10 February – Norway and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz show, easily available via the MixCloud tab on this page, has three tunes to demonstrate the variety of contemporary jazz available from Norway.

shela simmenesThe prompt came from Sheila Simmenes, who fronts the Love Extra Orchestra, and who contacted CJ. The band has a jazz core but Sheila herself has an interest in reggae and Brazilian music too – much in keeping with the Cosmic Jazz presenters! Sheila has worked in Brazil and with Brazilian musicians. I played the current single Darling, It’s Over, with a breathy vsheila simmenes darling its overocal that seductively draws you in to listen before giving space for the band to feature too. Watch out for the new single Don’t Get Me Wrong coming out in March and find out more about the band here. We shall be featuring more from Sheila and her different musical projects in future shows.

Staying Norwegian, there was another tune from Bugge Wesseltoft. bugge wesseltoft and friendsAll the tunes on the recent album Bugge and Friends have an It in the title – this week it was Faz It. Wesseltoft intersects the worlds of jazz and electronica with ease, creating memorable melodies that spinout from programmed backgrounds. Check out this track from his collaboration with computer whiz, producer and remixer Henrik Schwartz. The final tune from Norway came from old friends of the programme Lucky NovakThis band is based in Oslo but has a British musician, alto player Tim Lowerson included in the bugge wesseltoft henrik schwartzband. They are original, experimental and unpredictable,  A case of art school meets jazz? The tune I played this week – Kul’an – was by their standards quite conventional; it’s simply a beautiful piece of music. Check them out on this video – they look and sound like they just love playing.

I returned to Gregory Porter’s first album Water, where he sings and the musicians seem to play with greater freedom than on his later Blue Note albums. It was in respect and memory of Cheryl – a good friend of this programme – who once set up a memorable interview we held with him in which Porter – then just starting to become well known – answered our questions with interest, energy and grace.

st germainSt. Germain sounded a good prelude to the Bugge tune. Both are jazz inspired musicians using a blend of modern and traditional sounds and instruments. In St. Germain’s case it’s the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins (here from the song You Caused My Heart to Weep), merged with traditional Malian kora sounds from Mamadou Cherif Soumano and behind it all the programming of Ludovic Navarre, the Parisian who is St Germain. You can hear Soumano on kora here playing live in a trio with bass and soprano saxophone. This is a beautiful musical combination that works.

The Polish contribution this week came from Vehemence black fire new spirtQuartet (love the name!) who provided a fierce and forthright opening to the programme. There was also another tune from Nat Birchall’s stunning Invocations album and the show ended with a fiery contribution from Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee blending blues and gospel sounds. This is the title track from a 1969 BYG album which will be difficult to find so check out the excellent Soul Jazz double CD compilation where you will find this tune and more great music from Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef, Richard Davis (the excellent track Dealin’) and many more.

  1. Vehemence Quartet – Gabry’s from Anomalia
  2. Gregory Porter – Black Nile from Water
  3. St. Germain – Real Blues from St. Germain
  4. Bugge Wesseltoft – Faz It from Bugge and Friends
  5. Love Extra Orchestra – Darling, It’s Over from single release
  6. Lucky Novak – Kul’an from Up! Go!
  7. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocations
  8. Archie Shepp & Jeanne Lee – Blase from New Spirits: Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82

Derek is currently listening to:

Neil is currently listening to:

charles lloydFinally, it won’t have escaped regular listeners that here at CJ we are bonafide paid up members of the Charles Lloyd Appreciation Society. With a new band and a new album out this month, it seems appropriate to give listeners a chance to hear and see Lloyd performing this new direction live at NYC’s Lincoln Centre just two weeks ago. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels now features Bill Frisell on guitar and Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel.  The album – out on Blue Note – is called I Long To See You.  Be prepared – the music really is rather different!

03 February 2016: from Krakow to Kingston

CJ is globetrotting again this week – from Krakow to Blackburn, Porsgrunn (check it out!) to Montevideo and more. As always, just click the MixCloud tab on this page to hear for yourself.

algorhythmThe show began with with some of the excellent Polish jazz around. One of my favourite groups at the moment are Algorythm and we started with a tune from their impressive Segments album. Emil Miszk is on trumpet, Piotr Chęcki on tenor, Szymon Burnos on piano, Krzysztof Słomkowski on bass and (despite what I said on the show!) Sławek Koryzno on drums. High Definition Quartet are one of those quirky, unpredictable, up-front bands – and the track V is typical of the music on their new release Bukoliki. Since their formation, they have built up quite a reputation and have played with many other musicians, including Randy Brecker in 2012.

Last week, saxophonist Nat Birchall featured on CJ – both with music from his latest album on Jazzman Records, but also here on the website where we looked at one of the many excellent features on his own website. This week on the show we feature another tune from Invocations but also the track Ethiopia from one of the14921 musicians who has influenced Birchall, Jamaican tenor player Cedric Im Brooks. For more, check out the album Cedric Im Brooks and The Light Of Saba reissued a few years ago on the excellent Honest Jon label. I’m lucky enough to have a copy on the original double vinyl. 

don rendell:ian carr phase IIIAfter the death of the distinguished British sax/flute player Don Rendell last year it seemed appropriate to play again Black Marigolds by The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet.  This wonderful piece, written by pianist Michael Garrick, still sounds as fresh and interesting as it surely did when issued in 1966. Sadly, there’s almost no video available of this iconic band – but here they are at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1968 (and still in suits!).

We have recently featured music from Norway and will be playing more in our next show. This week it was more of a re-visit to the album Bugge and Friends from Bugge Wesseltoft. The friends on this record include Erik Truffaz whose new album Doni Doni features Rokia Traore. You can check out a live version of the title track here from the WorldStock Festival in Paris.

I’ll be playing a few older latin jazz tunes, many for jazz dancers, over the coming week. I began with Opa from Uruguay. The Fattoruso brothers from Montevideo formed the band in the 1970s and theiropa magic timetwo records were both produced by Airto Moreira. The track I featured came from their second album Magic Time, released in 1977. Both Airto and his then wife, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim can be heard. Both albums have been reissued on Milestone and the first – Goldenwings – on BGP Records here in the UK. You’ll find Montevideo on the widely available BGP compilation – details below.

Below, as usual, is this week’s playlist – but also something I hope to do from time to time. It’s five of the records we’re currently listening too – whether on the move or at home. As you’ll see, it’s not all exclusively jazz. Neil will be doing the same while he’s in Beijing – check out his top five below. We’ve linked either the tune or the album to a YouTube video. Enjoy!

  1. Algorythm – Sorry For the Delay from Segments
  2. High Definition Quartet – V from Bukoliki
  3. Nat Birchall – A Luta Continua from Invocations
  4. Cedric Im Brooks – Ethiopia from Studio One Rockers
  5. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Black Marigolds from Phase III/Impressed II
  6. Bugge Wesseltoft – Make It from Bugge & Friends
  7. OPA – Montevideo from Magic Time/BGP presents Jazz Funk

Derek’s currently listening to…

Neil’s currently listening to…



27 January 2016: sound, soul and spirit

The title for this week’s Cosmic Jazz comes from the strapline for saxophonist Nat Birchall’s excellent blog. There’s more from this below, but we recommend that you take a good look.

We’ve still not finished with some of the great music from 2015 here on Cosmic Jazz. This week’s show, available at the click of the Mixcloud tab on this page, features, in part, some of the tunes that still need to be heard by any CJ aficionado.

082_nat_birchallThe show opened with the title tune from Birchall’s superb 2015 album Invocations and one we’ve promised to feature for a while here on CJ. Birchall is one of the most interesting jazz musicians from the Manchester jazz scene who’s now gaining prominence on a wider stage. He’s previously been heard with Matthew Halsall but has released several very fine albums of his own, all of which we have featured here on CJ.

Birchall’s music is for the body and soul, with obvious references to the Coltranes (John and Alice), Pharaoh Sanders and Albert Ayler – but there is more than this. Birchall is a wholly original player with a strong debt to dub reggae. To me, jazz and reggae cannat birchall and dub make a perfect combination, so  it was interesting to read in the sleeve notes to the record that Birchall’s first musical passion was classic dub and, in particular, the album Grounation by drummer Count Ossie, featuring Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks on tenor sax. The use of hand drums on Invocations adds a mystical quality that evokes Count Ossie’s seminal recording. Check out the blog (again) and read and hear more about some of Birchall’s favourite recordings. If you want to get up to speed on dub reggae you won’t find a better place to start than here. Here, for example, is Birchall on the influence of Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks on the development of his own sound: The tenor saxophone player on this album is the great Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks and his sound and playing here were my first introduction to Jazz type soloing apart from the very short solos that I had heard on Ska tunes and his style has undoubtedly contributed greatly to my concept of how a tenor saxophone sounds. 

When we count ossie grounationplay the saxophone the sound that we actually get from the instrument is not determined by the instrument itself. It can be quite complex but the most important factor in what sound we get when we breathe into the saxophone is what we personally imagine it should sound like. The instrument and mouthpiece and reed all contribute to the sound but the actual character and quality is largely down to the individual player and their sound “concept” and their practice routine. So this album is very important to me personally as it has contributed in no small part to my own sound concept as a saxophone player.

From time to time I have to play music that has touched me during the previous week. Sometimes, and I make no apology, this takes me beyond the borders of jazz. For this week it was the Senegalese baaba maal the travellerartist Baaba Maal who I had just been to see perform in Norwich. What a voice! What a stage presence he has! In fact, as a guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions show on 24 January, he stated that improvisation is an essential part of his live performance. So it was in the one I saw with a superb bass player, a masterful and powerful Cuban drummer who gave an extended solo and excellent percussionists. Indeed, on the Radio 3 show Maal acknowledged his debt to jazz. What you may not have guessed is that among the musicians featured on Tiedo – the tune I played from his album Firin’ in Fouta – were two top-rate British jazz musicians, Andy Sheppard on soprano sax and Alec Dankworth on double bass. Maal’s new album is called The Traveller and it’s just been released.

I had forgotten that the compilation Black Fire! New Spirits!: Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82 had only been released in 2015. It seems ages ago that CJ first featured this excellentblack fire new spirt Soul Jazz compilation but we have so far not played The Banjo Lesson by flute player Lloyd McNeil and bassist Marshall Hawkins. This comes from an album commissioned for an exhibition to celebrate the art work of Henry Ossawa Turner, who became the first African-American painter to gain international success. McNeil himself was not only a musician but also a painter, photographer, poet and academic.

During 2015 we have championed some excellent Polish jazz which can be obtained via Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Among my favourites has been the music from the trio led by Michal Wroblewski. We have featured pieces from his 2015 City Album but this week I played Jarretiude (which suggests an obvious reference to Keith Jarrett) from the album I Remember.

The other two tunes from Polish bands were, however, definitely produced in 2015. Algorhythm are a young Polish quartet comprising tenor, trumpet, piano and double bass. They are excellent and a must listen for all Cosmic Jazz followers. I will have to play more. See them below performing at the 2013 European Jazz Contest in Rome.

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Tatvamasi__The_House_Of_WordsFinally, Tatvamasi are a quintet founded by guitarist Gregory Lesiak. They aim to reveal the hidden depth of the Polish soul in the 21st century, with music inspired by traditional Slavic folk and the avant-garde. Their previous release is reviewed in PopMatters here. The phrase tat tvam asi is a Sanskrit expression meaning “that thou art” or “that art thou” – the self is part of of the oneness, or whole. I can imagine Nat Birchall saying much the same thing…

  1. Nat Birchall – Invocations from Invocations
  2. Baaba Maal – Tiedo from Firin’ in Fouta
  3. Lloyd McNeil and Marshall Hawkins – The Banjo Lesson from Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz 1957-82
  4. Michal Wroblewski Trio – Jarretiude from I Remember
  5. Algorhythm – Segment IV from Segments
  6. Tatvamasi – Conversion from The House of Words



20 January 2016: goodbye UK…

Ten jazz and beyond tracks for you this week – from Japan’s Jazz Collective to a trumpeter’s tribute to Fela Kuti and from Brazil’s Caldo de Piaba to new music from neuroscientist and DJ Sam Shepard (AKA Floating Points). To enjoy the music, just click on our IO Radio logo to your left.

Jazz Collective have released three fine albums of accessible contemporary jazz. You can find more and listen their first album here. Renovation features bandleader Takao Hirose on trombone. Next up was new British soul artist Jamie Woon whose newly released second album Making Time is something of a departure from his acclajamie woon making timeimed first outing, Mirrorwriting which was co produced by dubstep icon Burial. The first single from Making Time – Sharpness – is a  beautifully crafted piece of neo-soul and the excellent Message, which can be heard and seen here, is more of the same.

nicholas payton sonic tranceReturning to the UK before Christmas, I found myself clearing out some CD compilations I’d made and found the powerful piece of trumpet playing from Nicholas Payton’s album Sonic Trance. Fela 1 is, of course, a tribute to Nigeria’s most famous musical ambassador but it’s also very much in Miles Davis’s late 70s electric vein. Produced by Karriem Riggins who has worked with Common and other hip hop artists, this album has a messy, fractured but engaging sound. It’s replete with much use of the wah-wah pedal (just like late Miles) and nowhere is this heard to better effect than on Fela 1. Payton, by the way, can be just as tough in his writing as his music – check out his provocative essay On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore and let us know what you think. Next up was an excellent version of Herbie herbie hancock floodHancock’s Actual Proof, first heard on his 1974 album Thrust, but here in a version on the rather rare Japanese live recording Flood, released in 1975. Actual Proof has also been given a more contemporary workover by pianist Chris ‘Daddy” Dave and his group the Drumheadz – look and listen here.

It seemed appropriate to follow this with something really up to date – music from Sam Shepard and Floating Points. Shepard has floating points elaenia 02created something unique with Elaenia, his first full length release and we featured the longest track on the album, Silhouettes I, II and III. Shepard as DJ and producer has for a while honed his love for all genres from gritty funk, avant-garde jazz, deep house, and more to create his own unique electronica. Anyone who starts his career with a remix of Sun Ra’s I’ll Wait for You is going to be worth a listen… Have a look at Sam Shepard crate digging in Sao Paulo and talking about his musical influences here (and ending his DJ set with some Donald Byrd too!).

It wouldn’t be expected that we would follow this with a slice of Brazilian reggae – but why not? I don’t know anything about Caldo de Piaba but this dubby bassline groove was infectious – as was the Earth, Wind and Fire sample (from Runnin’) on Walk Into the Sun from Queens’, NY 1990s hip hoppers Organized Konfusion. Rapper  Pharoahe Monch went on to greater solo success, using jazz improvisational techniques in his rhyming and delivery. After this came perhaps Abbey Lincoln’s most moving song, Throw It Away. This version is from her album A Turtle’s Dream, released in 1994. Lincoln, who dabbey lincoln a turtle's dreamied in 2010 , performs the song here with something of a jazz supergroup – Pat Metheny on guitar, on drums, Charlie Haden on bass and Victor Lewis on drums. You can hear another lovely version of this song on the album Golden Lady.

wayne shorter footprintsWe ended the show with two jazz icons, both now jazz performers for over sixty years. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter is heard on a track from a J J Johnson album but collected here on a lovely retrospective of his work called (not surprisingly) Footprints: the life and music of Wayne Shorter. The title In Walked Wayne is, of course, a reference to the jazz standard In Walked Bud performed by everyone from its composer Thelonious Monk to Chick Corea. Veteran drummer Roy Haynes is a CJ favourite too, and we heard him here in the late 70s with a very sharp piece of drum driven funk, Vistalite, featuring Joe Henderson on tenor and Stanley Cowell on keyboards. Haynes is still one of the coolest men in jazz – have a look at him here on the David Letterman Show in 2013. Aged 88 when this was recorded, he has every right to have that solo spot at the front.

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And if that gives you a taste for late Roy Haynes, kick back and watch this video too – almost an hour with his aptly named Fountain of Youth band at the Vienne Festival, France again in 2013. So that’s it for my on-the-mic input for the next few months – over to Derek in the IO studio for more Cosmic Jazz inspiration!

  1. Jazz Collective – Renovation from The Hurst Selection 2
  2. Jamie Woon – Sharpness from Making Time
  3. Nicholas Payton – Fela 1 from Sonic Trance
  4. Herbie Hancock – Actual Proof from Flood
  5. Floating Points – Silhouettes I, II and III from Elaenia
  6. Caldo de Piaba – Venska Pro Papai from Oi! A Nova Musica Brasileira
  7. Organized Konfusion – Walk Into the Sun from Organized Konfusion
  8. Abbey Lincoln – Throw it Away from A Turtle’s Dream
  9. Wayne Shorter – In Walked Wayne from Footprints: the life and music of Wayne Shorter
  10. Roy Haynes – Vistalite from Quiet Fire

13 January 2016: Bowie’s inspiration

As many CJ listeners will know, David Bowie’s final album Blackstar features the late rock star working with a contemporary jazz group – and so the show this week began with some of those musicians. We started with tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, heard here rocking out with guitarist Ben Monder – both of whom feature on Blackstar.

Second up was the inspiration behind Blackstar, Maria Schneider. One Sunday night in the spring of 2014,  Bowie walked into 55 Bar, a 96-year-old jazz club tucked away on a quiet side street in New York’s West Village. It was his friend Maria Schneider who had suggested he check out the night’s headliner, a quartet led by Donny donny mccaslin declarationMcCaslin. Bowie apparently grabbed a table near the stage and took in a set of exploratory jazz, then left without speaking to the band. A server was like, ‘Wait, was that David Bowie?’ McCaslin has said. It started dawning on people. Ten days later, McCaslin got an email: Bowie wanted him and his drummer Mark Guiliana to join him in the studio. I thought, ‘This is David Bowie, and he chose me, and he’s sending me an email?’ McCaslin said. I tried not to think about it too much. I just wanted to stay in the moment and just do the work [he wanted]. You can read more about this in Rolling Stone magazine – and check out the video clip of McCaslin, drummer Mark Guiliana, bassist Tim Lefevbre and keyboard player Jason Lindner.

Schneider headlined last year’s London Jazz Festival and her most recent release The Thompson Fields is a delight. We featured the reflective title track from her previous album Sky Blue.

Steve’s Jazz Sounds keeps Cosmic Jazz supplied with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of music from Scandinavia and eastern Europe. This week we featured the Witold Janiack Trio, another of those great piano trios that continue to reinvent this most classic of jazz formats.

The pianist Paul Bley died on 03 January. Influential rather than well known (even to some jazz cognoscenti) Bley has influenced a paul bley open, to lovegeneration of musicians – from Keith Jarrett to Pat Metheny who commented On one level, what he’s doing is very complex, but it’s also completely accessible, very open… and in the end, something very personal becomes very universal. We played a tune by Bley’s first wife, the pianist and arranger Carla Bley from Bley’s superb piano solo release from ECM Records, Open, to Love. Have a look at this video performance from 1973 in which Bley’s quirky style (and pipe smoking!) is clearly apparent.

The Swedish band Oddjob has been inspired by the Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research and has created an album based on recordings of ancient Swedish pastoral music. Any music inspired by old recordings of shepherd songs is going to be unusual but we think this works – we played one of the tracks from this interesting album which is simply called Folk.

And this week we got round to playing in full the Bugge Wesseltoft track that ended last week’s show before winding things up with Mark Murphy’s uncompromising variation on Cole Porter’s All of You from his 1999 album The Latin Porter produced by Ben Sidran.

  1. Donny McCaslin – Rock Me from Declaration
  2. Maria Schneider Orchestra – Sky Blue from Sky Blue
  3. Paul Bley – Ida Lupino from Open, to Love
  4. Witold Janiack Trio – Owjas from Jagrajcie Swoja Muzyke
  5. Oddjob – Folk @ Six Calling at Nygards from Folk
  6. Bugge Wesseltoft – Play It from Bugge and Friends
  7. Mark Murphy – All of You from The Latin Porter




06 January 2016: new year, new music

Welcome back to Cosmic Jazz! Have you missed us? Well, here’s a sparkling show to start your new year musical detox programme. Just click on the arrow below our Listen Again title on the left of your screen. The music represents the broad spectrum we love here on the show – from 1950s ‘word jazz’ to Japanese nu- jazz, from Brazilian samba funk to the best in jazz rock.

We began the show with pianist Marc Cary and and his Focus Trioken nordine word jazz with their interpretation of Abbey Lincoln’s The Music is the Magic and then followed this with the unmistakable voice of Ken Nordine and a track from the first of his Word Jazz albums. Nordine is the voice over artist par excellence and has been plying his craft since the early 1950s. His deep, resonant voice has been heard in hundreds of television commercials and film trailers and is instantly recognisable. Japanese nu-jazz trio United Future Organization (UFO) sampled Nordine in their I Love My Baby track. Derek followed this with two of his current favourite female vocalists – Dayme Arocena from Cuba and Cecile McLorin Salvant from Florida, USA and Neil kept the mood with a track from Brazil’s Nilson Matta and his hommage to the classic Black Orpheus recording. This featured American singer Gretchen Parlato and – as Neil explained in the show – he was reminded of her voice when sheila simmeneslistening to the work of Norwegian singer Sheila Simmenes – someone we’ll be featuring on CJ in coming weeks. Sheila has a strong Brazilian connection, recording there each year, but her work covers a dazzling range of styles. You can hear many of these by listening to the extraordinary diversity in her Soundcloud page. Check it out and see what you think.

Neil followed this with a Brazilian classic from Trio Mocoto – their irresistible Swinga Sambaby. Mocoto were well known for backing Jorge Ben on some of his classic albums in the late 1960s but after disappearing for a while, they returned in 2001 through Belgium’s Crammed record label and their version of samba funk continues to delight audiences. Check them out here in a rare piece of live video from a 1972 Brazilian TV show.  Despite the schizophrenic range of styles, there’s a lot of jazz in there (as well as bizarre references to  Bacharach’s Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head!).

weather report legendary live tapesUp next was Weather Report in an extended live version of their Black Market album centrepiece Madagascar. This version was recorded live at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in 1980 and captures the way in which the band were able to go way beyond the confines of the jazzrock styles of the day. It’s worth listening to a whole concert live to understand how this quartet/quintet revolutionised popular jazz in the 1970s. Listen to them here from 1978 in a complete concert from Offenbach, Germany. We finished this week’s show bugge wesseltoft and friendswith another Norwegian and long-time friend of Cosmic Jazz, Bugge Wesseltoft. His new band features trumpeter Erik Truffaz and DJ/producer Joe Claussell – great friends to have around! You can listen to them here in a performance from the Oslo Jazz Festival in 2011. We’ll play more from the album in next week’s show.

  1. Marc Cary Focus Trio – The Music is the Magic from Four Directions
  2. Ken Nordine – My Baby from Word Jazz
  3. UFO – I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Jazz) from Jazzin’ 1991-92
  4. Dayme Arocena – Come to Me from Nueva Era
  5. Cecile McLorin Salvant – Something’s Coming from For One to Love
  6. Nilson Matta feat. Gretchen Parlato – Eu E O Meu Amor/Lamento No Morro from Nilson Matta’s Black Orpheus
  7. Trio Mocoto – Swinga Sambaby from The Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul
  8. Weather Report – Madagascar from The Legendary Live Tapes
  9. Bugge Wesseltoft – Play It from Bugge and Friends

16 December: best of 2015 part 2

CJ featured more of the new music we enjoyed this year – and you can listen to it all. Just look left and hit that play button to hear all of this week’s show.

Neil’s choices were a mixture of new releases and great reissues. The first two choices are from multi-CD reissue sets, both from Columbia Records. In September 1955, pianist Erroll Garner played a landmark concert at Carmel, California. The result was one of the most popular jazz records of the decade – the celebrated Concert by the Sea album in wherrol garner complete concert by the seaich Garner effortlessly worked his way through a programme of standards. Now, some 60 years later, the compete concert has been reissued. The sound hasn’t been tampered with very much but the real revelation is in some of the additional tracks – especially Ellington’s Caravan which we played. Unlike other pianists we like on CJ, Garner is different. For Ahmad Jamal, for example, less is often more. Not so with Garner. He doesn’t do anything new or challenging  with the melodies, but the sheer unpredictability of his introductions and the sense of joy in his playing are still addictive. For more Garner, check out his 1964 in-studio performance here where you can hear some of his influences including stride piano players like Fats Waller (with whom he shares the habit of sometimes mugging to the camera!). It’s a bravura performance and it captures the sheer charm of Garner’s playing.

Next up was Weather Report and a 4CD set of what – for many – is their most creative (and popular) period. The years from 1978-81 saw the band settle into a core quartet – Joe Zawinul on keyboards, Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano saxes, Jaco Pastorius on electric bass and Peter Erskine on drums. We featured the track Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz – often played at the time to end their set. I well reweather report legendary live tapesmember hearing the band at this time and their inventive energy was astonishing. here augmented by percussionist Robert Thomas Jr, this track captures this feeling perfectly. Even if you have most of the band’s output already this package, beautifully sequenced by Peter Erskine and Zawinul’s son Tony is essential. Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz (always played together) captures the balance between composed through material and the high levels of improvisation which marked a Weather Report show. The train track sound effect at the end of this piece is typical of the subtle ways in which Zawinul and Pastorius integrated samples into their sets long before they became de riguer. To see what this looked like check out this Montreux Jazz Festival performance from 1976.

joey alexander my favourite thingsBoth of these tracks made it into the Jazzwise best of 2015 lists – but not our next selection. Now, is this because new pianist Joey Alexander is something of a childhood prodigy? Of course, it’s good to be suspicious of mere technical fluency, but I think this 12 year old from Indonesia is the real jazz deal. Listen to what he does with Coltrane’s Giant Steps and decide for yourselves. Of course, it helps to have trio support from Larry Grenadier on bass and Ulysses Owen Jr. on drums but Alexander really thinks through the arrangements on this and all the other tracks on his Blue Note debut My Favorite Things. Have a look at this in-studio performance of the Coltrane classic.

Derek and I have both got into the unique soundworld of arranger and conductor Maria Schneider recently and next I featured a track from her new album The Thompson Fields. Like much of her work, this new release reflects her roots in the American midwest – specifically the Minnesota farmland that’s really a central character in this new album. Both the record and Donny McCaslin’s solo on maria schneider thompson 3our featured track are Grammy-nominated this year. We followed this with more orchestral music, this time from British composer Colin Towns. Improbably, once a member of Ian Gillan’s progressive rock band Towns is now a formidable jazz arranger with a string of excellent releases including the recent small group Blue Touch Paper. Here though with his Mask Orchestra he creates imaginative big band arrangements, all used to create widescreen arrangements linked to British theatre successes including Equus, Jayne Eyre and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. We chose the track Macbeth, full of sweeping drama and unpredictable twists and turns. To get an idea of his work as a film and TV composer, check out this interview where Towns talks about his work on the TV series Doc Martin.

We ended the show with a taste of two contemporary pianists – Robert Glasper and Brad Mehldau. Here Glasper is back with his trio but Mehldau is on his own in a 4CD set of solo piano performances from the last ten years. It’s a typically eclectic selection with music from Radiohead, the Beach Boys and Brahms. We featured one of two versions of Radiohead’s Knives Out.

sun ra - gilles petersonThe show ended with a CJ favourite – Sun Ra from Gilles Peterson’s new Strut compilation To Those of Earth and Other Worlds. We featured part of Sleeping Beauty, the title track from a 1979 album that captures Ra in a deceptively chilled mode, typical of other albums of the time including the essential Lanquidity and On Jupiter – all three now available on Art Yard Records. There’s more Sun Ra in our video clip this week, a typically spirited performance of Face the Music/Space is the Place.

  1. Erroll Garner – Caravan from The Complete Concert by the Sea
  2. Weather Report – Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz from the Legendary Live Tapes 1978-81
  3. Joey Alexander – Giant Steps from My Favorite Things
  4. The Maria Schneider Orchestra – Arbiters of Evolution from The Thompson Fields
  5. Colin Towns Mask Orchestra – Macbeth from Drama
  6. Robert Glasper Trio – So Beautiful from Covered
  7. Brad Mehldau – Knives Out from 10 Years Solo Live
  8. Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Myth Science Arkestra – Sleeping Beauty from To Those of Earth and Other Worlds
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09 December 2015: best of 2015 part 1

st germainThis week I needed to start the programme with a tune from an album that is not a jazz record but is one that I love and cannot stop playing. Sure, there are elements of jazz in the record but there is also electronic programming and, most importantly, the sounds of Senegal and Mali flowing throughout the recording. I am talking of the 2015 release of Ludovic Navarre better known as St. Germain and St. Germain is the title of this new record. It is truly rooted in the eclectic spirit of Cosmic Jazz; I am sure any of our followers and listeners will love it – essential. For a different take on the first single released from the album, try this Atjazz remix of Real Blues.

The UK magazine Jazzwise has published its Albums of the Year 2015the epic4 in the December 2015/January 2016 edition. I played four tunes from albums that appear in that list and which we have featured this year. Top of the Jazzwise list and probably high on any jazz lovers list for 2015 was Kamasi Washington’s triple CD The Epic. I chose the opening track from CD1 which exemplifies the mix of large orchestral sounds with spiritual, choral voices that is a distinctive feature of the album. Ironically, it hasn’t featured at all in Grammy nominations which have just been announced. Washington was one of the stars of two sell out shows at the London Jazz festival this year – for a taste of the festival listen to this podcast.

I was delighted to see a favourite record of mine, Ahmad Jamal’s Live in Marciac at No. 6= in the chart. I have said, played and written so much about this record that I will not add more. The same goescharles lloyd for Charles Lloyd whose Wild Man Dance is at 4=. Finally, to complete my quartet of tunes and to make a neat combination of two from long-established jazz greats and two from young artists who should be around for years to come, I played Cecile McLorin Salvant who is at 6= alongside Ahmad Jamal. She has the ability through her vocal delivery to make a familiar song sound fresh, unique and original in its presentation and is backed by top-rate musicians. The record has been a surprise and a delight to me.

This edition of Jazzwise has published a Top 20 list of new releases and a Top 20 list of reissues. There are many more great albums on these lists and we’ll be featuring more in future shows. Buy the magazine to find out more and check out articles – including one on Kamasi Washington. A conversation at the end of last week with someone who has played music with saxophonist Steve Williamson persuaded me to play a tune from Black Top which features Steve Williamson alongside Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas. Watch them on our video below. Here they play at the Jazz in the Round shows at the Cockpit Theatre, London. Finally, to continue our mission to feature Polish jazz musicians the show ended with a piece from the wonderful, flowing pianist Michal Wroblewski.

  1. St. Germain – Family Tree from St. Germain
  2. Kamasi Washington – Changing of the Guard from The Epic
  3. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac
  4. Charles Lloyd – Flying Over the Odra from Wild Man Dance
  5. Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Trolley Song from For One to Love
  6.  Black Top – Nubian Archaic Step Dub from #One
  7. Michal Wroblewski – Warsaw Blues from City Album
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02 December 2015: female jazz greats

Derek’s CJ theme this week was clearly female jazz artists – many of whom are regular fixtures on the show. He began with Cassandra Wilson who released a run of consistently great albums on Blue cassandra wilson blue lightNote before moving to Sony. She found her initial fame as a vocalist with Steve Coleman’s M Base movement and then made Blue Light ’til Dawn, her first Blue Note album with what was to become something of a trademark sound. She was able to take familiar tunes from the pop, jazz and blues canons and give them a unique interpretation that featured her resonant voice and spare instrumentation all within a spacious semi-acoustic setting that reinvested these well known tunes. She continued with a string of albums that invoked the spirit of the deep south – delta blues meets jazz and pop – and all of them are worth investigating. For something different try this Joe Claussell remix of Run the Voodoo Down from her Travelling Miles album.

This was followed by two more favourites – the first from the debut album by six octave singer Rachelle Ferrell and her track Prayer Dance. This album features cameos from jazz Wayne Shorter, zara mcfarlaneTerence Blanchard, Michel Petrucciani and Stanley Clarke and is well worth investigating. Up next was young British singer Zara McFarlane with a track from her sophomore release on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label If you Knew Her. Woman in the Olive Grove is a really atmospheric song with a spare jazz quartet backing that engages the listener from its first double bass notes. There’s a great tenor solo from Brinker Golding too.

Esperanza Spalding is a Grammy Award winning phenomenon. She’s a first call bass player and bandleader and something of an expert in creating dazzlingly original arrangements for her band. Witness the esperanza spalding radio music societysensational vocal version of Wayne Shorter’s Endangered Species from her Radio Music Society album from 2012, or the track we featured, Cinnamon Tree.  She’s been remixed too – check out this version of Fall In, remixed here by xvze. Carmen Lundy needs no introduction to CJ regulars: Soul to Soul is the title track from her 2014 release and features appearances from Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, Randy Brecker and Bennie Maupin. More importantly, it’s something of a distillation of Lundy’s approach – musicians who chime beautifully with her voice, a few standards and lots of original material written by Lundy herself. Another recommendation.

The second visit to Brownswood came from 22 year old Cuban vocalist Dayme Arocena who – although a newcomer – is really following in the footsteps of classic Cuban vocalists like Omara Portuondo who sang both American standards and Cuban originals. But Arocena brings the Santeria spirit to her music and this is different. Don’t Unplug My Body is another stripped down performance that features some great piano work. You can hear a great remix from Atjazz (aka Martin Iveson) here. And that West African religious tradition is also a familiar inspiration to many Brazilian artists, including Jorge Ben. Here, though, CJ featuredjoyce samba jazz another longtime favourite, the singer Joyce performing on the track April Child with her husband, drummer Tutty Moreno. Joyce has recorded more than 20 albums in her own name, including the classic Feminina from 1980 which brought her voice and compositions to western listeners. Since signing to Joe Davis’s British label Far Out, she had recorded a series of excellent releases, all of which are worth investigating. Check out the video below – a live 2002 performance of the title track from her classic Feminina album – an essential purchase.

The show ended with two contrasting female artists – Hiromi from Japan and Alice Coltrane from the USA. Hiromi is a keyboard player who is equally at home on piano and synthesizers. Technical alice coltrane transcendencevirtuosity is mixed with a unique style that is undoubtedly influenced by her early meetings with both Chick Corea and Ahmad Jamal. Her album Brain is a classic jazz piano trio recording with dazzling keyboard work in a range of different styles. It features accomplished bassist Anthony Jackson on some tracks although not the title track played here. But you can see him here with his unique contrabass guitar in a studio performance with Hiromi on piano and Simon Philips on drums. The show ended in reflective mode with Alice Coltrane’s Transcendence featuring her unique harp playing along with a string quartet – a suitably spiritual end to a show that revealed the range of female artistry in the wide world of jazz today.

  1. Cassandra Wilson – Come On In My Kitchen from Blue Light ’til Dawn
  2. Rachelle Ferrell – Prayer Dance from First Instrument
  3. Zara McFarlane – Woman In The Olive Grove from If You Knew Her
  4. Esperanza Spalding – Cinnamon Tree from Radio Music Society
  5. Carmen Lundy – Soul To Soul from Soul To Soul
  6. Dayme Arocena – Don’t Unplug My Body from Nueva Era
  7. Joyce & Tutty Moreno – April Child from Samba Jazz and Outras Bossas
  8. Hiromi – Brain from Brain
  9. Alice Coltrane – Transcendence – from Transcendence
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24 November 2015: jazz icons live

This week’s CJ featured only four selections – but what powerful performances they were! We began with John Coltrane performing live at Temple University in 1966 from a recording that john coltrane offeringfinally emerged last year on Impulse! Records. The saxophonist was relentlessly exploring his music during the last the last two years of his life, frequently deploying extra musicians in expanded groupings. On this night in Philadelphia, he had some additional musicians on stage – a couple of extra saxophone players he knew from the area as well as Umar Ali, Algie DeWitt, and Robert Kenyatta on percussion. But they don’t really intrude into the the performance – Coltrane himself is at the heart of it (there was, after all, only one microphone recording all of this) and the performance is full of explosive atonal blowing – as you can hear on the 26 minutes of Crescent.

As the excellent Pitchfork review attests, ‘trane’s playing is unbearably intense, the brittle shrieking egged on by someone yelling “Hey!” in the background. Melody and harmony are sacrificed at the altar of texture and feeling, anger and joy bleed into sadness. Once in a while you can hear a cowbell in the background, and you get a glimpse of what it might have been like to be here on this night. “

Next up was Miles Davis, perhaps the most iconic of all jazz artists and another restlessly exploring musician. Coltrane didn’t embrace the growth of electric music in jazz in the way that his one time boss did – the intensity of his playing didn’t need any additions. But by the time of this second live track in 1970, Miles was fully electric,bitches brew live playing his trumpet through a wah wah pedal and using two electric keyboards on stage. This performance is from the Isle of Wight Festival where Davis shared the bill with such artists as Chicago, Joni Mitchell, the Doors, Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix. This was exactly the audience Miles wanted to bring his new music to and this was to be the biggest audience (600,000 people) ever played to by a jazz artist. The first ten minutes of the continuous set is a version of Bitches Brew, released the previous year as as a double vinyl album.

CJ next played Charles Lloyd whose 1966-68 quartet featured Keith Jarrett on piano, who was earlier heard wreaking havoc on a Fender electric organ with Miles Davis. But this 2007 band is altogether different. Lloyd is very much the elder statesman here leading his rabo de nubeyoung band through a set of mostly Lloyd originals at a Basel concert. Here on CJ we come back to this recording time and again – why? It’s probably the centrepiece of Lloyd’s many recordings for the ECM label and a great place to begin to investigate his music. He had recorded several albums for the German label by time this one was released in 2008 and here he invests several earlier tracks with a new spirit thanks to a superb band. High school classmates Eric Harland on drums and Jason Moran on piano are joined by Reuben Rogers on bass and each pushes their leader to new heights of improvisation. Start with Rabo de Nube and you’ll want to experience all of Lloyd’s work with this astonishing quartet.

The final track in this very special show came from an artist that Miles Davis had huge respect for. Ahmad Jamal, now , is here jamal marciacrecorded last year at the Marciac festival in France. Another elder leader invigorated by a young band featuring bassist Reginald Veal,  percussionist Manolo Badrena and drummer Herlin Riley, this live show (available with a DVD) captures warmth and good nature of a band who know how to work around Jamal’s quirky take on both standards and originals. Check out our video below which shows Jamal revisiting his Poinciana original in Paris in 2012 with this same quartet.

  1. John Coltrane – Crescent from Offering: live at Temple University
  2. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew from Bitches Brew Live
  3. Charles Lloyd – Migration of Spirit from Rabo de Nube
  4. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac
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