a simplistic description of a very complex cultural melting pot. There are, after all, 22 countries in Latin American with each one having an extraordinary diversity of rhythms, styles and genres that represent the individual cultural mixes of that country and its region. We selected Ray Barretto’s Cochinando, the lead off track from this excellent record of one of the most influential Latin concerts ever.

Cover_KoutéJazz-350x350Just one of those many Latin permutations was shown in the next selection from the excellent Koute Jazz compilation on French label Heavenly Sweetness. This time it was a group from Guadeloupe using Brazilian rhythms to invoke memories of the island’s original inhabitants. Catch the lovely Fender Rhodes on this one! Ed Motta is Brazilian – but don’t go to his new album Perpetual Gateways if you are looking for stereotypical Brazilian sounds. While Motta’s previous album AOR (a self conscious tribute to ‘adult oriented rock’) was a slick Steely Dan-esque affair, the new one works at delivering both soul and jazz – in fact, it’s presented as two suites of five songs each – one called Soul Gate and the other Jazz Gate. Produced by Kamau Kenyatta (Gregory ed motta perpetual gatewaysPorter) and featuring an impressive supporting cast that includes such west coast session luminaries as Patrice Rushen, Greg Phillinganes, and Hubert Laws, Perpetual Gateways is a delight. We played I Remember Julie which features Rushen and an extended acoustic piano solo – a long way away from the smooth jazzfunk of Forget Me Nots!

Ameen Saleem appeared again this week but in jazz rather than soul/R’n’B mode – both of which sit happily on his genre-hopping new release The Groove Lab. It’s great to see the current crop of US jazz artists adopting this more freewheeling approach – and making it work. We’ll be checking out saxophonist Marcus Strickland’s latest album along with the Miles Davis/Robert Glasper R’n’B collaboration, Everything’s Beautiful in future shows.

st germainOne of my very favourite records of  the last twelve months has been another record that crossed genres. St Germain is the third album from the eponymous French artist (Parisian producer Ludovic Navarre) and is a superb example of how jazz, Malian blues and contemporary beats can be merged into a seamless whole. If you do not have this record, then we regard it as an essential must-have: it may not have the spell-binding blend of jazz and house that so characterised Tourist, but it is an excellent addition to the genre crossing canon. It’s worth comparing the lead off track on St Germain (Real Blues which features Lightning Hopkins) with its spiritual predecessor from Tourist (Sure Thing with John Lee Hooker). Navarre is a late headline addition to next month’s Love Supreme jazz festival – check him out if you can.

marshall allen and the arkestraEuropean jazz, so integral to CJ, was represented this week via the Czech Republic from Ondre Sveracek and the Petr Benes Quartet – check the subtle horn playing on this one. Of course, Thomas Stronen from Norway had to appear again and to end the show we travelled the spaceways once more with the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of 92 year old Marshall Allen.

  1. Fania All Stars – Cocinando from Our Latin Thing
  2. Guadeloupe Reflexions – Samba Arawak from Koute Jazz
  3. Ed Motta – I Remember Julie from Perpetual Gateways
  4. Ameen Saleem – Korinthis from The Groove Lab
  5. St. Germain – Family Tree from St. Germain
  6. Ondre Sveracek – Meditation from Calm
  7. Petr Benes Quartet – My Little Ruth from Pbq+1
  8. Thomas Stronen – As We Wait For Time from Time Is A Blind Guide
  9. Sun Ra Arkestra – Galactic Voyage from Song For The Sun

…………………………………………………………………………….

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

08 June 2016: reaching new places/re-visiting old ones

Join us via MixCloud this week and you’ll hear music from an Indonesian artist – unusual on Cosmic Jazz, yes – but not quite a first for the show. Keen eared listeners may remember teenage prodigy Joey Alexander (from Jakarta) dwiki dharmawanwhose debut release My Favorite Things was featured in a show at the end of last year. But Dwiki Dharamawan is something else – an Indonesian pianist and peace activist whose World Peace Orchestra deploys some top US fusion musicians (Jimmy Haslip and Steve Thornton, for example). Check him out live here from a Hollywood concert recorded in 2007. Cosmic Jazz played the title track from his new release, So Far So Close.

Next up was US drummer Chad Wackerman – who also appears on Dwiki Dharmawan’s album (it’s all carefully planned this way…). Wackerman was here working with his own group on an album from 2012 called Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations and the track A New Day featured some powerful jazz fusion drumming – not usually the way we start a Cosmic Jazz show.

2467_X_1 (1)

Percussion of a different, more spiritual nature is what Thomas Stronen plays. With the pure rapture and delight of his recent concert in Norwich still fresh in my memory, another tune was essential. This time  we chose the title track of his 2016 album Time Is A Blind Guide – the basis for that outstanding concert in Norwich. It’s another magnificent ECM release – and, of course, is highly recommended by us here on CJ. Stronen is also part of Iain Ballamy’s group Food – catch him here at a live festival in Oslo in more electronic vein.

046 SPIRITUAL JAZZ 2My programme timing can leave me having to cut tunes short at the end of the show. There have been two examples that have suffered this fate recently and, although they are both long, I wanted to play them in full. The first was Archangelo by Raphael, an interesting and original piece  that can be found on the excellent anthology Spiritual Jazz 2Raphael was a US pianist but this tune is from an album he recorded in Belgium with local musicians. The second extended track is on the fourth Spiritual Jazz compilation, and is from a quintet led by radical vibes player Bobby Hutcherson and tenor sax veteran Harold Land. Throughout the 18 minutes of The Creators the strong, spiritual jazz 4repetitive bass of Reggie Johnson maintains the groove. “Reform of the soul, reform of the spirit, reform of society” is what historian Francis Gooding (who write the liner notes for this excellent release on Jazzman Records) describes as the objective of spiritual jazz. Difficult to disagree with this lofty ambition.

Another bass player – Ameen Saleem – appeared next with one of the more nu soul-oriented tracks from his album The Groove Lab. The album cuts across different genres with ease – much like those of his erik truffaz doni donisometime boss, trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Finally, there was a chance to hear one of the two tracks from a recent album by Erik Truffaz on which Malian singer Rokia Traore appears. Truffaz is always a welcome guest on CJ – another trumpeter who is not afraid to extend the boundaries. Here he is in tandem with Murcof – real name Fernanado Corona – an electronica  artist from Mexico. Wash your soul with this one…

  1. Dwiki Dharmawan – So Far So Close from So Far So Close
  2. Chad Wackerman – A New Day from Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations
  3. Thomas Stronen – Time is a Blind Guide from Time is a Blind Guide
  4. Raphael – Archangelo  from Spiritual Jazz 2
  5. Bobby Hutcherson & Harold Land – The Creators from Spiritual Jazz 4
  6. Ameen Saleem – Don’t Walk Away from The Groove Lab
  7. Erik Truffaz Quartet feat. Rokia Traore – Doni Doni Part 1 from Doni Doni

……………………………………………………………………………..

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

 

01 June 2016: featuring Thomas Stronen and Norwegian jazz

thomas stronenRecently I went to a performance by Thomas Stronen at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016. It was simply an amazing, highly memorable experience and if you click the MixCloud tab (left) you can hear some of the tunes from the album Time Is A Blind Guide on which Stronen’s set was based.

The music wa2467_X_1 (1)s intense, spiritual, emotional jazz drawing upon classical, Far Eastern and traditional Norwegian influences. The combination of Lucy Railton on cello (not a common jazz instrument), Hakan Aase on violin and  Ole Morton Vagan on double bass created a beautiful, warm, melodic sound – check the tune Pipa for an example of this. The subtle, precise drumming of Thomas Stronen, interacting with the flowing and adventurous piano of Kit Downes was mesmerising – listen to The Stone Carriers which was also featured on this week’s CJ. The album is on ECM and is very highly recommended.

tord gustavsen what was saidAlso on ECM is the album What was said by Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen with Afghan/German voice Simin Tander singing in Pashto and English accompanied by Jarle Vespestad on drums. This is another ECM group I have heard live this year – excellent too, but edged out by Thomas Stronen.

Also from Norway this week came LEO,  (Love Exit Orchestra) featuring vocalist Sheila Simmenes whose many interests include jazz and Brazilian music and Lucky Novak, a quirky, original and experimental Norwegian band with a British saxophonist.

shela simmenesAll the music this week was recorded in Europe and featured – with the odd exception – European musicians. This included more music available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds. For example, Spanish, a modal tune from Czech Republic saxophonist Ondrej Sveracek on his album CalmThis also includes US drummer Gene Jackson with a controlled, complex  feature towards the end of the tune. Also, for the first time on Cosmic Jazz came the Cracow Jazz Collective, an eight-piece band featuring young Polish jazz musicians with compositions by pianist Mateusz Gaweda. Take a look at the No More Drama video for more from this exciting collective.

erik truffaz doni doniDoni Doni, the new record from Erik Truffaz, is still on the CJ ‘tables. This time, it was a contrast from his more ambient, relaxed and minimalist sounds. Finally, there was a chance to catch part of Archangelo from Raphael available on Spiritual Jazz 2. Raphael was a US pianist but the album was recorded in Belgium with Belgian musicians.

  1. Ondrej Sveracek – Spanish from Calm
  2. Cracow Jazz Collective – Polish Drama from No More Drama
  3. Thomas Stronen – The Stone Carriers from Time Is A Blind Guide
  4. Thomas Stronen – Tide from Time from Time is a Blind Guide
  5. Thomas Stronen – Everything Disappears 1 from Time is a Blind Guide
  6. Thomas Stronen – Pipa from Time is a Blind Guide
  7. Tord Gustavsen – Sweet Melting from What was said
  8. LEO (Love Extra Orchestra) – Don’t Get Me Wrong from preview copy
  9. Lucky Novak – Ornette from Up! Go!
  10. Erik Truffaz Quartet – Fat City from Doni Doni
  11. Raphael – Archangelo from Spiritual Jazz 2

………………………………………………………………………..

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

25 May 2016: jazz from the Czech Republic and France

Click the MixCloud tab (left) to hear a selection of mainly contemporary jazz from continental Europe with a couple of oldies from elsewhere thrown in.

sun ra arkestra a song for the sunRecently I heard the Sun Ra Arkestra live led by the 92 year old Marshall Allen. It was quite a spectacle with Allen’s sax well to the fore and reminiscent of Pharoah Sanders’ loud rasping tone.  It seemed appropriate to start with a piece from the Arkestra under Allen’s direction – but not a free jazz blow-out as might be expected but rather The Way You Look Tonight, written by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern in 1936 but given an Arkestra rethink.

It was long overdue that CJ featured more music from Steve’s Jazz Sounds, so there were a couple of gems from the Czech Republic. As is so often the case, there were musicians linking across the tracks. First off was tenor player Ondrej Sveracek and the title tune from his album Calm. The Dutch drummer Erik Ineke on hearing  Sveracek’s music commented that Coltrane’s in the house – sounds interesting. The album also features the US drummer Gene Jackson whose CV includes work with Kevin Eubanks, Hugh Masekela, Andrew Hill, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

petr benes quartetThe Petr Benes Quartet (+1) are also based in the Czech Republic. The tune Unusual Neighborhood is as interesting as the title and tenor player Ondrej Sveracek features here alongside his bass player Tomas Baros. From Poland came the excellent Algorythm: having heard them on my iPod selection during the week, they had to be circulated more widely. Check out their excellent album Segments – we’ve featured tracks from it before on Cosmic Jazz.

I once saw the trumpeter Erik Truffaz perform at Norwich Arts Centre to an audience of about 25 people – something of an embarrassing insult to a fine jazz adventurer who changes personnel, draws on many outside influences and yet maintains a pitch-perfect ambient calm in his playing. His new release Doni Doni includes contributions from Malian singer Rokia Traore, but the tune tonight featured the hip hop artibending new cornersst Oxino Puccino. I added another Erik Truffaz tune which included another rapper – this time Nya –  from the 1999 Blue Note album Bending New Corners which first introduced me to his work. Check out Truffaz performing Doni Doni Part 2 at the World Stock Festival in Paris.

ameen saleemOne of my favourite musicians was the enthusiastic comment made by trumpeter Roy Hargrove about bass player Ameen Saleem. You can see why from the tune Possibilities on Saleem’s new album The Groove LabHis bass provides a firm and prominent beat throughout the tune which has Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Greg Hutchinson on drums and Stacy Dillard on tenor sax. Hargrove is featured on the album but not on this track. The music throughout is varied – expect to hear soul and funk as well as jazz.

spiritual jazz 4Finally on tonight’s show, an excerpt from a long tune I heard during the week. A co-operation between radical vibes player Bobby Hutcherson and sax player Harold Land recorded in what was then Yugoslavia, now Serbia. It is a deep, deep cosmic tune and is available on the superb compilation Spiritual Jazz 4.

  1. The Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen – The Way You Look Tonight from A Song for the Sun
  2. Ondrej Sveracek – Calm from Calm
  3. Petr Benes Quartet – Unusual Neighborhood from Pbq + 1
  4. Algorhythm – Sorry for the Delay from Segments
  5. Erik Truffaz feat Nya – Sweet Mercy from Bending New Corners
  6. Erik Truffaz Quartet feat Oxinno Puccino – Le Complement du Verbe from Doni Doni
  7. Ameen Saleem – Possibilities  from The Groove Lab
  8. Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land Quintet – The Creators from Spiritual Jazz Vol 4

……………………………………………………………………..

Derek is listening to:

  • Thomas Stronen – Pipa
  • Thomas Stronen – Lost Souls
  • Erik Truffaz – Siegfried
  • Papa Wemba feat. Barbara Kanam – Triple Option
  • Misty in Roots – Oh! Wicked Man

Neil is listening to:

18 May 2016: some Cosmic Jazz favourites

Cosmic Jazz is back and, to mark our return, the programme features a few favourites.

otis brown iii the thought of youOne such is drummer Otis Brown III  – heard here in two opening tracks.  First, supporting Somi on her Nigeria inspired album The Lagos Music Salon and then on his own record The Thought Of You, where on You’re Still the One the jazz cool but warm and enticing voice of Gretchen Parlato draws you in.  You can see Gretchen Parlato appearing in her own right here.

kenny garrettAny Cosmic Jazz programme of favourites could not exclude Kamasi Washington, an ever-present artist on the show nor alto player Kenny Garrett. This week we chose the title track from his award-winning album Pushing The World Away. The memory of seeing his quartet perform in such a close and intimate setting at the Pizza Express Jazz  Club in Dean Street, London a few years ago still lingers firmly in the memory…

bugge wesseltoft and friendsKeyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft recorded an excellent album in 2015 with his friends – including trumpeter Erik Truffaz who has his own excellent new album out this year.  I shall play tunes from it in coming weeks but, for this edition of Cosmic Jazz, check out the collaboration on the track Play It.

Songs by Johnny Nash have not often appeared on Cosmic Jazz but I simply love the version of I Can see Clearly Now by Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce with Roy’s son Gabriel featured on lead vocal and trumpet. In case you do not reach this stage of the programme via MixCloud you can hear it here and at the same time view the bleak and alluring cover of the album.

nuyorican soulLatin and soul – probably more accurately a combination of both – but all with New York connections, completed the show. The wonderful Charlie Palmieri of New York latino heritage started the segment with a tune that was re-released on a compilation of his work on the Atlantic Masters series. Elements of Life from Eclipse and Jocelyn Brown from the album Nuyorican Soul continued the latin New York sounds. The link between the two is arranger and DJ Louis Vega. elements of life eclipseBest known as a record producer now, Vega comes from latin royalty. His uncle was Hector Lavoe of the celebrated Fania All Stars, and Vega has lent his name to hundreds of records since the 1990s when he began DJing and remixing with fellow house star Kenny Gonzales in the Masters at Work partnership. Here at CJ we always emphasize the close links between much Latin music and jazz – just one small part of that global jazz thing.

  1. Somi – Four African Women from The Lagos Music Salon
  2. Otis Brown III (feat. Gretchen Parlato) – You’re Still The One from The Thought Of You
  3. Kamasi Washington – Leroy and Lanisha from The Epic
  4. Kenny Garrett – Pushing The World Away  from Pushing The World Away
  5. Bugge Wesseltoft – Play It from Bugge and Friends
  6. Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce – I Can See Clearly Now from Complicated Day
  7. Charlie Palmieri – Mambo Show from Latin Bugalu
  8. Elements of Life – Berimbau from Eclipse
  9. Jocelyn Brown – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun from Nuyorican Soul

……………………………………………………………………………..

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

Miles Ahead – a film by Don Cheadle

Miles Davis is the jazz superstar. It’s remarkable that there’s never been a biopic before. But wait – this very definitelyMiles is always cool isn’t a biopic. Director and lead Don Cheadle has been very clear about that from the start. Anyone coming to this film and expecting a cool-fest of decorative advertising images with A Kind of Blue soundtrack will be very disappointed.

Miles Ahead ploughs a very different furrow. It’s said that ten years ago Miles’ nephew Vince Wilburn told Don Cheadle that only he could play Davis in any film of his life, and now – thanks to crowdfunding through Indiegogo – it’s happened. Cheadle has said I want to tell a story that Miles himself would have wanted to see, something hip, cool, alive and AHEAD. 

don cheadle as miles 02So – does the film deliver? In some ways, yes it does. This is Cheadle’s directorial debut and it’s a visually arresting one. He’s taken what Ian Carr in his excellent biography calls ‘the Silent Years’, when Davis was holed up in his Queens apartment unable to play. When Cheadle flashes back to earlier periods (for example, the recording of Sketches of Spain with Gil Evans or Miles’ fascination with boxing and black world champion Jack Johnson) we’re gripped by the authenticity.  Cheadle creates a completely believable Miles – angry, frustrated, washed up and ready to quit music.

miles davis jack johnsonAnd the music! There’s no reliance on hackneyed ersatz coolness: instead Cheadle confidently lets the film buzz with the best of Davis’ music from the 1970s and 1980s. We get to hear Back Seat Betty, Go Ahead, John (which turns out to be perfect car chase music) and Prelude from Agharta. This is adventurous stuff, and as a result the film throbs with a visceral tension that’s delivered by the pacey direction and this powerful score.

So what’s wrong? Cheadle has admitted that the only reason the film was fully financed was because he agreed to have a white co-star. Enter the MacGuffin that is Ewan McGregor as Dave Braden, Rolling Stone reporter – and the stolen tapes of a Davis studio session. Enter Starsky and Hutch car chases, Miles firing shots at his Coludon cheadle as miles 03mbia record boss and night club police beatings. No – hang on, that last one really did happen. And here’s another problem: there’s so much in this eventful life that could have been the basis of a much more credible plot. With this, and Cheadle’s startingly original direction and central performance, the result would have been a five star film. As it is, go and see this Miles Ahead. You may be disappointed, but you’ll come away with a wholly believable snapshot of the most important musician of the 20th century.

26 April 2016: from Poland to the DRC; from Martinique to Sheffield…

Click the tab or follow the guide on this page so you can listen to a global traveller edition of Cosmic Jazz.

jonas kullhammarThe show began by dipping into some of the treasures available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds, a specialist source of music from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, with more besides. One of Sweden’s top jazz musicians, saxophonist Jonas Kulhammer, opened the show followed by an overdue return visit to Poland via a first Cosmic Jazz play for pianist Slavek Jaskalke. His flowing keyboard sounds have been heard at venues from New York to Berlin to Moscow and, of course, Poland. He has also played with Cosmic Jazz favourites David Murray and Urszula Dudziak. Staying in Poland, this segment of the show ended with another tune from the wonderfully named Confusion Project.

The Confusion Project selection reminded me of a tune from Kenny Garrett’s Seeds from the Underground albumI did not play that particular track, but it helped to inspire a choice from Garrett. So too did the impending arrival of his new album, together with the link via a shared drummer to the much-loved Kamasi Washington. In addition, we’ve been talking about the praise heaped on Kenny Garrett by his late boss Miles Davis (of whom we have heard much lately) and finally – and above all – because I love the music of Kenny Garrett. I chose the title track of his last album Pushing the World Away.

papa wembaI could not let the show pass by without a tribute to the late Congolese maestro Papa Wemba. His high, soaring and sweetly inflected vocals just touch and move me whenever I hear them. I chose one of his more Latin-inspired tunes, which  seemed best-fit for the format of the show, but if like me you love Congolese soukous, or even more so if you want to find out what it is all about, try listening to the tunes I have listed below as my listening choices for the week.

From Martinique came Max Cilla an artist who popularised the traditional bamboo flute which is well to the fore on this tune. It’s from the album Koute Jazza wonderful and highly recommended compilation of jazz music from the Antilles, the French-speaking Caribbean islands. Staying with the French connection came Paris-based trumpeter Erik Truffaz, a musician who is always – in the spirit of Miles – moving on and trying something different. Last week we played a tune featuring the Malian singer Rokia Traore – this week it was an instrumental. Next week…

SONY DSC

Finally, I am off to Sheffield shortly and hopeful of catching two jazz shows, one at The Lescar and the other put on by Sheffield Jazz. It seemed fitting to end with musicians that were/are (?) based in Sheffield. Fall Back from Middlewood Sessions is just one of those tunes that never fails to uplift, excite and surprise. It is not strictly a jazz tune, but jazz is in there – check the subtle changes of the vocalist, check the propulsive drumming, check the whole tune and get dancing.

  1. Jonas Kulhammer – The Bear Quartet from Gentlemen Original Motion Picture Jazz Tracks
  2. Slavek Juskulke – On from On
  3. Confusion Project – The Fruit of Change from Confusion Project
  4. Kenny Garrett – Pushing the World Away from Pushing the World Away
  5. Papa Wemba – Epelo from Emotion
  6. Max Cilla – Crepuscule Tropical from Koute Jazz
  7. Erik Truffaz Quartet – Doni Pt. 2 from Doni Doni
  8. Middlewood Sessions – Fall Back (single)

……………………………………………………………………………

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

20 April 2016: jazz on vinyl

Record Store Day 2016 celebrated the black wax – music on vinyl – and five of the tracks featured on this week’s show are newly available in that format. To listen to it all, just press that arrow to your left. The music is another sign of the vinyl renaissance and, here at CJ Towers, we welcome that. Edition Records phronesis parallaxnow have a fine vinyl catalogue including their new releases like the excellent Phronesis album Parallax and the track Just 4 You with which we began the show. Ed Motta’s new album Perpetual Gateways has been issued on vinyl (as his last excellent recording AOR) and so has the brand new release from Erik Truffaz, from which we featured Djiki’n.

we want miles Shirley Horn was noted for her very slow tempos – and George Gershwin’s wonderful My Man’s Gone Now suits her approach perfectly – especially in this radical reworking of the song. In his excellent book The Last Miles, George Cole describes Horn’s reaction when she first heard the version Davis features on his album We Want Miles (1981): “I went into a little bit of a shock. It was the first time I had heard that drummer Al Foster. He was playing those rhythm patterns. I listened, listened and listened. I got stuck on it. When I shirley horn i remember milesused to do My Man’s Gone Now, I did it really straight with a little ad libbing and maybe a small tempo change. I hadn’t imagined I could do it like on the yellow album and I thought at the time ‘I want to do some of that and I want to do it with Al Foster'”. And she did – Foster plays drums on Shirley Horn’s great tribute album from 1998, I Remember Miles.

Two unusual vocalists followed next. First up was Anna Maria Jopek, a Polish singer whose vocal reworkings of Pat Metheny’s melodic tunes came to his attention. The result – a new recording on which Metheny featured. The band include some excellent Polish musicians like pianist Leszek Modzer and bass player Darek FrontCover.qxp_KoutÈJazzOleszkiewicz. The compilation Koute Jazz (available in all formats) focuses on jazz from the French Antilles and is another imaginative release from the Paris-based label Heavenly Sweetness. It’s not the first time we’ve played music from this island group: the saxophonist David Murray has an excellent album that uses the Gwo Ka rhythms from Antillean island Guadeloupe and Soul Jazz Records has issued a thoroughly researched compilation of Gwo Ka rhythms.

The last album Miles recorded for CBS was You’re Under Arrest miles davis you're under arrestand we played the title track. Originally, Miles wanted Gil Evans to create arrangements for some popular songs, including D-Train’s Something On Your Mind and Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, along with Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time (which was to become a live staple in the last concerts). But during the winter of 1984-85, Davis made an about-face and decided to redo everything in several days. The result was an album of great contrasts: popular songs, a memorable solo by John Scofield on the title track and even the return of guitarist John McLaughlin. It’s worth checking out. Mtume’s album mtume rebirth cycleRebirth Cycle, which features the final track played this week – Yebo – has never appeared on CD, or been reissued on vinyl. An original copy will cost you anything between £25 and £85… It’s worth getting hold of too – if only to hear musicians of the calibre of Buster Williams, Stanley Cowell, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Michael Henderson and Al Foster in some fine spiritual jazz.

  1. Phronesis – Just 4 Now from Parallax
  2. Ed Motta – Awunism from Aystelum
  3. Ed Motta – Overblown Overweight from Perpetual Gateways
  4. Erik Truffaz (feat. Rokia Traore) – Djiki’n from Doni Doni
  5. Shirley Horn – My Man’s Gone Now from I Remember Miles
  6. Miles Davis – You’re Under Arrest from You’re Under Arrest
  7. Anna Maria Jopek with Pat Metheny – Mania Mienia from Upojenie
  8. Camille Soprann Hildevert – Sopran aux Antilles from Koute Jazz
  9. Mtume – Yebo from Rebirth Cycle

……………………………………………………………………………..

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

 

16 April 2016: RSD2016

16 April was Record Store Day all round the world and – of course –  Cosmic Jazz joined in the festivities.  We visited two of our local record stores – Soundclash logoSoundclash Records in Norwich and Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds. Soundclash is one of the city’s oldest record shops: established in 1991, it’s got a great selection of both vinyl and CDs in a wide range of musical genres. Vinyl Hunter maybe new in town but it’s already building a loyal customer base.  Not only is it a specialist vinyl store (with some CDs) but there’s cafe space downstairs too and – thanks to the bakery upstairs there are excellent cakes and coffee. Vinyl vinyl hunter logoHunter also carries a range of quality turntables including Lenco and Rega models – and co-founder Rosie Hunter made clear that selling good quality decks on which to play both new and secondhand vinyl is just part of their comprehensive service for customers.

soundclash record store day 01Those early morning Soundclash queues are testimony to the appeal of Record Store Day and – like the Norwich store – Vinyl Hunter had a busy inaugural RSD2016 with over 60 customers buying in the first hour. Their crate digging approach is going global too – in August the Hunters will be visiting Brazil for the Olympic Games, but Rosie confirmed that there will be time for some vinyl hunting in some of the country’s best record stores!

UK vinyl sales continue to grow year on year with a 64% increase in 2015 sales over the previous year. What looked like a passing fad is clearly now a substantial resurgence. Independent vinyl shops are a viable business proposition – the longevity of Soundclavinyl hunter 01sh and the customer service ethos of Vinyl Hunter are both testimony to this. What HMV (the sole surviving major music retailer) never succeeded in doing was to rebrand themselves as a specialist, niche service – and that’s where two of our local record shops have the edge. Cosmic Jazz salutes both. For more vinyl news, start with The Vinyl Factory or sign up to any of the other great independent record store around the country.  The music choices below celebrate RSD exclusive cuts and more – enjoy!

On Record Store Day Neil listened to: 

…………………………………………………………………………

Meanwhile, our Miles Ahead fest continues: Neil has chosen five Miles Davis tracks, each of which featured in Jez Nelson’s Sunday night Somethin’ Else prograjez nelson and don cheadlemme on Jazz FM. Much of this is Miles music that is rarely heard on the radio – and as actor/director Don Cheadle notes in his interview with Nelson, some of these tracks often centre on “meta-Miles” – Davis playing what’s not there. The music built up to the period in Miles’ life that’s at the heart of the movie – his enforced retirement from 1975 that then led to the final comeback years. The interview ended with Cheadle’s choice of Circle, from the album Miles Smiles.

On Somethin’ Else Neil listened to:

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio