Week ending 03 November 2018: the Black Renaissance annual appearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to:

 

Week ending 27 October 2018: contemporary British jazz

The show on the Mix Cloud tab this week is an all-British affair featuring some of the exciting music coming from the wealth of talent now playing jazz and jazz-related music in the UK. It was also a chance to re-visit some of the artists and tunes we have been featuring on Cosmic Jazz this year. They need to be played – and often.

UK sax player Sean Khan has produced an interesting album that is essentially jazz but with strong Brazilian influences. Who better from Brazil to combine these two genres than Hermeto Pascoal – and Sean Khan managed to secure his services for four of the nine tracks on his album Palmares Fantasy. On this week’s tune Montreux, Hermeto is credited with flute, vocals and glass of water! That’s him making some interesting sounds at the end of the tune.

We have played and talked much about the young/youngish jazz scene in the UK and representatives are well to the fore in this week’s show. I was so pleased to see Maisha, the band led by drummer Jake Long, perform this year. They cook up quite a storm and their infectious enthusiasm for playing together in quite a large group comes across strongly. In pianist Sara Tandy they have an exciting, unpredictable and innovative musician whose playing  and obvious joy in playing is a delight. I have seen her also playing with Camilla George. Guitarist Shirley Tetteh and sax player Nubya Garcia are also members of the band whose reputation and renown seems to grow by the day. Maisha have an album due for release on Brownswood Records on 09 November and Sara Tandy is also due to release her debut album soon.

One of the features of these groups is that the musicians work with each other on different projects. For example, Nubya Garcia  plays with Maisha and is also on the title tune of Joe Armon-Jones’ first release and in her own right on the EP When We Are.  Another feature, illustrated most clearly with the Joe Armon-Jones and Sons of Kemet tunes, is that the boundaries of jazz are stretched. We love this on Cosmic Jazz. There is experimentation, there are challenging sounds and even instruments you may not have heard on in jazz before – such as Theon Cross and his tuba with Sons of Kemet. Ezra Collective’s excellent tune I Have a God we have played before, but are only too pleased to play again. There are some lovely vocals by Zara McFarlane which illustrate when she is at her best that she can  combine power and sensitivity as a vocalist.

The final tune came from someone at the other end of the age spectrum and the other end of England from most of the above. Tony Burkill is a tenor saxophonist from Leeds who I can only presume has been active on the scene there for a number of years. He has put out an album Work Money Death comprising tunes written by himself and bass player Neil Innes. The album can even boast contributions from the Headingley Handclap Choir.  I like it. Third of All Numbers provided an uplifting and positive way to end the show.

  1. Sean Khan – Montreux from Palmares Fantasy
  2. Maisha – Osiris from There is a Place
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today from Starting Today
  4. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Ada Eastman from Your Queen is a Reptile
  5. Nubya Garcia – When We Are from When We Are
  6. Ezra Collective feat Zara McFarlane – I Have a God from Chapter 7
  7. Tony Burkill – Third of All Numbers from Work Money Death

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 20 October 2018: great pianists and more Polish jazz

lt has been a bit of a gap but Cosmic Jazz is back with its usual mix of jazz both old and new from around the globe. Click on the Mixcloud tab on this page to hear the show.

My colleague Neil put forward  a tune for inclusion that inspired the two selections that followed. The British band Hexagonal have produced an album that is a tribute to two fantastic pianists, namely US great McCoy Tyner, he of the classic Coltrane quartet and Bheki Mseleku who was born in South Africa and moved to the UK where he recorded some highly-regarded jazz. Jason Yarde, the Hexagonal alto player has played with Tyner and both the Hexagonal pianist John Donaldson and the drummer Simon Thorpe played with Bheki Mseleku. The tune on the show was their take on the McCoy Tyner tune Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit and an impressive version it is too. It seemed only natural to follow this with tunes by McCoy and Bheki. From the former came the uptempo African Village and from the latter the more measured and contemplative title tune from his album Celebration. Apparently, this album is due for re-release. It is a recommended album, as – of course – is any work from McCoy Tyner.

The inclusion of ‘Village’ in the title above inspired the choice of a Cosmic Jazz classic from Japanese band Quasimode.  Written by British tenor player Tubby Hayes, Down in the Village is a reference to the celebrated NY jazz venue, The Village Vanguard. The wealth of music we come across through Steve’s Jazz Sounds illustrates what a jazz-rich nation Poland must be. In Poland, many musicians from the past have, and a new generation of exciting young players are, receiving recognition  beyond the borders of the country. Two of these were included in this week’s show. Firstly, the Wojtek Masolewski Quintet with two tunes from their album Polka. This album went platinum in Poland but reached many other places too. The band have toured across twenty-one countries, with a recent performance at London’s Jazz Cafe. Their music respects and harks back to the traditions but it is also contemporary and infused with electronica. This was followed by EABS a septet of young Polish musicians, Again, they respect the past and combine traditional Polish jazz with new sounds; there is a turntable in the mix. They have been compared to some of the young musicians on the current London scene and like them are bringing jazz to some new and younger audiences.

The show ended with one of those contemporary, tough, genre-stretching tunes that are now appearing from many sources, in this case from the James Brandon Lewis Trio. They are soon to appear at the London Jazz Festival in November.

  1. Hexagonal – Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit from McCoy & Mseleku
  2. McCoy Tyner – African Village from Time for Tyner
  3. Bheki Mseleku – Celebration from Celebration
  4. Quasimode – Down in the Village from Down in the Village
  5. Wojtek Masolewski Quintet – Roma II from Polka
  6. Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet – Sunday from Polka
  7. EABS – Private Conversations VIII from Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda
  8. James Brandon Lewis Trio – Y’All Slept from No Filter

Derek is listening to ….

Week ending 06 October 2018: different styles and more Randy Weston

Jazz covers a wide-ranging spectrum of music and we like to reach into all corners here on Cosmic Jazz, sometimes heading well outside the boundaries – as this week. Check out the music for yourself by clicking the MixCloud tab (left) and giving a listen.

Maisha are an exciting band of young UK jazz musicians led by drummer Jake Long. Live  – and certainly when I saw them – they have included our pianist of the moment, Sara Tandy, and the much feted saxophonist Nubya Garcia. There is also guitar, percussion and bass. The music has been described as  spiritual jazz and Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders are definite influences along with West African percussive sounds. Maisha have an album due for release titled There Is a Place in early November on Brownswood Recordings and the tune Osiris will be on it. We shall play more.

There are many, almost an extraordinary number, of excellent young bands in Poland. Very good many of them are too and it must be a very lively jazz scene. This week we featured EABS whose album Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda is one of many ways in which the Polish jazz scene pays tribute to one of its greats. EABS are ostensibly a jazz septet but featuring a turntablist marks them out as among the more unconventional new Polish bands and, as such, they are attracting a new audience to the music.

Swedish sax player/composer Jonas Kulhammer was included because, as happens frequently, this tune appeared on my shuffle songs and I had to play it. Presumably Homage to George Braith is dedicated to the New York sax player who, like Roland Kirk, could play multiple horns at once. Kulhammer has played in some distinguished company – for example, Carlos Garnett, Goran Kafjes, Mulatu Astatke (who we included in last week’s programme), Jason Moran and Chick Corea.

There was a further tribute to Randy Weston to follow on from another feature that was included last week. Neil’s choice came from the 1991 2CD release Spirits of Our Ancestors, and mine from another album, Tanjah, originally released in 1973.  The reverse of the 1995 CD re-release of Tanjah sums up Randy Weston’s approach in both these tunes and in much of his work when it describes him as the “original pan-Africanist and pan-Arabist in jazz”. In the interview with him transcribed in the accompanying booklet, Randy Weston states how “In the late fifties and early Sixties, it was all in the air: the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King… We had that kind of energy, and it inspired me to compose what was in the air”. Weston was a pioneering and important musician with a deep jazz legacy. Find out more about his black heritage explorations in this extract from All That Is, a portrait of Weston by French director Jacques Goldstein.

To end the show we featured an artist who’s a new discovery for us. Neil and I don’t know quite why it has taken us to find out about hip hop artist Akua Naru. I came across her when the aforementioned pianist Sara Tandy played a tune on a BBC radio show, commenting that she had played with Naru on tour. It is interesting to note that jazz trumpeter Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah appears on one of her albums. The presence of both these musicians suggests a jazz sensibility at the very least. Is Nag Champa Gold jazz? Probably not but we love it.

  1. Maisha – Osiris from There is a Place
  2. EABS – Pinguin VI from Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda
  3. Jonas Kulhammer – Homage to George Braith from Gentlemen
  4. Randy Weston – Blue Moses from Spirits of Our Ancestors
  5. Randy Weston – Tanjah from Tanjah
  6. Akua Naru – Nag Champa Gold from Live & Aflame Sessions

Derek is listening to…..

Week ending 29 September 2018: conscious music and a tribute to Randy Weston

Music can lead you places. Cosmic Jazz this week began with a tribute – but that music and life of pianist Randy Weston inspired a programme of conscious music, some of it linking jazz to the African continent and the roots of this music. Click the Mixcloud tab left and join this important , soul-enriching and uplifting journey.

Randy Weston was born in 1926 and died died on 1 September this year. Raised in New York, he was conscious of his musical roots early on and began spending time in Africa – firstly, Nigeria and then Morocco to where he moved full time in the late 1960s. Weston was deeply influenced by the music he heard there, playing with Moroccan musicians and being inspired by African Liberation movements. The Spirits Of Our Ancestors was recorded in 1991 and the lineup included fellow distinguished musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Pharaoh Sanders and Idris Muhammad. The 2CD album is an eloquent tribute and homage to jazz music’s African musical ancestors with Weston’s approach to life and music encapsulated in the liner notes – which celebrate the universal musical language that transcends race, color and nationality. We shall play more.

From there, it seemed appropriate to include music that is rooted in Black/African conscious thought or has strong links to the roots of jazz. Michele Hendricks, daughter of singer Jon, produced a fine version ofMarvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, a deceptively gentle commentary on  the black repression, the struggles for liberty and the Vietnam  War in the 1960s. The original version is jazz-inflected, but this one takes the jazz much further. You can find it on Jazz Dance Fusion, a compilation released last year by Manchester DJ Colin Curtis.

Here at Cosmic Jazz we never expected that Sons of Kemet would win the Mercury Music Prize – and they didn’t. The reporting of the event made little mention of them but we can only hope the messages from the album and the sales have now gone wider than before. The queen chosen for musical respect this week was academic, author and activist Angela Davis, who interestingly, is emeritus professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been long in the struggles and has survived attempts to jail her and to sack her, the latter by President Ronald Reagan.

It seemed appropriate, while remembering Randy Weston, to include further links to the continent of Africa. Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian musician whose distinctive music merges jazz and Latin sounds to the traditional music of his country. He is the founder of Ethio-jazz. He has travelled the world and trained in London, New York and Boston. Here he is heard with British musicians the Heliocentrics. British group Kokoroko travel the other way. They are part of the youthful and exciting scene of new jazz in the UK. Their tune from the compilation We Out Here pays tribute to Abusey Junction,  a place in the Gambia where musicians/griots meet and play.

One of the highs of playing music on a show like Cosmic Jazz is that we are not limited to new releases or to a pre-planned time schedule. We can play long tunes and there are two very long ones opn this week’s show. One was the Randy Weston tune that opened the show, the other was the one to end it. Cannonball Adderley’s live Black Messiah recording from the Troubador Club, Los Angeles in 1971 seemed to some up the hopes, aspirations and ambition of the music played this week.

  1. Randy Weston – African Cookbook from The Spirits Of Our Ancestors
  2. Michele Hendricks – What’s Going On from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  3. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis from Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics – Cha Cha from Inspiration, Information Vol 3
  5. Kokoroko – Abusey Junction from We Out Here
  6. Cannonball Adderley – Black Messiah from Black Messiah

Derek is listening to……

  1. Roxanne Panufnik – Zen Love Song
  2. Julian Anderson – Fantasias
  3. Maisha – The Night Trance
  4. Anthony Joseph – Shine
  5. Spanish Harlem Orchestra – Sacala Bailar

Week ending 22 September 2018: musicians on the move

The life of a jazz musician is not always an easy one. You have to go where the music and the work is. Often this means settling in the capital city of the country where you live, but for some moving countries is the more dramatic alternative. If you check out the MixCloud tab this week you will find some examples of musicians who have moved out of their country of birth and – it would seem -have truly benefited from this international exchange.

We paid tribute to the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko two  weeks ago but his achievements deserve more recognition than one tune on the show. The ECM album Lontano brings back to me images and sounds similar to those I heard him play in a church in Norwich. Clear, pure, spiritual music that has you drifting away to the heavens but yet combines this effect with music that is deep and complex. In recent years Stanko had moved to Manhattan and became an important figure on the New York jazz scene, although he died back in his native Poland.

Jerzy Malek is a Polish trumpeter who has been on the scene for over twenty years and has been compared to Stanko and the other great Polish trumpeter we love on Cosmic Jazz, namely Piotr Wojtasik. The album Forevelle was recorded in Warsaw with Polish musicians and the tune on the show has a title that is a clever play on the capital city. Stalgia, his previous album, was a more international affair, involving musicians from the USA. Jerzy Malek is an artist we have come across through the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds and another much-loved artist from the same source is Swedish alto saxophonist Fredrik Kronkvist. He is unpredictable in his choice of material. His last album Afro-Cuban Supreme focused on Afro-Cuban jazz as a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, while a previous release (Monk Vibes) saw him provide new interpretations to classic Thelonious Monk compositions. The tune on this week’s show though is straight hard bop. It’s from an album entitled Brooklyn Playground – an indication of his journey from Europe to the US.

Sax player Luis Nubiola has made more changes than most musicians. He was born in Cuba, moved to Costa Rica and then on to Poland which is where, with Polish musicians, he recorded his album Global Friendship – clearly a subject he knows quite a lot about.

From time to time we feature an artist(s) over a few programmes. The most recent has been the incredible alto sax player Joe Harriott, a pioneer of free jazz in the UK and beyond. The more I have played, the more I have realised just how creative and amazing his music was. The album Abstract was recorded in 1961/1962 and still sounds like progressive jazz today. Any serious jazz lover has to listen to Joe Harriott. He played with some of the leading British jazz musiciams of the day – on this album pianist Pat Smythe, and drummers Bobby Orr and Phil Seaman. Harriott himself, though, moved from Jamaica to the UK as did his frequent collaborator, bass player Coleridge Goode, while trumpeter Shake Keane was born in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. One of the tunes on the album also has Guyanese-born bongo player Frank Holder. We featured Harriott’s take on the Sonny Rollins classic Oleo.

Vocalist Abbey Lincoln may have been born in the USA and lived only there until her death in 2010 – but her influence is felt much more widely.  Jazz singer, lyricist, actress and US Civil Rights activist, Lincoln was not only a distinctive voice in jazz but a powerful interpreter of the music. I came across her album Painted Lady, recorded with Archie Shepp, on my shelves and it felt right to hear her again. As ever, there is some powerful and distinctive sax blowing from Shepp on Stevie Wonder’s tune Golden Lady. 

The show ended with an uptempo number from another vocalist – Brazilian Eliane Elias. Born in Sao Paulo, Elias was married to trumpeter Randy Brecker and recorded with him. It’s her piano playing that has garnered her more recent attention and Latin Grammy Awards along the way for her 2016 album Made in Brazil and then again in 2017 for Dance of Time. We chose a track from the latter album featuring current and previous collaborators including veteran Brazilian guitarist Toquinho, trumpeter Randy Brecker and vibes player from Steps Ahead Mike Mainieri.

  1. Tomasz Stanko – Lontano Pt I from Lontano
  2. Jerzy Malek – War Saw from Forevelle
  3. Fredrik Kronkvist – Open Air from Brooklyn Playground
  4. Juis Nubiola – The New One from Global Friendship
  5. Joe Harriott – Oleo from Abstract
  6. Abbey Lincoln/Archie Shepp – Golden Lady from Painted Lady
  7. Eliane Elias – Sambou Sambou from Dance of Time

Derek is listening to…..

  1. Randy Weston and Billy Harper – Blues to Senegal
  2. Randy Weston – African Rhythms
  3. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Kamasi Washington – Street Fighter Mas
  5. Ntjam Rosie – Space of You

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 15 September: stretching jazz boundaries

This week, when you click our Mixcloud tab (left) you will find a Cosmic Jazz with more than its normal share of genre-stretching music. Although forced by tunes not arriving on the screen as planned, this nonetheless made for an interesting challenge and certainly some intriguing music.

We began with a piece from the Santuri Mugwisa International  Xylophone Group from Uganda on a Sam Jones Construct – which presumably means ‘remix’ – and released through the London label On the Corner. It is a fascinating and enticing sound that draws you into its rhythms. It was followed by Mr. Fingers a.k.a. house producer/DJ Larry Heard whose warm and lilting tune Tiger Lounge comes from an album with the cosmic-sounding title Cerebral HemispheresOur trio of what we might call alternative sounds for Cosmic Jazz was completed by Bitchin Bajas’ unusual interpretation of the Sun Ra tune Angels and Demons At Play with very long loops creating a hypnotic feel. Whilst this music is more closely linked to the work of minimalist pioneers like Terry Rile, the improvisational element is never far away. It’s further evidence that jazz continues to draw on inspiration from other contemporary musical sources. Check out this longform collaboration between Riley and world music trumpet visionary Don Cherry recorded live in 1975.

More contemporary music followed, this time from the UK. It was long overdue that I played Manchester’s GoGo Penguin, now on Blue Note records, with a selection from their latest album A Humdrum Star, titled after Carl Sagan’s reference to planet Earth on his celebrated TV series Cosmos. Appropriate again…GoGo Penguin are interesting, innovative and mesmerising – and what a bass line from Nick Blacka anchoring the track Strid, our selection for this week.

Piano/keyboard (or in this case Wurlitzer) player Joe Armon-Jones fitted in perfectly with the sounds so far. Jazz, yet not quite jazz for some listeners. His new album Starting Today includes many of the now well-known young UK players familiar to CJ listeners. They play on his record and he plays on theirs. Ragify features drummer Moses Boyd, guitarist, Oscar Jerome, saxophonists James Mollison and Nubya Garcia and trumpeter Dylan Howe.

Our last two tunes this week may have been more conventional, but there was nothing wrong with that – especially when the music included the beautiful and becalming playing of the Jamie Saft Quartet from their new release Blue Dream. We ended the show with another track from the excellent Familia disc which featured three generations of the O’Farrill and Valdes families – truly latin royalty.

  1. Mogwisa International Xylophone Group – Jinja Pearls from Santuri’s Embaire Umene EP
  2. Mr. Fingers – Tiger Lounge from Cerebral Hemispheres
  3. Bitchin Bajas – Angels and Demons at Play from Bajas Fresh
  4. GoGo Penguin – Strid from A Humdrum Star
  5. Joe Armon-Jones – Ragify from Starting Today
  6. Jamie Saft Quartet – There’s a Lull in My Life from Blue Dream
  7. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Father, mothers, sons, daughters from Familia Disc I

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 September 2018: worldwide jazz

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of inspiring tunes from spiritual/modal jazz to free form, jazz infused music from Latin America. Cosmic Jazz this week – as ever – maintained its reputation for playing jazz and jazz-related music from the past as well as the present and from across many international borders.

The journey started in Japan, but with a connection to the USA as well as the UK where the record was released. We have consistently recommended the Spiritual Jazz releases on Jazzman Records and – over the years – have featured many tracks on the show. Volume 8 is a 2CD set of music from Japan. The selection this week was from guitarist Shungo Sawada and his band playing a warm, spiritual and modal interpretation of the Wayne Shorter classic Footprints. A wonderful way to start the show.

It was appropriate to follow this with something from Wayne Shorter himself who coincidentally celebrated his 85th birthday last week. We didn’t go for his original recording of Footprints but the selection did come from a compilation album with that title. There’s nothing to add here to these important contributions other than to say any jazz lover needs to explore his music. Shorter is one of the foremost composers in modern jazz and his own new 3CD release, Emanon, which comes with a graphic novel authored by Shorter, himself a longtime science fiction and comic book fan, will be released next week on 14 September. Expect to hear tracks on upcoming Cosmic Jazz shows.

Last week we played a Joe Harriott tune inspiring us to feature more this week. The context was different, with this time Les Condon on trumpet, Pat Smythe on piano, Coleridge Goode on bass and the great Phil Seaman on drums. Coleridge Goode, like Joe Harriott, was another Jamaican exile who arrived Britain in 1934 to study in Glasgow, in his case long before the Windrush generation. He lived to the age of 100. Joe Harriott uses the tune on the show as a pretext to explain free form to his audience.

On last week’s show Harriott  featured as part of Michael Garrick’s Quintet and so it seemed appropriate to include another tune from Garrick, this time from his excellent album Troppo. Here on CJ we’ve talked about and played some excellent music from the new generations of British jazz musicians – but it’s easy to forget what superb British jazz was around in the 1960s and 1970s – as exemplified by the likes of Harriott and Garrick. Troppo (released in 1973) is highly recommended, with original vinyl copies fetching serious money these days. The musicians on the album were among the best around; the same Coleridge Goode and another link to Joe Harriott with Norma Winstone on vocals, Don Rendell on sax and flute, Trevor Tomkins on drums and Dave Green on bass. Art Themen on flute and sax and Henry Lowther on trumpet are both still active on the UK jazz circuit today with Lowther releasing a new album in January this year. Check out Lowther’s website for more details.

Events in Latin America tend to reach the UK news only when there have been unfortunate tales to tell. So, last week was the disastrous fire at the National Museum of Brazil and the problems of the currency and the economies in Argentina and Venezuela. It was time to hear something positive. What better than through music? The sequence started with Berklee College of Music trained Brazilian sax player Victor Assis Brasil and the Jobim tune Wave. You can find this track on the newly re-released FarOut album Esperanto which includes on the CD release both that album and the Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim release which featured Wave. The music is much more jazz than bossa nova and – had Assis Brasil lived longer than his 35 years – he would not be the forgotten figure he is today. It’s again thanks to the UK FarOut label that this music is being made available once more.

There is and never will be any apology for playing yet another selection from Jane Bunnett’s Spirits of Havana, especially as the tune was Song From Argentina.  The album, now released as a double CD, is another of those we recommend highly. Jane Bunnett is a soprano sax/flute player who back in 1991 travelled with her trumpet-playing husband to Cuba. There they joined up with some of the finest local musicians to record some excellent music, several years before the Buena Vista Social Club and produced, in my opinion, music that was far more interesting. Give it a listen – but better still buy/download the CD.

There was a bright ending from Grupo Batuque with a tune to be found on a further UK compilation, Brazilian Love Affair 5 – the final release in another excellent FarOut series which incorporated both original new material from current FarOut releases and classic era tracks from the 1960s onwards.

  1. Shungo Sawada – Footprints from Spiritual Jazz 8
  2. Wayne Shorter – The Three Marias from Footprints; the Life and Music of Wayne Shorter
  3. Joe Harriott – Joe Explains Freeform from Genius
  4. Michael Garrick – Sons of Art from Troppo
  5. Victor Assis Brasil – Wave from Esperanto
  6. Jane Bunnett – Song from Argentina from Spirits of Havana
  7. Grupo Batuque – Ida E Volta from Brazilian Love Affair 5

Derek is listening to …..

Week ending 01 September 2018: tribute to Tomasz Stanko (1942-2018)

It was a warm evening in May. I was seated in a large medieval church in the centre of Norwich, one of the UK’s most historic and beautiful cities, and the evening sun was streaming through the windows at the western end of the building. It was in this calm and peaceful setting that I heard Tomasz Stanko perform a few years back. The clear, pure spiritual sounds of his trumpet soared towards the heavens and the venue and the musicians blended in perfect harmony.

Tomasz Stanko, who died recently, was right up there with the best jazz musicians of our era. He played with distinguished musicians both in his home country of Poland and in the US, where he was a Manhattan resident from 2008. The tune on this week’s show was from the  album Polin. It was composed at the invitation of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and was performed at the opening ceremony of the permanent exhibition in 2014. The album includes Ravi Coltrane on sax and Cuban-born pianist David Virelles, it is important music.

It seemed appropriate to have a segment of important Polish musicians and that had to include pianist/composer Krzysztof Komeda. His album Astigmatic features Tomasz Stanko on trumpet. Stanko joined Komeda’s band in the 1960s. The album was selected for inclusion in the Penguin Jazz Guide which claims the album never fails to repay close attention and has an engrossing emotional charge that is almost physical. The tune Kattorna (apparently Swedish for female cats and dedicated to a Swedish friend) was also recorded once more Tomasz Stanko’s own quartet on the album Lontano.

The final piece of the Polish segment came from another Polish trumpeter we love on Cosmic Jazz – Piotr Wojtasik. Like Tomasz Stanko, he has played with some outstanding US jazz musicians. His album We Want to Give Thanks includes Reggie Workman on bass, (who Stanko played with too), Billy Hart on drums, George Cables on piano and Billy Harper on tenor sax. This is an impressive line-up. The tune Escape Party 3 was a fitting end to the sequence.

The show opened with Cecile McClorin Salvant, after the tune Something’s Coming appeared among my iPod shuffle songs during the week. Hearing the tune again reminded me of the range and versatility of her voice – what a fine singer! In addition, the strength of her backing musicians who are allowed scope to express themselves and travel off down unexpected paths. The tune – from musical West Side Story and with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein – was well timed as the centenary of Bernstein’s birth is being celebrated at this year’s BBC Proms season.

There was yet another connection to current times. The end of August sees Europe’s biggest Caribbean carnival come to Notting Hill, London and on the first Monday of September to Labor Day in New York. A number with the title Calypso Sketches seemed, therefore, to be timely. There is another connection, however, that evoked other memories. The tune was by the great free and innovative alto sax player Joe Harriott playing with the Michael Garrick Quintet. On trumpet was Shake Keane (a poet as well as a jazz musician). Both arrived in the UK from the Caribbean in 1952 – Joe Harriott from Jamaica and Shake Keane from St. Vincent & the Grenadines. As such, they were part of the Windrush Generation, whose sad and despicable treatment by the British Government has recently been uncovered.

From time to time I like to put into the mix an old tune that I love, even if I have played it before. This week it was Amsterdam After Dark from tenor sax player George Coleman. Hilton Ruiz is on piano, (check out his subtle insertions to the tune), Billy Higgins on drums and Sam Jones on bass. It is one of those feel good tunes with a wonderful melody – perfect to hum along to.

  1. Cecile McClorin Salvant – Something’s Coming from For One to Love
  2. Tomasz Stanko – Yankiel’s Lid from Polin
  3. Komeda Quintet – Kattorna from Astigmatic
  4. Piotr Wojtasik – Escape Part 3 from We Want to Give Thanks
  5. Joe Harriott – Calypso Sketches from Genius
  6. George Coleman – Amsterdam After Dark from Amsterdam After Dark

Neil is listening to…

This 36 minute selection was compiled by ECM producer Manfred Eicher and represents some of the best of Stanko’s work with this label. The playlist is as follows: Track 1: Morning Heavy Song – Leosia Track 2: Sleep Safe and Warm (Version 2) – Litania Track 3: Svantetic – Litania Track 4: … y después de todo – From The Green Hill Track 5: Litania – From The Green Hill Track 6: Song For Anja – Lontano

Week ending 25 August 2018 – catching up

In a show that lasts for an hour it will almost inevitably be difficult to include all the tunes you want, especially as here at CJ we like to draw upon jazz that is not only recent but from previous decades as well. This week was an attempt to catch up with some new music (with one exception) – and particularly tunes selected by my colleague Neil, thousands of miles away in Singapore.

The show began with yet another example of Polish jazz artists recording with a musician from another country. The band led by pianist Leszek Kulakowski, which includes US sax player Andy Middleton, includes trumpeter Jerzy Malek whom we have met before on Cosmic Jazz. The tune XX Century Memories is a long one that builds in intensity and excitement. It comes from the album Copy & Insert recorded in Gdansk at the XXIII Komeda Jazz Festival – an event which pays homage to one of Poland’s greatest jazz musicians, Krystof Komeda. The album is highly recommended and you can check it out at the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

We played another tune from the excellent album of Brazilian-infused jazz Palmares Fantasy from British saxophonist Sean Khan. He uses a number of musicians from Europe and Brazil, including the eccentric Hermeto Pascoal. This week’s selection was Your Way Not My Way, featuring European musicians – the legendary guitarist Jim Mullen from Scotland, the Italian born/London based double bass player Dario de Lecce and superb London based vocalist Heidi Vogel whose delivery on this tune is perfect.

It was then down to catching up on some of the selections chosen by Neil. There was the World Saxophone Quartet, whose Little Samba was a tenuous link to Sean Khan and then French outfit Palm Unit whose album pays tribute to France pianist, composer and arranger Jef Gilson, whom they feel deserves wider recognition. We agree – check out his albums. Gilson, who died in 2012 was a French pianist, composer, arranger and record label owner who notably in 1965 during the Antibes/Juan Les Pins festival opened for Coltrane and advised him backstage to perform the full suite of A Love Supreme. It was the only time Coltrane would play it onstage with his original quartet.

When Neil sent me notes for some of these tunes back in February 2018, he was very enthusiastic (and rightly so) about Makaya McCraven whom he described as “the drummer of the moment”. Well, has that moment now passed? You can judge. Neil also suggested that he could be called a “beat architect” – interesting. McCraven’s album In the Moment is a two CD set recorded live and then treated in the studio. I notice in the September edition of Jazzwise Magazine that he will be appearing at this year’s London Jazz Festival on Saturday 24 November, along with Cosmic Jazz favourite from the UK, sax player Nubya Garcia.

It was long overdue to play more from Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah and his album DiasporaScott is another of the current crop of artists from the younger generations who make important historical/political references in their music. The tune Completely features Elena Pinderhughes on flute and its distinctly contemporary sound is enhanced by a hip-hop feel to the drums.

From there it was a case of stretching the jazz boundaries – something we love to do here on Cosmic Jazz. Neil is a great champion of Emanative aka drummer Nick Woodmansey. He’s part of a London jazz scene that has experimented and expanded the territory to incorporate sounds beyond  instantly recognisable jazz. His new record Earth is ambitiously eclectic and includes support from pianist/keyboard player Jessica Lauren, whose music we have featured. Following this came XOA out of Brazil. Stay with this one: the tune begins with some electronica that may not be too acceptable to jazz listeners but it develops into an exciting Afrobeat (as opposed to the current Afrobeats) and jazz inspired workout.

One tune from the past ended our show this week. Travellin’ Man is a brief solo piano and kalimba piece from pianist Stanley Cowell – a co-founder of the wonderful  Strata East Records. The label recorded over fifty albums in the 1970s, including Gil Scott Heron’s classic Winter in America. If you have not yet discovered work on this label, you are missing out.

  1. Leszek Kulakowski – XX Century Memories from Copy & Insert
  2. Sean Khan feat. Heidi Vogel – Your Way Not My Way from Palmares Fantasy
  3. World Saxophone Quartet – Little Samba from Revue
  4. Palm Unit – San Remo from Hommage a Jef Gilson
  5. Makaya McCraven – In the Moment from In the Moment
  6. Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah feat Elena Pinderhughes – Completely from Diaspora
  7. Emanative – Heaven’s Mirror from Earth
  8. XOA – Mass from Mass/Mon Ecole
  9. Stanley Cowell – Travellin’ Man from Musa: Ancient Streams

Derek is listening to….

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio