Week ending 11 November 2017: jazz with a message

Kamasi Washington and his saxophone ‘The Duchess’ at The Atom Factory in Culver City, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can instrumental jazz have a message? Of course. Music of all kinds speaks to the body, mind and spirit and this includes jazz. Whether it’s the spiritual intensity of Kamasi Washington as he channels Pharoah Sanders or the elegaic trumpet of Avishai Cohen as he reflects on the tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre and beyond. Cohen was clearly moved by saxophonist Jimmy Greene, whose daughter was killed in that 2012 high school attack and who released the excellent tribute album Beautiful Life in 2014. Whilst the NRA and Donald Trump appear to be ignoring the real issue, the New York Times recently made the situation crystal clear. The simple fact is that a country making up 4.4% of the world’s total population owns 42% of the world’s guns. Just let that sink in – and then think about what the obvious solution must be…

More new jazz this week, then, from five 2017 releases, one superb reissue compilation and some downtempo Braziliana from UK producer Mark Pritchard’s group Troubleman – and all available as soon as you click on the link left.

The show began with man of the moment (or more accurately, the last 24 months) Kamasi Washington. Familiar to CJ listeners since the release of his 3CD monster The Epic in 2015, Washington has carved out a mainstream profile and is now one of the most recognised figures in contemporary jazz. For those new to this remarkable LA-based tenor saxophonist, his new EP Harmony of Difference (on The Young Turks label and available here) is an admirable summary of his style. The record consists of variations on a theme – including the opening track Desire – and Washington powers his way through all six tracks, culminating the mini-epic Truth. You can listen to that complete track and watch the powerful AG Rojas video here.

Up next was trumpeter Avishai Cohen – not to be confused with jazz bass player Avishai Cohen. We’ve been featuring his new ECM release Cross My Palm with Silver – a convincing recommendation from Cosmic Jazz. More Polish jazz next courtesy of the ever reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds and then a new Blue Note double album from some of the label’s big name artists including Robert Glasper on keys, Marcus Strickland on saxes and Lionel Loueke on guitar.  It’s truly an all star lineup and the compositions are good too. This week’s show featured Meanings. Elsewhere, there’s a fine reading of Wayne Shorter’s Masquelero and both he and Herbie Hancock guest on the track. Again, highly recommended.

Record shop owner Jean Claude of If Music… in Soho, London has long been an enthusiastic champion of vinyl and now he’s brought out a fascinating compilation of tracks from the Black Saint and Soul Note labels out of Milan, Italy. From 1975 onwards, these two affiliated labels released a huge range of music – including key American artists like Archie Shepp, Don Pullen, Oliver Lake and the late Muhal Richard Abrams. When Cam Jazz acquired the label in 2008, they created a series of artist and group box sets that are all worth checking out if you like edgy, avantgarde jazz sounds. This week, we chose a track by the George Adams/Dannie Richmond group from their Soul Note album Hand to Hand. You can read an interview with Jean Claude of If Music… on the Vinyl Thoughts blog here.

The show ended with two contrasting tracks – the first from trance DJ James Holden who has gone on a Moroccan Gnawa music trip and come back with Animal Spirits, a trance jazz album that successfully fuses at least three different musical genres – and finally the aforementioned slice of Brazilian chillout from Troubleman. The ethereal vocals here are by Smoke City’s Nina Miranda.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Desire from Harmony of Difference EP
  2. Avishai Cohen – Will I Die Miss, Will I Die? from Cross My Palm With Silver
  3. Lukasz Korybalski – Taniec Greka from CMM
  4. Blue Note All-Stars – Meanings from Our Point Of View
  5. George Adams and Dannie Richmond – Joobubie from You Need This: an introduction to Black Saint and Soul Note 1975-85.
  6. James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through Fire from The Animal Spirits
  7. Troubleman feat Nina Miranda – Paz from Time Out Of Mind

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 04 November 2017: searching for jazz

This week Cosmic Jazz returned to some themes from our last show – check it out via the Mixcloud tab left.

There was another attempt to find the jazz in Zara McFarlane’s new album, Arise. I am still struggling. Her voice does not have the range or expressiveness of CJ favourites like Jazzmeia Horn or Cecile McClorin Salvant and musically Arise is neither notable jazz nor typical of any Caribbean musical styles . At times, it sounds to me like a pop record! Neil notes: heaven forfend! I agree with what you say Derek, but Arise is being presented as more of a mainstream breakthrough record and so evaluation needs to be on those terms. McFarlane’s voice is actually better suited to soul rather than jazz and the new record reminds us of this. Is McFarlane’s Peace Begins Within a good cover? Yes, because it reinterprets Nora Dean’s reggae original and gives it a smoother take on what, in other more adventurous jazzier hands, could have been an all-out spiritual anthem. And that trombone/sax break from Nathaniel Cross and Binker Golding is pretty cool… Producer Moses Boyd has ensured that the album sound clean and crisp – all directed at that more mainstream audience. As a whole, Arise is a better use of McFarlane’s vocal limitations than her more jazz inflected earlier releases – but there is certainly a lot less jazz here. So, with Brownswood’s intention to target a different audience, does Arise succeed? Overall, yes – but with caveats for both Neil and Derek here on CJ.

Zara McFarlane’s reworking of the Max Roach classic All Africa is – however – the real jazz deal. It’s worth getting hold of the 10inch single/download to hear the extended McFarlane take on this celebrated cut from Max Roach’s anthemic 1960 album We Insist! There are great solos from Binker Golding on sax and Ashley Henry on keys.  Listening to this version was a useful reminder to play the inspiring original which featured vocals from Abbey Lincoln alongside an all star band including Julian Priester, Booker Little and Coleman Hawkins.

Once I get into a phase of listening to a particular style I tend to return to it. Afro-Cuban Jazz was the example this week. I could not resist returning to the Dizzy Gillespie and Machito album and that led to another record with connections. Mario Bauza appears on the Dizzy/Machito record, as does Chico O’Farrill and trumpeter Victor Paz. They are all together again on a tune from Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra, Carnegie Hall 100. It is uplifting – check out the speed and clarity of that conga playing. The Tanga Suite, the album from which it comes is highly recommended.

The Horace Tapscott tune came from a compilation put together to mark a recent art exhibition at Tate Modern gallery in London, which I was  pleased to visit.  Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power seemed to be an appropriate selection as Black History Month came to its conclusion – as did Terra Firma from Joe Henderson’s Black is the Color record.

To end I could not resist at least another play of Yusef Lateef’s Morning from the latest release in the Spiritual Jazz series and originally found on his – yes – his first 1957 album Jazz Mood. What a revolutionary track this was! Lateef taps deep into middle eastern sounds and in a wonderful piece of modal jazz is featured on tenor sax, with bassist Ernie Farrow doubling up on rabat. In his autobiography The Gentle Giant, Lateef notes how he would visit Detroit’s Eastern Market and the Syrian spice shop where he first encountered the arghul, an Egyptian twin reed clarinet which features elsewhere on Jazz Mood.

Searching for jazz? Oh yes, we found it…

  1. Zara McFarlane – Pride from Arise
  2. Max Roach – All Africa from We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite
  3. Dizzy Gillespie y Machito – Pensativo from Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
  4. Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra – Carnegie Hall 100 from The Tanga Suite
  5. Horace Tapscott – Desert Fairy Princess from Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power/Live at IUCC
  6. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color
  7. Yusef Lateef – Morning from Spiritual Jazz 7/Jazz Mood

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 October 2017: 100 years of Dizzy

Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie is seen performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1967.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was born on 21 October 2017. He died in 1993 aged 75, but to celebrate 100 years since his birth his music was a key inclusion in this week’s programme.

Gillespie made many important contributions to jazz – most significantly being one of the original bebop musicians along with  alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. But it’s his collaborations linking jazz and Latin musicians through Afro-Cuban jazz that were celebrated in this week’s show.  The 1975 album Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods featured five compositions by Chico O’Farrill in big band arrangements led by Machito and featuring Gillespie, Mario Bauza, Jorge Dalto, Mario Rivera and more. Chico O’Farrill is not celebrated enough in jazz: his often complex arrangements are always striking,  usually owing more to jazz than Cuban rhythms, and because his work was under-recorded there are fewer great recordings than you’d expect. For more great O’Farrill music check out the 1995 comeback album Pure Emotion and the superb documentary Calle 54 which also showcases a host of Latin performers.

On his death in 1991, Arturo O’Farrill took over his father’s band and they continue to perform worldwide. I hope to bring a recent tribute from Arturo to the programme soon. Oro, Incienso Y Mirra, the opening tune on Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods is all of 15 minutes 38 seconds but we just had to play it in its entirety. Look out for more Latin Jazz next week.

The programme this week began with more from Avishai Cohen and his 2017 release Cross My Palm With SilverThe tune includes a beautiful and clear solo from Cohen towards the end, the assurance of which contrasts with the tune’s title Shoot Me In The Leg. This and other titles suggest statements about the US today – make of that what you will…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Lloyd, the masterful sax player, is  still playing and touring aged 79 – and releasing interesting Facebook posts including one recently on Dizzy. He appears with regularity on Cosmic Jazz and rightly so, he is right up there for us. His most recent Blue Note release Passin’ Thru celebrates ten years of his New Quartet featuring the superlative Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. It includes an extended version of Dream Weaver, a tune that he first recorded in 1966 – wonderful! There’s also a superb film portrait of Charles Lloyd, Arrows Into Infinity and, although it’s not available on Youtube, you can see a trailer for the film right here.

Pawel Kazmarczy is a Polish pianist born in  Krakow and former student of the Katowice Academy of Music. He is one of what appears to be many outstanding young Polish pianists whose work can be obtained via Steve’s Jazz Sounds. He leads the Audio Feeling Trio which has performed at several international festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival. The tune this week is from the trio’s 2016 release. The playing has been described as EST with Polish melancholy!

Finally, I returned to the new Zara McFarlane album Arise. I played  Pride which is one of the better tunes on the album, but – sorry – I remain unconvinced. From the album reviews I have seen and its inclusion on Jazzwise playlists it looks like I may be the only one. Is this really so? Comments gratefully received!

  1. Avishai Cohen – Shoot Me in the Leg from Cross My Palm With Silver
  2. Dizzy Gillespie y Machito – Oro, Incienso Y Mirra from Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
  3. Charles Lloyd – Dream Weaver from Passin’ Thru
  4. Pawel Kazmarczy Audio Feeling Trio – Mister John from Deconstruction
  5. Zara McFarlane – Pride from Arise

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 21 October 2017: spiritual sounds

Armando Peraza, Helen Merrill, “Cannonball” Adderley, Al McKibbon, with Toots Thielmans and Oscar Peterson reflected in the mirror, backstage at Orchestra Hall, Chicago, 1957.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s show has the usual mix of old, new and nearly jazz music with musicians from different countries and diverse heritages. Tap the Mixcloud tab (left) and enjoy.

It happens regularly that I hear a tune on my shuffle songs and react with total pleasure and enthusiasm. The outcome is an airing on Cosmic Jazz. The latest example is the Cannonball Adderley Quintet playing Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. This classic souljazz composition was by Adderley’s Austrian-born pianist Joe Zawinul who later went on to form Weather Report with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Is there a more uplifting piece of souljazz (with more than a hint of gospel)? It’s billed as being recorded live at The Club in Chicago, but was actually set up as a live studio recording in Capitol Studiios in Los Angeles by famed produced David Axelrod. Adderley wanted some publicity for his friend who owned The Club and so billed the new album as this. To make sure the audience were on good form, Axelrod created a guest list and provided free drinks. However, he needn’t have worried: the album went on to be one of Adderley’s most celebrated performances and the audience participation just adds to the wonder and joy of the music. Take a listen and join in the fun yourself! Neil notes: for the same kind of interactive audience response there’s just one other competitor – Donny Hathaway’s album simply called Live, recorded at two clubs – the Troubadour in Hollywood and The Bitter End in New York. For a a taste of one of the best live albums in any genre, try The Ghetto, which features a terrific Fender Rhodes solo from Hathaway.

The next selection was from new album Arise by Zara McFarlane whose previous records I have also bought and enjoyed, including the recent 10″ single version of Max Roach’s tune All Africa. Alongside drummer Moses Boyd on production, the album features a stellar line up of some of the key players on the London scene: Binker Golding on tenor sax, Peter Edwards on piano, Shirley Tetteh on guitar, Nathaniel Cross on trombone and an unusually restrained turn on clarinet from Shabaka Hutchings. All these musicians are very much key to the current jazz renaissance in London and all explore links between different musical styles – from US hard bop  and free jazz, to reggae and dub. They’re boosted by new platforms like East London showcase Church of Sound and a newly-refreshed Jazz Café and with these impeccable credentials and a clutch of favourable reviews, including a cover feature in the Black Music monthly Echoes, I felt I should like this record. Sadly, I didn’t. Arise aims to connect Caribbean origins to African music,  jazz and funk to the narrative of a Black Londoner but somehow I was disappointed. As the tune Fussin’ and Fightin’ started, I was reminded of How Long Jah by my old friends Misty in Roots. The track starts in militant style but then deteriorates into lighter repetition. The album as a whole has  a touch of uplifting militancy but it is not maintained and, put simply, I am not enjoying the tunes. I wonder from what I have read if I am alone in my judgement, but – as always – listen and judge for yourself. I shall play more and listen more. Arise could grow on me but at the moment I am unconvinced.

Trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s 2017 release Cross My Palm With Silver is a heavy and serious work, not for casual background listening, but for intense and deep involvement. It is released on ECM Records, with the characteristic cover style cover and immaculate produced by label owner Manfred Eicher. Yonathan Avishai is on piano, Barak Mori on double bass and Nasheet Watts on drums.

There was another of our regular forays into contemporary music from Poland. Marcin Losik is a newly rising Polish piano talent playing improvised music with energetic phrasing filled with contrasting rhythms. The NAK Trio features Jacek Kochan as pianist and composer, Dominik Wania on piano and Michal Kapczuk on bass. One Polish reviewer on the Polish Jazz Blogspot described The Other Side Of If as an album where mathematics takes the upper hand over metaphysics. Whatever, I enjoyed it.

I returned to the Michael J. McEvoy album The Long Way Home which I know my colleague Neil loves – and so do I. The London-based pianist/composer has put together an album of jazz that is both at times soulful and from the evidence from the two tunes played this week beautiful as well. He has garnered some leading British jazz players as guests on the album, including trumpeter Gerard Presencer who appears on Stillness and Being and saxophonist Ben Castle who is featured on When I Get My Wings.

We have supported and enthused about the Spiritual Jazz series of compilations from Jazzman records. The series is now up to Volume 7 and from this compilation came the wonderful Morning from the incomparable Yusef Lateef. It begins in the same vein as his classic tune Before Dawn and progresses into music that is what can I only describe as  spiritual. You can find this track on Lateef’s 1957 release Jazz Moods – worth getting for every track. This was followed by John Coltrane’s timeless Equinox,  its persistent three beats built around the bass and modal enveloping tune ascending the listener further towards the ethereal. Equinox comes from Coltrane’s Sound – one of his last Atlantic Records, and a must for CJ listeners if they don’t know it.

  1. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy from Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
  2. Zara McFarlane – Fussin’ and Fightin’ from Arise
  3. Avishai Cohen – 340 Down from Cross My Palm With Silver
  4. Marcin Losik – Modal Enterprise from Emotional Planning
  5. NAK Trio – The Other Side Of If from The Other Side Of If
  6. Michael J. McEvoy – Stillness and Being from The Long Way Home
  7. Michael J. McEvoy – When I Get My Wings from The Long Way Home
  8. Yusef Lateef – Morning from Jazz Mood and Spiritual Jazz 7
  9. John Coltrane – Equinox from Coltrane’s Sound and The Kings of Jazz

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

* The music here comes from the one continuous session for Spalding’s upcoming new album Exposure. The fascinating recording process is outlined here on Spalding’s website where the whole three day process was recorded live and  broadcast live for a global audience. Once the cameras started rolling, viewers could see every second of Spalding’s process, including her eating and taking breaks to sleep in the studio, making it the first album ever created entirely on Facebook Live for an unprecedented 77 hour live feed. Once the record is finished, a limited edition 7,777 CDs will be released and the packaging of each CD will include a piece of the original notepaper Spalding will have used to write the lyrics and music. It’s expected that the album will be released in November 2017.

Week Ending 14 October 2017: jazz and not jazz?

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s CJ features more music chosen by Neil even though he is still on distant shores. There’s a re-visit to some essential music he selected, more jazz from Poland and a well-established Cosmic Jazz favourite. All available at the click of the Mixcloud tab on your left.

We began with two tunes from the 2017 release CMM by the Polish quintet led by trumpet/flugelhorn player Lukasz Korybalski. It is serious, heavy jazz with featured solos that still have much going on from the other players – just how I like it. Neil notes: Excellent piano from Michal Tokaj too! The rhythm section integrates beautifully with the soloists and overall the album is highly recommended. It’s another release available from Steve’s Jazz Sounds – check out this invaluable site for new music.

Neil has introduced me to The Elder Statesman, the New Zealand trio with the Yeabsley brothers on piano and bass and Lord Echo on percussion. I simply love the gently catchy and rhythmic  soul jazz of Trans-Alpine Express and the tuneful melody of Montreux Sunrise. Did  I catch echoes of the Coltrane classic  Equinox in there or was it because it’s a tune I have been listening to non-stop recently? Whatever, these two are great tracks – available now from Lord Echo’s Bandcamp site. Neil notes: For me there’s a resonance of Jessica Lauren’s wonderful White Mountain – a track from her 2012 album Four, and one we featured several times on Cosmic Jazz. There was an additional number from Lord Echo from his new album released on Soundway Records. Derek wasn’t entirely convinced by the track – but perhaps that’s because there’s little that can be added to the classic makossa rhythm. Judge for yourselves and have a listen to the real thing – Manu Dibango’s original Soul Makossa.  For more of Lord Echo, check out his new album Harmonies, starting with the sunny Just Do You featuring vocals from Mara TK – here’s the official video.

Neil then took us some some of the edges in jazz, beginning with the Portico Quartet. Their new album Art in the Age of Automation was released earlier over the summer and it’s very definitely a return to form after the rather unsatisfying brush with electronic pop styles on their Ninja Tune release Living Fields. The new album sees the return of the hang – their characteristic customised steel drum/prayer bowl sounding cross – and it’s all a huge improvement on the listless Living Fields. Lead off track Endless is a great place to start.

Up next was another new discovery – DJ Tudo e Sua gente de todo lugar. DJ Tudo (Alfredo Bello) is from Brazil and he’s behind two albums that fuse native percussion styles with music from Morocco, Indonesia and more. For Tudo, Brazil and Morocco are ‘brother’ countries – and this is clearly apparent in his music where Moroccan Gnawa music merges with the songs of Afro-Brazilian religions such as candomblé. Tudo throws in some Brazilian afoxê and even some of the Sufi ritual music issawa. A bass player as well as bandleader and producer, Tudo includes some Gnawa guimbre on some tracks, refreshing his own funky bass playing in the process. It’s a heady mix but one that – most of the time – really works. Both Gaia Musica albums are available on Bandcamp where you can listen to all tracks in full before you buy/download. You can hear and buy all of that second album right here. For more DJ Tudo channelling just Brazilian influences try the Pancada Motor – Manifesto da Festa on the UK’s FarOut label. It’s an excellent collage of contemporary Brazilian sounds with a heady mix of traditional forms too.

Third new track from Neil is from UK techno DJ James Holden whose new album is going into a very different kind of jazzy territory –  but one which is also inspired by Gnawa music. Holden says, This was where I got the idea that songs are just backbones or seeds and the strong ones teach/reveal themselves to the players rather than the other way round. It’s an interesting listen. The whole album will be released in November.

The show returned to more conventional jazz with a return play for promising young British saxophonist Camilla George and her Quartet. The debut album Isang shows a lot of promise and I am sure the band will develop further. For evidence of their intent, Mama Wati Returns is a good example – and check out the excellent Fender Rhodes solo from Sarah Tandy. The quartet is definitely  worth seeing live if you can catch one of their bookings.

After the previous week when I played Rachelle Ferrell on the show for the first time in a long while, I simply had to play her again. No amount of superlatives can describe what I feel about her album First Instrument, which was released first in Japan before reaching Europe in 1999. The record is a Cosmic Jazz must have essential – you need this one. The show ended with a return to Poland and Arek Skolik and his Men – a group whose album title Plays Mingus pretty much says it all. What more can I add?

  1. Lukasz Korybalski – CMM from CMM
  2. Lukasz Korybalski – Taniec Greka from CMM
  3. The Elder Statesman – Trans-Alpine Express from Montreux Sunrise/Trans-Alpine Express
  4. The Elder Statesman – Montreux Sunrise from Montreux Sunrise/Trans-Alpine Express
  5. Lord Echo – Makossa No. 3 from Harmonies
  6. Portico Quartet – Endless from Art in the Age of Automation
  7. DJ Tudo e sua gente de todo lugar – O Amor de Lakshmi Oxum from Gaia Musica
  8. James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through the Fire from Animal Spirits
  9. Camilla George Quartet – Mama Wati Returns from Isang
  10. Rachelle Ferrell – Don’t Waste Your Time from First Instrument
  11. Arek Skolik and his Men – Peggy’s Blues from Plays Mingus

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

* And a special bonus – here’s the excellent remix of Lotus 72 from Sine Qua Non (Tee Cardaci)

Week ending 07 October 2017: sax summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the latest CJ show via Mixcloud for new sounds and classic jazz featuring musicians from across the globe. The worldwide reach of jazz was well illustrated by the first tune. Daniel Toledo is a drummer from Ecuador but his trio also features a Swedish bass player and a Polish pianist. The album Atrium was recorded in Poland.

Also from Poland and trained at the Katowice School of Music are the Adam Jarzmik Quintet. Their performance at the annual Polish Jazz Day in April 2017 saw them declared as this year’s winners. Jarznik is a pianist and this week’s tune Dominica’s Dream showcases some fast piano work from him and some interesting tenor sax work from Jakub Lepa with much activity going on from the other players as he is featured.

The rest of the show featured a selection of music from my Cosmic Jazz partner Neil. The music came from Michael J McEvoy, a personal contact of Neil’s, the wonderful The Elder Statesman from New Zealand, classic jazz from Charnett Moffett, Randy Weston and pianist Joey Alexander, the Indonesian piano prodigy. Michael J McEvoy is an American composer and pianist based in London whose 2014 disc The Long Way Home is a great album and one we highly recommend. Recorded with a roll call of the best of British jazz musicians including Gerard Presencer and Jason Rebello, it’s a notably very fine listening experience on vinyl thanks to superior production from Gearbox Records. Silverlink Express features Nigel Hitchcock, with some superb alto sax playing. McEvoy has composed film soundtracks and worked with such well known artists as Ian Dury, Scritti Politti and Steve Winwood, but this album is very much a return to jazz.

The Elder Statesman features drums and production credits from Wellington’s Lord Echo – otherwise known as  Mike Fabulous. Check out and order/download his  music on the Bandcamp site here. Bassist Charnett Moffett is the son of drummer Charles Moffett who featured in Ornette Coleman’s celebrated 1960s trio. If you don’t know the two Blue Note Live at the Golden Circle albums from 1965, then please check them out now – listen to Faces and Places for taste of classic Coleman astringency on alto with wonderful support from Moffett on drums and David Izenzon on bass.

Neil has been getting back into the exceptional double album release from pianist Randy Weston called The Spirits of Our Ancestors. This features solo piano, small group performances and large ensembles – with the added bonus of Pharoah Sanders, Dizzy Gillespie and Dewey Redman on some tracks. If you’re looking for a good place to start with Weston then this is the album for you. It’s a CJ recommendation, of course – listen to another standout track Blue Moses right here and catch Sanders at his wailing best on soprano saxophone. Joey Alexander plays Singapore on 11 November and will have a new Thelonious Monk release out soon. In the meantime, his sophomore 2016 album Countdown is well worth a listen. Here his superb trio of Larry Grenadier and Ulysses Owen Jr. is augmented by Chris Potter – again on soprano sax.

We ended the show this week with baritone vocalist Gregory Porter – now very much part of the jazz establishment but someone we interviewed earlier in his now Grammy Award winning career. We’ve commented on the space Porter gives his band in previous posts but his innovative songwriting is also worthy on mention. Whilst Porter does do covers, his albums largely feature original compositions – and none are finer than the extended metaphor of Painted on Canvas.

  1. Daniel Toledo – Atrium from Atrium
  2. Adam Jarzmik Quintet – Dominica’s Dream from Euphoria
  3. Michael J McEvoy feat. Nigel Hitchcock – Silverlink Express from The Long Way Home
  4. The Elder Statesman – Montreux Sunrise from Montreux Sunrise/Alpine Express
  5. Charnett Moffett – Music From Our Soul from Music From Our Soul
  6. Randy Weston – African Village Bedford Stuyvesant 2 from The Spirits of Our Ancestors
  7. Joey Alexander feat. Chris Potter – Maiden Voyage from Countdown
  8. Gregory Porter – Painted On Canvas from Be Good

Neil is listening to…

27 September 2017: Mercury Music and more

 

 

 

 

 

 

A programme inspired by the Mercury Music Prize, small independent labels and jazz from Poland, New Zealand, the USA, the UK – including not far from where Cosmic Jazz is recorded. Check some great tunes out via the Mixcloud tab.

The Mercury Music Prize in the UK always includes a token jazz group who are never going to win. All you can hope for is that the exposure will enhance their career in some way. This year that token mantle was held by Dinosaur, a Cosmic Jazz favourite.  On the first programme I recorded since the prize I wanted to play the tune Dinosaur performed at the live event. The introduction they received from the programme presenter seemed to be less enthusiastic than the others I saw, but the reception from the audience to their truncated version of Living, Breathing sounded loud and enthusiastic – quite right too. That was not the only reference to this year’s Mercury on the show as the eventual winner Sampha appeared on a tune that Neil contributed. It’s not strictly jazz – but it does include Kamasi Washington and that gave us reason to play this excellent track from a forthcoming EP by Richard Russell’s group Everything is Recorded. Incidentally, the sample that provides the inspiration for the track is from Nightclubbing by Grace Jones from her magisterial 1981 album of the same name. For more Kamasi Washington, his new EP Harmony of Difference is just out on the new Young Turks label. You can listen to the superb 14 minute final track Truth right here.

Birnam CD, an independent Scotland-based record company, were represented by the tuneful London Jazz players and the Italian-born but London-based guitarist Giulio Romano Malaisi.

As well as independent labels we like to support independent stockists and Steve’s Jazz Sounds is one we turn to regularly, particularly for some wonderful Polish jazz. Algorythm play music that is fresh, contemporary and uplifting. EABS have a record that pays homage to a Polish jazz legend, the pianist and composer Krzystof Komeda. However, the tunes often bear little apparent relationship to the compositions of Komeda. His music featured on some of the classic soundtracks to Roman Polanski’s earlier films including Knife in the Water, Cul de Sac and the celebrated Rosemary’s Baby – the recording of which has recently been reissued on vinyl. EABS are more grounded in hip hop and so their twist on Komeda is singular – none more so than on the unpredictable vocal tune God is Love which we included this week’s show.  Listen and you’ll hear what we mean.

Mammal Hands – a group you could almost call local to Cosmic Jazz and one we have promoted since their inception – have a new album out at the end of October. We featured Black Sails, the first release from the album which is titled Shadow Work. Look out for it in your local record stores soon. Mammal Hands will promote the album in major European cities beginning with Istanbul – a major move forward from their early gigs in small Norwich pubs and clubs!  We also played Transalpine Express, one of two tracks from The Elder Statesman, a trio from New Zealand with producer Lord Echo on percussion. It’s a tune that’s catchy, enticing and certainly one to play again. I loved it and we’ll feature its partner Montreux Sunrise in a future programme.

An encouraging aspect of jazz vocalists these days is the way they not only employ top musicians but give them the scope to play – we’ve often commented on how Gregory Porter and Cecile McClorin Salvant are adept at this. Perhaps it’s because the core of their touring bands are usually musicians they have held onto since their rise to fame. In a recent performance here in Singapore [writes Neil], Porter showed how much space he can give to his musicians in a live context too. And that’s not just in obligatory solos around his vocals: the band are presented as very much integral to the show and (largely) in a full-on jazz ensemble performance. Young vocalist Jazzmeia Horn is another example of this encouraging trend in the new generation of jazz singers. CJ this week paired her alongside an earlier example of someone to whom she has been likened and compared – Rachelle Ferrell. I never tire of Ferrell’s outstanding album First Instrument. For me, it is up there among our Cosmic Jazz essentials. Like Jazzmeia Horn, Ferrell draws on some standard tunes, with this week’s selection one both written and made famous by peerless soul singer Sam Cooke in 1957.

  1. Dinosaur – Living, Breathing from Together As One
  2. The London Jazz Players – The News Where You Are from CD single/download
  3. Guilio Romano Malaisi – Randagio from Unexpected Ride
  4. Algorythm – Deep Dive Narcissus from Segments
  5. EABS – God is Love from Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda
  6. Mammal Hands – Black Sails from Shadow Work
  7. Everything is Recorded – Mountains of Gold feat. Sampha, Ibeyi, Wiki and Kamasi Washington
  8. The Elder Statesman – Trans-Alpine Express from Montreux Sunrise/Trans-Alpine Express
  9. Jazzmeia Horn – Music Makes the World Go Round from A Social Call
  10. Rachelle Ferrell – You Send Me from First Instrument
  11. Somi – Midnight Angels from Petite Afrique

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Neil is listening to…

13 September 2017: tunes from the past

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmic Jazz usually mixes the old and the new but from time to time we like to have a programme where all the tunes are from the past. This week was one of those programmes and while there were two or three favourites we have played before, most were new to the show.

There is a tendency in such a format to resort to our US favourites – but not this time.  We began in the UK with a band that really did epitomise the best of British jazz. Long before Gilles Peterson championed the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet for a new hip audience, here at CJ we were fans of the band and their ability to go beyond the post-bop conventions of the time and really stretch out on some extraordinary tunes. Shades of Blue is just such an example – it’s an oasis of stillness and calm throughout but driven by the gorgeous tones of Rendell on soprano and tenor saxes and Ian Carr on trumpet. Recorded in 1964, this album title tune was written by composer Neil Ardley and played by a band that truly showed how innovative, inventive and deeply engaging the UK jazz scene could be.  After the quintet folded, all its members continued to play and make their mark both in the UK and wider with trumpeter Ian Carr writing the go-to biographies of both Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett.

Mark Murphy’s version of Stolen Moments was one of the tunes that has made several appearances on the show before. I make no apologies for playing it again. Yusef Lateef also appears on many of our playlists and Chang, Chang, Chang, originally from the album Before Dawn and reissued on the excellent Soul Jazz compilation Black Fire! New Spirits, is one we have played before.

The terrible destruction wreaked on several Caribbean islands by Hurricane Irma made me want  to recognise the musical creativity of the people there as a mark of respect. In 2015 the label Heavenly Sweetness released a highly recommended compilation called Koute Jazz, which covers music from the French Antilles in the 1970s and 1980s, where the jazz of the time embodied a return to roots music as well as to free jazz. This was exemplified by the selection of Gwadloup by trumpeter Edmony Krater and his band Zepiss. He was born in Guadeloupe but the tune was recorded in Paris. It used traditional percussion evocative of the Antilles and in the words of Edmony Krater. This song describes how we don’t manage to value our history, our specificity.

Underground System is a Knitting Factory CD release with three tunes from Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Egypt 80. This 1992 album was the final one of new material to be released during Fela’s lifetime. The tune Pansa Pansa was first performed by Fela in 1977 and was a response to the Nigerian army’s destruction of his base, the Kalakuta Republic. But the more the authorities persecuted (pansa, pansa means more, more) the more Fela and his extended family would protest…

Brazilian gems from the past seem to be hard for me to avoid at the moment. Once again, we featured tunes that have been re-released on British labels. The amazing Tenorio Jr’s Consolacao is – like most of his music – just over two minutes of perfection. Sadly, Tenorio Jr seems to have travelled from Brazil to Argentina to then become one of the disappeared under the military junta there. The track is available on Bossa Jazz Vol 2 from Soul Jazz Records. Milton Banana’s equally compact (and perfect) Cidade Vazia from 1966 was re-released via the Mr. Bongo label in their excellent Brazilian Beats series.

Finally, there was a taste of another Cosmic Jazz favourite, Patrice Rushen, who any listener to the programme or reader of the blog should know by now has had a life outside Forget Me Nots.

  1. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Shades of Blue from Shades of Blue
  2. Mark Murphy – Stolen Moments from Mark Murphy – the Jazz Singer
  3. Yusef Lateef – Chang, Chang, Chang from Black Fire! New Spirits!
  4. Edmony Krater and Zepioss Gwadloup from Koute Jazz
  5. Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Pansa Pansa from Underground System
  6. Tenorio Jr – Consolacao from Embalo/Bossa Jazz Vol 2
  7. Milton Banana – Cidade Vazia from Balancado/Brazilian Beats Vol 1
  8. Patrice Rushen – Before the Dawn from Before the Dawn

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

06 September 2017: trumpet tones and more

The Guggenheim Museum in New York – designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click the MixCloud tab (left) to hear this week’s programme which travelled to Brazil, Japan, the USA, Poland and the UK. The music ranged from bossa to classic jazz and jazz merged with hip hop – sounds old and new.

At Cosmic Jazz we like to support and highlight independent record labels that promote jazz.  Birnam CD are an example of this. Birnam are based in Dunkeld Scotland and promote some interesting players, some of whom are not well known. But on their latest release, a CD/download single, the pianist is very familiar in  British jazz circles. He is Steve Lodder – a member of The London Jazz Players – whose release The News Where You Are was featured this week. Very interesting it is too with Steve Lodder’s piano playing well to the fore. It followed another example of his playing. Steve has long accompanied Brazilian singer Monica Vasconcelos and is in her current band. We included one of the older tunes they co-wrote, which also provided a fine example of Lodder’s keyboards.

CJ this week began in Brazil with music from the nu-bossa queen Sabrina Malheiros. This is her fourth and most danceable album to date. Her heritage is steeped in the best of Brazilian music: her father Alex Malheiros is the bass player with the samba jazz-funk legends Azymuth and if you have never heard their superlative Jazz Carnival, check out the YouTube link on Derek’s personal music choices for this week. Even if you have, listen again. Alex Malheiros features on his daughter’s new album Clareia, released by the UK Far Out label and produced by the London-based Daniel Maunick – himself son of Incognito’s Bluey Maunick.

There was a great TV programme on UK’s BBC4 last week about pioneer US architect Frank Lloyd Wright. While some background music can really enrich a TV programme, it can also be irritating. But this programme incorporated one of the finer examples and illustrated how powerful jazz can be when used in this way. At the end of the programme came the immediately recognisable and uplifting strains of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, from his 1966 Blue Note album Adam’s Apple. I couldn’t resist playing the tune this week.

There were further examples of music on the show available from the always reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Polish drummer/composer Tomek Grochot has enlisted the support of US trumpeter Eddie Henderson on his latest release In America. Old and New, our tune this week, is a good example of his sound – and there’s some exquisite playing from Polish pianist Dominik Wania with  the characteristic trumpet sounds of Eddie Henderson – incidentally, a trained doctor and psychiatrist! Henderson was once one of the true inheritors of Miles Davis’ 70s sound – all wahwah pedals, synth washes and jazzrock riffs – but he now ploughs a more restrained post-bop furrow.

Also from Poland, EABS dedicate their new album to Polish jazz master Krzystof Komeda and combine the older sounds of jazz with the new hip-hop rhythms the band grew up with. The hip-hop on this week’s tune is hardly perfect poetry but the music is heavy and there is some fine trumpet playing. It’s a good example of how the worldwide intersection between different music genres informs contemporary jazz.

There was more (heavier) hip-hop jazz from Steve Lehman’s Selebeyone and another restrained piece of trumpet playing from British artist Yazz Ahmed and the programme went out with Japanese jazz-dance favourites Sleep Walker and their classic Resurrection.

  1. Sabrina Malheiros – Clareia from Clareia
  2. Monica Vasconcelos – Sabonate Do Mato from Nois
  3. The London Jazz Players – The News Where You Are CD/download single
  4. Wayne Shorter – Footprints from Adam’s Apple
  5. Tomek Grochot feat Eddie Henderson – Old and New from In America
  6. Yazz Ahmed – The Space Between the Fish and the Moon from La Saboteuse
  7. EABS – Step Into the Light from Repetitions (Letters to Krzystof Komeda)
  8. Steve Lehman’s Selebeyone – Are You In Peace? from Selebeyone
  9. Sleep Walker – Resurrection from Sleep Walker

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

30 August 2017: a (mainly) spiritual thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For much of this week’s programme there were tune titles and sounds with a distinctly spiritual feel. Dream Weaver, Om Rama and Zen are the titles of the first three tunes on the show – and there indeed the next tune Totem continued this trend.

Some of the selections this week came from Neil and if there is one artist that I always associate with him it is Charles Lloyd. Now 79,  he is still touring and playing and from the evidence of this re-visiting of the tune Dream Weaver recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2016, the tone of his playing is as rich and full as ever. It marked a 10th anniversary reunion of the special quartet he formed with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. The sound is resonant, deep and spiritual and when the main Dream Weaver melody kicks in around the six minutes mark into this extended version, you know you are witnessing a musician very much at the top of his game.

Alice Coltrane may not have been a favourite of every jazz lover, either in the work she produced with husband John or in her solo projects. Her music was, however, definitely spiritual and the recent release by Luaka Bop of music produced in her later years and unearthed recently by her family comes from a time when she was leading an ashram in California. This is evident in the titles of the tune and the album and the ecstatic sounds produced. The music isn’t strictly jazz (we shouldn’t expect much improvisation on the Wurlitzer keyboard favoured by Coltrane) but the intense spirituality is evident in the first track – and it doesn’t let up. The music invokes both Hindu Vedanta devotional songs and – more surprisingly – the Detroit church choirs of Alice Coltrane’s youth. It’s a heady brew and one that’s impossible not to be (literally) swayed by.

From New York, The James Brandon Trio have an excellent first album released entitled No Filter. It is tough and contemporary in sound, it makes excellent use of hip-hop artists on some of the tunes and has a cool CD sleeve which is minimalist in terms of the information provided about the musicians and music. It does, though, have a tune Zen which continued the spiritual path of the programme.

Kajetan Borowski is a teacher of jazz piano at the Katowice Academy of Music. He leads a trio that produces music that could be described as classic jazz but with a contemporary feel. This was followed by another tune from the impressive album The Journey from the Belgian Jelle Van Giel Group.

The show ended with a trip to Brazil. Both Neil and I have recently seen Brazilian artists perform. In Neil’s case it was the great Marcos Valle in London and for me it was the British-based Monica Vasconcelos performing at a free festival in a park in Ipswich. Vasconcelos is a Sao Paulo native but has headlined here at Ronnie Scott’s, the Jazz Cafe and many other UK venues since moving to the UK. She returns to Suffolk on 07 October for the Flipside Festival at Snape Maltings.

  1. Charles Lloyd – Dream Weaver from Passin’ Thru
  2. Alice Coltrane – Om Rama from The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  3. James Brandon Trio – Zen from No Filter
  4. Kajetan Borowski Trio – Totem from Totem
  5. Jelle Van Giel Group – Lullaby for Nelle from The Journey
  6. Marcos Valle – Apaixonada por Voce (In Love With You) from Escape
  7. Monica Vasconcelos – Quadras de Roda from Nois

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio